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Westfield 9-year-old preparing for shot at Augusta

September 22, 2016
By Scott Kindberg - editorial@westfieldrepublican.com , Westfield Republican

WESTFIELD - The youngsters in the Drive, Chip & Putt regional qualifier hail from communities named Sterling, Virginia; Fayetteville, Pennsylvania; Warren, Ohio; Midlothian, Virginia; and Plainsboro, New Jersey. They also call Lovettsville, Virginia; West Grove, Pennsylvania; and Florida, New York home.

And then there's 9-year-old Carson Swanson who lives on Route 20 in Westfield with his dad, Nolan, his mother, Amy, and his brothers, Darien and Braylon. Their backyard just happens to be Pinehurst Golf Club, a nine-hole layout owned by Nolan and his brother, Ryan.

On Saturday, Carson, a fourth-grader at Westfield Academy and Central School, will join the nine other 7-9 year-olds from throughout the Mid-Atlantic states at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey for the ultimate prize:

Article Photos

Photo by Scott Kindberg
Nine-year-old Carson Swanson lines up a tee shot while golfing at Pinehurst Golf Club in Westfield.

A trip in April to Augusta National Golf Club.

The mere thought of such a possibility gives Nolan goosebumps.

"Hitting the ball and making it to these faraway places."

After working on his putting on the Pinehurst putting green, located in the shadows of the clubhouse, last week, Carson hops on an electric golf cart, and with his dad behind the wheel, makes the short ride to the driving range.

Once there, Carson pulls out a driver, grabs a bucket of balls and walks to the tee box, places a ball on a tee and begins striping Titleists straight and true into the royal-blue sky. By the time the balls stop rolling, they are some 180 yards away.

"He hits it pretty far," Nolan said.

To say Carson is passionate about golf would be an understatement.

He's participated in the Drive, Chip & Putt for three years and doesn't mind working on his game when he's not competing, including practicing his putting before school.

"He has always been willing to practice by himself," Nolan said. "He's very self-motivated with his golfing. When people ask him at school what he wants to do when he grows up, he says he wants to be a golf pro. ... Not many kids say that anymore."

Carson began swinging a golf club when he was 2, recorded a birdie on a par 5 by knocking in his fourth shot from 95 yards when he was 6, and usually shoots in the high 40s for nine holes on his home course.

"He's got a nice benefit of being here, playing a lot ... and he sees it on TV now," Nolan said. "He likes the pros."

Jason Day, who is Carson's favorite PGA player, would likely approve.

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The journey to the Drive, Chip & Pull regional began in July when Carson participated in a local qualifier in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was one of thousands of boys in his age group nationwide to compete in a qualifier. Successful there, Carson moved on to a sub-regional in Buffalo in August where he finished second. That earned him a trip to Baltusrol, the site of this year's PGA Championship, where he'll compete with nine other sub-regional qualifiers later this week.

"This competition is an effort by the PGA and The Masters to grow the game," Nolan said. "We are so excited and I'm so nervous, but he seems fine. Just nine kids between him and going to compete at Augusta."

The rules for this weekend's regional are as follows: Each participant will compete in all three skills (drive, chip & putt); participants will accumulate points in each skill; and the participant with the highest number of accumulated points will be declared the overall champion of his age category.

"You only get nine shots total," Nolan said. "Three chips, three drives, three putts. We go all the way down there for nine shots."

Nolan believes his middle son has as good a shot as anyone of earning a trip to Augusta, Georgia next spring.

"He definitely does, because he hits it so far," he said. "It's just a matter of doing it. We figure he can mess up one or two of the nine shots and still have a chance, but if you get any more than that, he'd be in a little bit of trouble.

"Golf is hard. For him to get this far and to get into Baltusrol , we're just going to go and enjoy it. ... From what we've seen, he hits it as far as anybody. It just comes down to honing in the chip and putt. Just a little bit of touch, get a little lucky and hit a good one."

If history is any barometer, Carson has the mental makeup to perform on the big stage. He demonstrated that at the Buffalo sub-regional last month. Playing at Fox Valley Golf Club near the Greater Buffalo International Airport, Carson stepped up to hit his first drive and promptly landed it out of bounds.

"We were a little nervous because he had mediocre scores on the (chip and putt)," Nolan said, "He takes his practice swing, addresses the ball, a plane flies over, he looks up, watches it go, (looks) back down and, whoosh, 178 yards right down the middle."

When Carson was asked what he likes about golf, his response was short and to the point:

"Hitting the ball and making it to these faraway places," he said.

Carson will get a chance to do both this weekend.

And, if successful, he'll have an opportunity to repeat it in April on arguably the most hallowed ground in golf.

Carson's response to that notion?

"Amazing," he said.

 
 
 

 

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