The golf team at Jamestown Community College had a rough start to the 2017 competitive year. For starters, the players were without a coach for the first few weeks of their season. Then there was the weather: persistent snow and cold rain kept them off the golf courses well into the spring.
Then, a few weeks in, everything changed: the sun came out to chase away winter and a new head coach, Richard Swanson, stepped up to the tee. In his first year as a golf coach, Swanson had a lot to prove: he had to prep new and returning players alike, welcome a solo female golfer to the team, and defend the JCC Men’s team’s regional championship title. Not to mention, he still wants to take the team to nationals. But Swanson assured the Jamestown Gazette of one thing: he’s up for the challenge.
Cortney: This is your first year coaching at JCC. How has it been?
Coach Swanson: It’s been a big learning process to change from being an athlete to being a coach. I have a different point of view on the sport now. How my thought process works as I move throughout the whole golf course has changed a lot and it’s become very important to me. When I was a player, I was a lot like the kids on my team now: I didn’t always think about certain shots, or certain numbers or details. But now I’m always looking at how to get scores lower. I tell my boys, though, you’ve got to go out there and enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re never going to play well anyways.
Cortney: Could you elaborate on the golfers you have on your team this year?
Coach Swanson: We have two returning guys, Alec Ambrose and Cody Latimer. Cody had the best year out of our whole team, he actually ended up averaging a [golf score of] 77 this year. He was as consistent as I can ask for as a coach: he shot in the 70s for eight out of ten rounds this season. He really stepped up the plate to be a good leader for our team, too.
Then we have a freshman, Anthony Miller, who averaged the second lowest score on our team at 82. He was a nice surprise to have early on in our conference play. He had two rounds in the 70s which really helped our team get close to winning some tournaments.
We also have a girl on our team, Marina Kessler, so that is pretty cool. She would play against another girl from Geneseo Community College; they competed against each other at every tournament. I think if you were to ask Marina, she would say that she had a great experience with us. We loved having her on the team.
So for the most part, we had a really nice team balance. Some tournaments we’d have guys that didn’t shoot so well, but then other guys would have a good day. It all spread out pretty well.
Cortney: Golf is considered a team sport at JCC, but really, it’s a very individual game. As a coach, how do you cater to all the individual needs of your golfers?
Coach Swanson: Since they’re a little older, I come in believing that their swings are going to be exactly what they are. I’m not going to go in there and be able to change their swing. When I do go in there, I try to answer their questions about certain things on the range or their putting strokes. I try to give them little tips that can help them shave off a few strokes here, a few strokes there. For the most part, I think we did a pretty good job with that.
Cortney: Can you speak to the mental component of the golf game?
Coach Swanson: I’ve honestly become a big believer in the idea that the less sauce there is in your swing, the better. There’s a quote that [retired pro golfer] Jack Nicklaus always said: “I always swung good when I had one thought in my head; I always swung my best when I had no thought.” I like that. I try to make sure that the guys aren’t overthinking the game. We have a lot of talented golfers on our team, and sometimes they get in their own way. Golf is so mental. That’s another thing I’ve learned as a coach this year: golf is really more mental than I ever thought it was.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.