Swinton’s college golf journey started with grandpa’s clubs

April 4, 2015

Tyler Swinton golf

Tyler Swinton

Tyler Swinton of Haines started golfing because it was something his dad did, and his dad before him. His first clubs were hand-me-downs from his grandpa after he died.

He’s too big to use those clubs today, but he still carries that passion for the sport.

The 21-year-old from Haines is Alaska’s only college golfer.

He is a junior at Oregon Institute of Technology, where he carded five rounds of par or better and earned three top-10 finishes in his first season at the NAIA school.

Swinton transferred from Southwestern Oregon Community College, where last year he won the Brandon Dunes Invitational and helped SWOCC win the NWAC championship.

“Once I got my foot in the door I figured I deserved a spot,” he told me.

Swinton’s journey to college golf started at the Valley of the Eagles, a 3,000-yard par-9 course in Haines. The links style course is located on wetlands formed from glacial melting and offers sensation scenery and artificial greens.

“It provided me with an opportunity to practice,” he said. “I could just take a cart to the middle of the fairway and bang balls for a while. I wouldn’t really mess up the greens, so that was nice.”

He grew up being a caddy for his dad and grandpa until he was 12. When he was in high school he worked at his family’s business during the summer and bought a $200 junior pass, which allowed him unlimited rounds.

“Every day at 4 o’clock I’d go play with my dad. Then I’d go home for dinner and usually come back and practice some more,” he said. “Once I started to enjoy it more and more I kind of dedicated myself to practicing and getting better.”

With no high school golf in Alaska, Swinton has had to sell himself to college coaches as his own recruiting service. Then he’s got out and backed it up on the course.

“I got a lot better in the offseason,” he said. “I was shooting mid-60s for a long time. I was playing really well; a lot of birdies.”

He’s still flying high at Oregon Tech as the team’s No. 1 golfer. He has played the most events and had the best success, virtually tied with teammate and buddy Josh Whitley for the team’s best average 18-hole round [74.5 to 74.6].

“I’m getting to the point where I should make putts and I should get up and down from most situations,” Swinton said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot going into the last two tournaments. It would be nice to put it all together and hopefully pick up a win. That would be cool.”