When he holed out on his last shot of the tournament for a 17-under score on Sunday, the roars and barks that ensued shook the needles on the stately pines that mimic those at Augusta National and could be heard from the farthest reaches of this 7,300-yard Robert Trent Jones design.
Swafford said he wasn’t immediately certain his ball went in until he“felt the vibration” of the crowd’s spontaneous appluase.
“Such a surreal feeling,” he said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
“The roar here on 18 was one of the best I’ve seen anywhere,” a giddy Georgia golf coach Chris Haack said as Swafford accepted the trophy and $99,000 winner’s check on No. 18. “It was Augusta-like.”
So was Swafford’s finish. His one-stroke victory came over Nationwide Tour star Luke List and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.
Janzen, the 48-year-old former PGA Tour star, birdied the last five holes to shoot 65. List missed an eagle putt on 17 that would have given him the outright lead before bogeying No. 18 to finish in a tie for second.
They were playing an hour behind Swafford and hearing the commotion ahead.
“That was awesome,” said List, a good friend who ate dinner with Swafford Friday night in downtown Athens. “Georgia boy shoots 62. He played great.”
Swafford becomes the second Bulldog to win this tournament on the UGA Golf Course. Swafford’s Georgia teammate Russell Henley won it as an amateur one year ago. Fellow Bulldogs Justin Bolli and Paul Claxton tied for seventh at 12-under.
“I’m glad I could keep the trophy here,” Swafford told an overflow crowd spilling out each side of the No. 18 grandstand. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
It was Swafford’s first win in nine Nationwide Tour events this year. He quadrupled his previous earnings of $23,157.
“It’s huge,” said Swafford, who played on the E-Golf Tour the second half of last season. “This is no time to sit down. I’ve got another event in two weeks. It’s a good starting point, a building block. I’m still $100,000 short of my goal for the year.”
When the day started, it looked like the barks were going to be muffled at UGA this year. Then Swafford made the turn to the back nine. He turned at 3-under on the day but “wasn’t thinking about winning at that point.”
But Swafford went birdie, birdie, birdie on Holes 11 through 13 — a portion known as the Amen Corner of the UGA Golf Course – to jump into a three-way tie for first place. The 2011 Georgia graduate rolled in a 10-footer for a 2 on the par-3 16th hole to go to 15-under to grab the lead for himself.
“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t let up because those guys are coming through these holes, too,” Swafford said. “Ryan [Baucom, his caddie] just kept saying, keep giving yourself a chance.”
That’s why Swafford chose to hit driver on the 488-yard, par-4 finishing hole. He missed the fairway and found the rough right. Swafford tried to cut a 7-iron from 190 yards but it stayed left and ended up short of the green in the deep bunker.
“We talked about it on the fairway, I said I’m going to hole this bunker shot, it’s going to go in,” Swafford said. “I knew I had to make it if I was going to have a chance. But talking about it and doing it are two different things.”
Swafford thought he’d hit his ball too hard, pleading for it to get down. It did, hitting the bottom of the cup and the pin simultaneously for a noisy hole-out. It got louder with the crowd’s applause.
“I knew I hit it a little too far and told it to sit down,” Swafford said. “But it hit the pin at the bottom and went in. Then came the roar.”
Said Haack: “He kept saying he thought he was leaving shots on the golf course, so we knew he was playing well. I told him, ‘you go out there and shoot a 65 or 66, you may have a chance. Little did I know he had a 62 in him.”
Here’s some video the shot: