Bennett Swavely had barely reached his teen years when he shot a 69 at Oakldale’s Oak Marsh Golf Course in just his second tournament ever.
“That’s when I thought I could be somewhat good if I kept practicing,” the Hudson High School junior said.
So he kept practicing. And he kept getting better, earning a spot on the Raider varsity as a freshman, making the All-Big Rivers Conference First Team two straight years, and garnering all-state honorable mention accolades last spring when he helped Hudson to a seventh place finish at the WIAA State Golf Tournament--the second best finish in school history.
Swavely has won a lot of golf tournaments since that 69 at Oak Marsh, but his biggest victory came this past August when he added his name to a trophy that includes the likes of current PGA pros Steve Stricker and Mark Wilson, and college stars Thomas Longbella and Hunter Eichhorn, by winning the Wisconsin State Golf Association Junior Boys Championship at Edelweiss Chalet Country Club in New Glarus.
Swavely said he’s proud to be the latest champion in the elite tournament that dates back to 1924.
“It feels really good just knowing that those guys have won it and where they are now,” he said. “And now it’s pretty cool that I won it.”
Swavely topped a field of 168 golfers with a 54-hole total of 216 (70-73-73), holding off Cameron Huss of Kenosha, a rising senior at Tremper High School and a University of Wisconsin commit, by three strokes to claim the title.
Swavely and Huss entered the final day tied the lead at 143 each. Hot on their heels were first-round leader and reining WIAA Division 3 champion Drake Wilcox of Sheboygan, Badgers recruit Jack Blair of Wauwatosa, Menomonee Falls’ senior Danny Sanicki, and Wisconsin PGA Junior champion Jacob Beckman all within five strokes.
Swavely, however, held off all of them, riding a steady 1-over 73 while Huss shot a 76 to finish second. Blair (74), Sanicki (73) and Wilcox (75) tied for third at 220.
Swavely said he knew he could compete against the higher-profile players if he just stuck to his game.
“I knew I could hang with most of those guys, if not all of them,” he said. “My game has been improving incrementally I think over the last few summers. But I’ve seen a really big improvement from last season to this season.”
That improvement coincides with a switch Swavely made from the Minnesota junior summer tour to Wisconsin.
“I switched over to Wisconsin because those are the guys I’m going to be playing with at state and around the circuit,” he said. “I just wanted to get comfortable playing with those guys and making some friendships along the way as well.”
Swavely, the son of former Raider head boys’ basketball coach and current assistant Jason Swavely, said he discovered golf at an early age.
“My whole life I’ve just been basketball, basketball, basketball,” he said. “My dad coaches basketball and my whole family is around basketball. It was something that I grew up with. I didn’t really get serious about golf until I was about 12. And then when I was 13, that summer, I started playing competitive golf. That was when I really started to love the game. But I still play basketball. I try and play as much as I can.”
He said his grandfather, former River Falls High School assistant basketball coach and Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dennis Burich, has also encouraged his love of golf.
“My grandpa gives me a lot of good tips,” he said. “Especially if I’m struggling. I’ll call him and he usually says keep your head still or something super simple. And the next day I’ll go out and shoot a good score. It’s kinda cool.”
Swavely, who plays out of Troy Burne under the tutelage of PGA director of golf instruction Brent Snyder, said he hopes to play golf in college, and has already communicated with PGA pro Charlie Danielson of Osceola to help him achieve his goal. He said Danielson, a former All-American at the University of Illinois, messaged him after he won the WSGA Junior Boys’ title in August.
“Brent put me in touch with him,” Swavely said. “Just to talk about his experience with college golf and his time at Illinois. He’s just a great guy.”
In the short term, Swavely said he’s looking forward to his junior season with the Raider boys’ team this spring.
“I think it’s going to be the best team Hudson’s ever had,” he said. “We’re bringing back four of the five guys and each of them have gotten better over the summer. And we have a couple of good kids in the mix for that fifth spot or sixth spot. I feel like we’re going to have some good depth this year and should make a run at the state title as a team.”