WEBSTER CITY - Collin Swenson is a newbie when it comes to the pressure, expectations and atmosphere of the state golf tournament. But if he has questions, all he has to do is turn to his big brother.
Swenson, a senior and four-year starter for Northeast Hamilton, will tee it up for the first round of the Class 1A state meet from Lake Panorama National Golf Course - a par-72 layout that plays 6,729 yards from the tournament tees and a massive 7,024 from the tips - in Panora on Friday at noon. The second and final round is scheduled for Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.
The four-year all-Iowa Star Conference player is the second member of his family in the last five years to join the field of elite 1A golfers. Older brother Ryan Swenson qualified twice during his prep days at Northeast Hamilton; he placed 37th as a junior in 2007, then came back a year later and rocketed up the leaderboard to eighth.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Northeast Hamilton senior Collin Swenson is the second member of his family in the last 5 years to qualify for the Class 1A state golf meet. His brother, Ryan, was a qualifier in 2007 and 2008.
The 2007 and 2008 state meets were played at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore.
So, has big brother offered up any words of wisdom?
"He's going to be down there on Friday and Saturday, and he's just told me that the first shot is always the hardest," Collin Swenson said. "But other than that, he just says to have fun and enjoy it because getting to state is a privilege."
Collin Swenson, who will again follow in his older brother's footsteps in the fall when he joins the Ellsworth Community College golf team in Iowa Falls, expects to be nervous as he stands over that first tee shot on Friday. But after that, he hopes it will be just like any other round he's played at his home course - Briggs Woods Golf Course.
"I'm sure there will be some nerves, but once that first shot is over with I think I'll be good," he said. "Playing with my older brothers for so long, they've taught me a lot of things. I'm just going to play it like it's just another round, and my family is going to be there watching me, so it's going to be nice."
After narrowly missing out on state appearances during his sophomore and junior seasons, Collin Swenson fired a 3-over par 75 last Friday at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls during a district meet to finally gain entrance to the club. A chip-in for birdie on his final hole of regulation made it official.
"Missing (state as a sophomore and junior) gave me a lot of determination to just work harder," he said. "My goal all year has been to make it to state, and once I made it there was a big sigh of relief."
Just getting there isn't the end of the story, at least that's the plan. Collin Swenson has specific goals in mind; goals big bro never reached in his two state appearances.
"Shooting anywhere in the 70s would be great, but even lower would be preferable," he said. "We'll see what happens."
Ryan Swenson shot an 81 in his final round of the 2008 state meet, which tied his low round, also shot on the first day of the 2007 state meet.
A pair of rounds in the 70s this weekend could put the Trojan veteran right in the hunt for the individual crown. The highest returning place winners are Trent Lindenman of North Mahaska and Brad Bailey of Treynor, seniors who tied for 11th in 2011. Neither player shot in the 70s during last spring's tournament, which was also held at Lake Panorama.
But Swenson knows nothing will come easy, not on a course that features danger around every turn.
"It's really nice, but the greens are pretty slick," he said. "I just want to hit fairways and greens and try to stay out of too much trouble. Hopefully the putts will fall."
Mason City Newman will be out to repeat as the 1A team champion. The Knights won the title by 12 shots a year ago.
Other teams returning to take a crack at the top spot are Algona Bishop Garrigan, third a year ago, and Belle Plaine, which was sixth.