Gilford's Tyler Swarthout will play collegiate golf at NCAA Division III Husson University in Bangor, Maine this fall. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 25, 2016GILFORD – Somewhat surprisingly, Tyler Swarthout's golf career is still in its relative infancy. Despite his father, Jim, occupying the role of PGA Master Professional and Director of Golf at Pheasant Ridge Golf Club, Swarthout didn't play competitively until his freshman year of high school. Even then, shifting over from playing soccer was a difficult decision.
"I was in love with soccer and we won the middle school championship," began Swarthout. "I had my mind set on soccer going into high school and then fall came around, I changed my mind and couldn't be happier that I did. Although it was definitely a tough decision with (soccer coach Dave) Pinkham's legacy."
After four years on the Gilford High School golf team, Swarthout will take the next step in his career this fall when he will play collegiately at NCAA Division III Husson University in Bangor, Maine.
"I was talking to a few D-II schools like Franklin Pierce and SNHU, but I wanted to play right off the bat and have an immediate impact," explained Swarthout. "Husson has won the NAC (championship) five out of the last seven years and they've made it to NCAAs the last 10 years. I liked their coach, he's very knowledgable."
Husson head coach Mike Dugas first contacted Jim Swarthout, Gilford's golf coach, about Tyler during his junior year. One of the Husson assistants came to a match to follow him around, and when Tyler went on a visit to Bangor, he played a round with Dugas at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, the 27-hole course where the Eagles play their home matches.
"It was tough," recalled Swarthout. "That was the first time I ever met him and I'm thrown right into it, playing a round with the coach recruiting me. I played okay, I think I shot a 38 on nine holes."
Swarthout ultimately committed to Husson, and his senior year proved to be the best of his career. He didn't record a bogey in any of his first three rounds last fall, and he fired a 33 in a match against perennial powers Bow and Derryfield at Pheasant Ridge.
"I played better because of the better competition which is something I feel like I've been able to do," he explained.
Despite growing up around the game because of his father, Swarthout said he gradually took to the sport.
"My dad never pushed me towards the sport. He was always very good about it," said Swarthout. "I would hit balls in middle school but never thought it would be a sport I could play. But my dad always taught me the mechanics so I knew what to do. Once I decided to play and decided I wanted to get better, that's when everything clicked."
Still, freshman year wasn't smooth sailing for Swarthout. He consistently occupied the third, fourth or fifth scoring slot for Gilford, shooting in the high 40s. A true competitor, he made the decision to dedicate himself to the sport.
"Going into my sophomore year, I wanted to be the best on the team because I hated being mediocre," he recalled.
Swarthout worked his way into the number one spot out of the gates as a sophomore, but there were struggles to be had. His first match of the season yielded poor results, and he had some issues keeping pace with the opposing team's top players.
"I was getting blown out of the water by everyone I was playing with," he said with a laugh. "So I stayed late at practice throughout the season and tried to be more competitive because what I was doing, I couldn't stand it."
His game improved markedly, and more than anything, he became a consistent player. Success followed the rest of his sophomore year and into his junior campaign, though a poor performance at the state championship his junior season nearly derailed everything.
"I missed the cut for individuals by one stroke my junior year," began Swarthout. "I had been preparing for it all year and I never really thought about what I was doing because in my mind I was already getting ready for Day 2. It took me about a solid month to get over that. I was upset, and my mind was not as strong as I needed it to be to grind through a round like that."
Fast-forward to his senior year however, and Swarthout had come charging back. He fired a team-best round of 76 at the state championship, avenging his previous state performance and guiding the Eagles to a fourth place team performance.
The shift to the college game will bring longer courses and tougher conditions, though Swarthout is excited about the challenge of taking his game to the next level.
"The courses are generally 500 to 600 yards longer so I definitely need to get my iron game as strong as I can," he explained. "I'm not going to be having a pitching wedge into every green like I have in the past. I've been playing six days a week, working on different parts of my game to get ready.
"But I'm very excited," he continued. "The top three players from Husson averaged a little over par, 75s every tournament, and that's my goal. I want to be in that top four mix right off the bat."
Husson plays a fall and spring split schedule, with the conference championship slated for October and the NCAA Tournament set for the spring.