WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA | She carried her own bag from the parking lot to the range where she went through her normal pre-round routine, wedges first and then up through the bag, just like college; just like amateur golf; just like the three East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour events that she spent the last month and a half playing to get ready for her debut as an Epson Tour rookie. For Kennedy Swann, it’s all part of a process she seems to have formulated early.
The last time most fans saw Swann, she was standing on the final green at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, holding her phone at arm’s length to get her entire Ole Miss team into a selfie wearing their new NCAA Champion t-shirts. Swann was the star of the Rebels women’s golf team that captured Ole Miss’s first national championship in any sport.
A few minutes later, she was the recipient of one of the most memorable acts of sportsmanship in recent memory. The sponsors of the Marathon Classic had agreed ahead of time to give an exemption into the field at the LPGA Tour’s Toledo, Ohio event to one member of the winning team. Ole Miss’s coaches decided that the spot should go to Julia Johnson, a stalwart for the Rebels all year. Johnson immediately said, “Thank you, but I would like to give this exemption to Kennedy Swann.” Swann broke down in tears on Golf Channel and NCAA television history was made.
Now, Swann is taking the next step in a process she has mapped out with a level of maturity not often seen from a rookie.
“I took a big break after the second stage of Q-School,” she said as she walked from the range to the first tee for her first practice round of the year. “After graduating (in Oxford), I was pretty burned out. I told myself that all I needed to do was play well enough to see it through. Then I knew I needed a month to shut it down and regroup.”
She moved from Mississippi, where she roomed with Johnson, to Oregon where she recharged and resumed her practice schedule.
“I came down here (in late January) and got used to playing on Bermudagrass again,” she said. “I’d played on (Bentgrass) for a while up in Oregon. Coming back down here and getting accustomed again to these conditions was important.”
It was also important to learn as much as she could about what to expect.
“Bianca Pagdanganan has been a big help,” Swann said. “I played with her a couple of times in college. I talked to her a lot about (tour life). And I talked to a couple of girls on the Epson Tour about it and they have been open with me. I ask as many questions as you can possibly ask.”
She has also thought through her options and approach.
“This first event I’m going to do it by myself,” she said pointing to the bag on her shoulder. “I’ve had caddies before, but they’ve always been my dad or a friend or my assistant coach. All of them are tied up for the moment. I just wanted to get my feet under me. The last thing I want is to hire a caddie who might not be the best fit distracting me in my first event. So, I’m going to carry myself this first week, and then I have a buddy and his wife who are hosting me in Arizona. He’s going to be on the bag for me there. Then, hopefully, my buddy who did Stage I and Stage II (of LPGA Tour Q-School) will be able to caddie for me from there on out.
“I’m really happy where I am. I didn’t know how good my status would be because the people that I talked to after Stage II told me that I might not get as many starts as I was hoping for. They all said, ‘You really need to take advantage of every event you get in.’ But now, looking at the priority list, I’m high enough that it looks like I should get into pretty much every event.”
Swann is a realist and a keen observer of her profession – both of which bode well for her future on the Epson Tour and beyond.
“I think a lot of girls make the mistake, they’re so eager to get their LPGA Tour card, that they go out there and are overwhelmed and they end up losing it. Then they’re coming back to Epson and they’re like ‘What do I do now?’ But for me, I want to be a hundred percent confident that when I get my LPGA Tour card, I’m ready and I’ve earned it.
“I think graduating in the top-10 from the Epson Tour or earning my way into Q-Series is the best way to do it.”