Swanson, 69, is a local golfing legend who was the first female to play on a community college men’s team.
It struck Ann Swanson the moment she walked into a coaches’ meeting before a tournament last year in El Paso, Texas.
She was the only woman.
But that comes with the territory when you are an assistant coach for the Seattle University men’s golf team. Swanson, who also assists the Seattle U women’s team, does not know of another woman who is assisting a men’s Division I program.
Ann Swanson file
Golf highlights: Nine-time Washington state amateur champion; seven-time Seattle city champion; qualified for three U.S. Women’s Opens. She is in several halls of fame, including Pacific Northwest Golf, Grays Harbor Community College and Aberdeen High School.
Did you know? She has written two books, and the first one, on the history of women’s amateur golf, was selected for the USGA Museum of History. She won the 1989 Washington Women’s Amateur and Seattle City Amateur while wearing a walking cast recovering from a broken leg.
Monday and Tuesday: Seattle University Invitational at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place
The 69-year-old is used to being a trail blazer.
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A local golfing legend in Washington, it would take a page to list all of her accomplishments. She said a lot of her success stemmed from playing for the Grays Harbor Community College men’s team, the first female in the state to play on a community college men’s team.
Swanson is less into playing these days and more into giving back to the game. When Seattle U men’s and women’s coach Mark Chandonnet asked Swanson before the 2014 season if she was interested in assisting him, she jumped at the chance.
“There was a real learning curve,” said Swanson, who graduated from Seattle U and was an assistant on the UW women’s golf team nearly 40 years ago. “But it’s really fun. They help keep me young. I hope they are learning some things from me, and I know I am learning from them.”
Swanson soon discovered that the players at Seattle University had their own swing coaches. Most of the advice she gives is on the mental side of the game.
“She’s a hall of famer, and she has all the experience that goes into that,” said Seattle U senior Luke Karaula, the team captain. “She has a clear vision of what she wants, and while we are out there playing, she is on the sideline doing all of the preparation. The players appreciate that.”
Indeed, Swanson’s job includes fundraising and preparing for tournaments, including hosting the big event of the year for the men’s team, the Seattle University Invitational at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place on Monday and Tuesday.
The course, which will host the U.S. Open two months later, should provide a tough test for the 18-team field, which includes the University of Washington.
“The thing I love about the course is the unique ways in how you can set it up,” Chandonnet said. “We will change par from 70 one day to 71 the next, and this year we will lengthen it out. My team hits it pretty far, and that gives us an advantage.”
The Redhawks are a young and improving team. Swanson said the team is ready for a big breakthrough. She won’t pick which team she enjoys coaching the most.
“I will say that all of the players on the men’s team are just really, really passionate about the game,” Swanson said. “On women’s teams, you might have one in eight who really has that passion. They like golf but they have other things in their life.”
Although Swanson and Chandonnet don’t tinker much with players’ swing mechanics, they are stressing a new concept called Fluid Motion Compact.
“The idea is for a player to have a quiet mind when making the golf swing, and not thinking about mechanics or having swing thoughts,” Swanson said. “The goal is to get the player to effortlessly repeat the swing and putting stroke that they have when they are playing their best.”
But Swanson’s tips are not just related to golf. “This is about life,” she says.
It’s the life lessons that Swanson can deliver that intrigued Chandonnet when he hired her.
“Ann’s commitment is to a hall-of-fame level,” Chandonnet said. “She gives more to everything she does than anyone else. Hopefully the kids can see her passion and learn from it.”