The Butterfield Bermuda Championship, played over the last weekend of October, was a triumph for Seamus Power. The 35-year-old Irishman won his second PGA Tour title, finishing at 19 under par.
At the other end of the scale sat Kim Swan, who shot 89, 81 to miss the cut on Friday. The cut was six under par, so Swan missed it by the small matter of 34 shots.
Ordinarily the cognoscenti would be up in arms, wondering if this was the reincarnation of Maurice Flitcroft, the phantom of The Open. But sometimes two rounds of golf are far more significant than the numbers recorded on the scorecard. Scratch the surface of the Kim Swan story and you discover a remarkable man.
Swan was playing on a sponsor’s exemption, principally because the Butterfield Bermuda Championship was played at Port Royal Golf Course. Having just turned 65, Swan was offered a spot in the field to mark his retirement after a decade as the teaching pro at Port Royal. He took up the post in 2012 because, for the first time in many years, he had some time on his hands. Let me try to elaborate.
Swan was a gifted amateur golfer. Good enough, in fact, to play in the Eisenhower Trophy twice. His game was honed at Troy State University in Alabama, where he was MVP in 1979. The following year he qualified to play on the European Tour, but after two largely unremarkable campaigns opted to return to Bermuda.
For the next 30 years, Swan mixed golf with politics. He contested four general elections and served in the Senate of Bermuda for nine years, including a spell as Leader of the Opposition. He was elected to the National Assembly in 2007 and ran as an independent in the 2012 general election where he came third, winning 23% of the vote.
During his years in office, Swan’s golf game had deteriorated from the one which had annexed the Bermudan Open on three occasions and took him to the 1993 World Cup of Golf. Nevertheless he had maintained his professional status and now turned to the next generation, offering lessons at Port Royal, frequently for free.
Swan’s obsession with the game was nurtured by his uncle, Herman Bascombe, who was the club pro at Ocean View GC, a public course on Bermuda’s northern shore. In the 1970s, Swan honed his skills at the newly opened government course, Port Royal, the same Port Royal that hosted the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Born into a working-class family, Swan recognised the societal gulf that could be straddled with golfing skills and, no doubt, it informed his political affiliations in the years to come.
Realising that he was running out of time to pay back some of his golfing dues, in 2021 Swan went on a diet and took up an exercise regime to get in shape for the Champions Tour Senior Open (spoiler alert, he didn’t make it through pre-Q). He is committed to opening up golf courses to all sections of society and his appearance on the PGA Tour was a carefully planned marketing exercise.
And by shooting twice in the 80s he got the kind of publicity that few can dream of. OK, so he had four double-bogeys and a nine at a par four on the Thursday, but he bounced back with a couple of birdies on Friday and an eight-shot improvement. Who knows how well he might have played if that sponsor’s invite had included a pass to the weekend.
– This article first appeared in the December 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.