Hibbing Daily Tribune
HIBBING — On the PGA Tour, there’s always talk of the best player to have never won a Major.
On the local scene, Mike Swanger had heard that talk before, being one of the better golfers at the Mesaba Country Club to have never won a Men’s Club championship.
Swanger went out and rectified that by beating Brent Theien 2-and-1 to capture his first Mesaba Country Club Men’s Club title Sunday.
Swanger credited two things for his success — no nerves, and his late mother and father.
“My mom passed on May 28, and my dad passed away seven years ago,” Swanger said. “They were both there with me today. My nerves, this year, I didn’t have the nerves, and my game was better this year.”
“I wasn’t stressed out today. I’ve learned how to calm my emotions. That helps tremendously. It also helps playing with Brent because I play with him every Thursday. Playing with buddies helps a lot.”
Theien, who won the title in 2014, couldn’t have been happier for his friend and playing partner.
“Mike played well, and I’m proud of him,” Theien said. “He’s earned it. He deserved to win. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s had a tough year.”
Swanger was in the lead after the turn, then Theien birdied the 10th hole. After halving No. 11, Theien chipped his third shot on No. 12 within two feet and was conceded a birdie.
Swanger ran his chip shot about 2 ½ feet past the cup, but he was able to drain the putt to halve the hole.
“Brent is a good player,” Swanger said. “I knew that I needed to stay on top of him. I was ahead of him. When he was already in for birdie, I knew I had to get it close. I was able to make the putt.”
Swanger didn’t change his approach to the game in any way during the match.
“I just play the way I play,” Swanger said.
Theien, who has been battling a knee injury all season, just couldn’t get anything going. He would bogey No. 16 to go 2-down, then on 17, he left a birdie putt just short to extend the match.
“I didn’t hit quite hard enough,” Theien said. “I left it on the low side. Other than that, I can’t complain. It was a good week. I didn’t expect to get here after the year I’ve had. I’m happy to be playing, with my knee injury and what not.
“In the last few weeks, things started coming together. It was good enough. I was free and easy. I didn’t have any expectations, which allowed me to beat some good players this week. I’ll have surgery next month, then try again next year.”
Swanger beat Brian Bolf in the semifinals, while Theien defeated Jeff Cowling, knocking the defending champion out of the tourney. Cowling had been in the 10 previous finals before bowing out in the semifinals.