Superstition gets best of Georgia coaches

ATHENS, Ga. -- Being superstitious sorts, Georgia golf coaches Chris Haack and Jim Douglas missed nearly all of Hudson Swafford’s final round in the Stadion Classic at UGA.

In fact, they went out of their way to do so.

Although their former player shot a course-record 9-under 62 Sunday to win the Nationwide Tour event by a single stroke over Luke List and Lee Janzen, Haack and Douglas gleefully admitted that they abandoned Swafford after his bogey on the first hole and didn’t watch another of his shots the rest of the day.

“He knows us well enough to know we’re very superstitious,” said Haack, who instead tracked Swafford’s progress on his phone while sitting in the UGA golf program’s fan village above the 17th green. “What happened was he three-putted the first hole and we were like, ‘I’ll tell you what, let’s just go over here to the village. We’ll sit down, get something to eat.’ Then all of a sudden, we saw him make birdie. We were going to catch him coming down 7. Then all of a sudden we saw where he birdied 5 and birdied 6 and we were like, ‘We ain’t moving. We’re staying right here.’ ”

Swafford was tied for first when he reached the par-5 17th, where his nearly perfect flop shot from just off the green set up the ninth of his 10 birdies in the round. But even when Swafford was just a few feet away, Haack and Douglas couldn’t bring themselves to watch for fear of halting his hot streak.

“We were behind a part of the tent and we couldn’t even see the green,” Haack said with a laugh. “We didn’t even get out of our chairs to watch him on 17. We were staying right where we were because we’re so superstitious, we didn’t want to move.”

Swafford ate breakfast with his two former coaches Sunday, where they discussed the importance of starting quickly. Swafford was five strokes out of the lead and playing in the 10th-to-last group, so his margin for error was miniscule.

When Swafford three-putted the first green after reaching the green in regulation, he knew that might be the last he saw of his two ex-coaches -- at least for a while.

“I three-putted the first hole after two really good shots and just kind of dug myself into a bigger hole,” Swafford said. “Then the superstition of Doug and Hacker, they left me. I think they watched the whole first hole and then they just left me and didn’t watch another shot the rest of the day.”

Nobody could have guessed at the time that it would be his only bogey of the entire round, or that the birdie streak that followed would confine Haack and Douglas in the UGA Tee-Off Club’s village for essentially the rest of the day.

Just as they didn’t watch Swafford’s birdie on 17, they didn’t follow him on the final hole. Thus they missed his dramatic chip-in for birdie that provided his one-stroke winning margin.

They certainly heard the response, however, as the several hundred Georgia fans surrounding the 18th green roared their approval when the ball clanked off the flagstick and fell directly into the cup.

“We were just kind of waiting to hear a clap acknowledging that he finished and that kind of stuff,” Haack said. “Then all of a sudden we heard the roar and we both looked at each other and said, ‘That’s a Hudson roar!’ We knew that wasn’t anybody else. That had to be our guy because it was crazy loud out there. We were like, ‘I don’t know what he did.’ We didn’t know he chipped in. We thought he made a long putt or something.”

Even then, the two coaches felt compelled to remain at their posts in the fan village. There were nine groups still on the course and several players still had the opportunity to run down Swafford over the final few holes.

But one by one, they reached 18 and fell a stroke or two short, sometimes more. When Tyrone Van Aswegen and Bio Kim came in as the final pairing, Haack and Douglas were finally able to make their way to 18 to celebrate with their former player.

It marked the second straight year a Bulldog had won the event, following Russell Henley’s win a year ago.

“For the program, it’s rewarding for us to see these guys do well because in some form or fashion it makes us feel like maybe we did something right,” Haack said.

Swafford’s final round was the unique case where doing something right included Haack and Douglas avoiding any contact with their ex-player -- visual and otherwise -- so as not to interfere with a hot streak. And it's hard to argue with the outcome.