State golf hall to honor Macon’s Swann

sports@macon.comJanuary 14, 2013 

The late A.J. “Duck” Swann, who passed away almost six years ago this month, gets his rightful place in the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame on Saturday night in ceremonies at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

He joins Laura Coble of Augusta, John B. “Sonny” Ellis of Atlanta and Lowell Fritz of Dalton in the Class of 2013 as the individuals who will be inducted into the Hall at the sold-out event.

Swann, who inherited his nickname “Duck” from his father -- a teacher, coach and principal at Lanier High School for more than four decades -- got his start in golf as a preteen serving as a caddy at the old Cherokee Club, which was located off Columbus Road. And he learned the game quite well, as evidenced by the fact he won the 1941 Macon City Championship as a 16-year-old high school student at Lanier.

That City Championship was just one of many titles that he won during his long playing career. He captured several interscholastic titles before enrolling at Georgia Tech, where he won the SEC championship in 1948 and was also medalist at the Southeastern Intercollegiate. He was the captain of Tech’s 1949 SEC championship team, and, in 1958, was elected to the Yellow Jackets’ “All-time” golf team and into the Tech Hall of Fame in 1964.

In between his high school and college days, Swann served in World War II as a 19-year-old B-17 pilot and also flew missions for two years during the Korean conflict. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1964 as a lieutenant colonel.

“Duck” was a frequent participant in amateur tournaments throughout Georgia and the Southeast during his life, and he really hit his stride when he reached the senior amateur age of 55 in 1980. His most significant win came in the British Senior Open Amateur in 1983 at Walton Heath in England, when he became the first American to win that title. He also won the Georgia Seniors the same year and qualified for the match-play portion of the USGA Senior Amateur Championship. In 1984, he claimed the Legendary Senior Amateur in Birmingham, Ala., and, in 1987, won the Western Seniors.

He was involved in golf not only as a player but as an advocate for the sport, especially charitable events, serving as state chairman for the Walter Hagen Cancer Tournament, state chairman for the National Kidney Foundation Tournament and chairman of the Children’s Hospital Celebrity Tournament. In addition, he served as chairman of the Peach Blossom Tournament and was a board member of the Georgia Tech Golf Committee and a board member of the American Senior Golf Association.

To give you an idea of how well he was respected in the golfing community, he served on Golf Digest’s National Ranking Panel for golf courses for a quarter of a century.

He also was active in civic and community affairs, serving as chairman of the board of directors of Bibb County Family and Children’s Services. He also was a member of Macon Rotary, served as vice president of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, was involved with Boy Scouts and was a coach at Vine Ingle, among other activities.

I have always heard that golf is a gentleman’s game, and “Duck” Swann fit the description of a gentleman perfectly. I was introduced to him shortly after moving to Macon in the mid-1960s and, over the years, really enjoyed getting to know him. He was truly one of the nicest individuals I have ever met.

Marion Gilbert, who was in Swann’s Saturday/Sunday playing group at Idle Hour for some 40 years along with Dan Nymicz, Ken Hall, and Bruce Bishop, said Duck “doesn’t have a black mark against his name.”

The induction of Duck Swann into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame is a great tribute to a man who made the city of Macon proud.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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