A major assist: PGA champ Day's caddie/coach Swatton returns home to Bluffton
The golf carts lined up well down both sides of Belfair's entrance road Monday, more than 30 on each side.
Green and gold balloons were plentiful.
One resident carried around a large Australian flag. Another had a handmade sign proclaiming, "U DA MAN."
Libations were plentiful. Raindrops, fortunately, were not -- though most carts had umbrellas in the back, just in case. A little precipitation wasn't going to spoil this celebration.
No wonder Colin Swatton wondered aloud why the only person who greeted him at the airport was his wife.
"I'm saying to myself, 'Nobody came?' " said Swatton, Jason Day's coach/caddie/confidant who had the best vantage point for Sunday's masterful PGA Championship triumph at Whistling Straits.
"Now I know. They're all here."
Call it a community celebration, neighbors turning out to share in the victory of one of their own -- not to mention one of the more unusual player/caddie relationships in golf.
Their relationship goes back to when Day was 12 years old, a rebellious, angry preteen who had just lost his father to cancer. Swatton was the golf coach at the Koralbyn International School, where Day's mother had enrolled him in hopes of getting him to turn away from the street toughs.
Their first day ended in a loud argument. Over time, a mutual trust began to emerge. Their relationship eventually grew beyond the golf course, Swatton filling the void of a father figure for the teen. And when the time came to turn pro, Swatton added caddie duties.
"He's taken me from a kid that was getting in fights at home and getting drunk at 12 and not heading in the right direction to a major champion," Day told reporters before leaving Whistling Straits. "There's not many coaches that can say that in many sports.
"He means the world to me. I love him to death."
Said Swatton: "Not that I need it, but it's always good to hear that you're an important part of somebody's life."
The Swattons have called Belfair home since 2009. Their first date, in fact, came in Orlando while Day was playing the 2007 PGA Tour qualifying tournament. Two years later, Day was still learning his way around the circuit.
"Everybody said, 'Who do you work for? Jason ... Day?' " Lisa Swatton recalled. "And everybody just watched him grow."
A community also learned to endure its share of competitive heartache. Day birdied his last two holes to grab a share of the lead at the 2011 Masters -- only to watch Charl Schwartzel birdie his final four. Two years later, Day was three holes from a possible green jacket before a bogey-bogey sequence.
It was then that family friend Diana Sroufe had the idea that if Day won, she'd get the entire Belfair community to greet Swatton at the gate. The idea stuck with Lisa Swatton, who asked in Sunday's afterglow that it be revived.
One phone call to Rick Leitman was all it took. Belfair's interim general manager was only too happy to send a blast email to the membership.
The club also rushed through a banner hanging near the entrance gate: "Welcome home: Colin Swatton -- PGA Champion."
"What a great visual," Lisa Swatton said.
May it be the first of many.
This article was written by Jeff Shain from The Island Packet Online and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.