Swanson toying with women's HOF field Jun 10, 2012  (7 years ago)

 
By Randy King
Jun 10, 2012, 19:48

The five-time women's champion takes a six-stroke lead into today's final round.

Meredith Swanson just keeps on keeping on in the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame women's championship.

Swanson, who has won the title the past two years and five times in her six career starts, made Hidden Valley's 5,275-yard track look like mere child's play while posting a nifty 4-under-par 68 Saturday that left her six shots ahead of the field.

The 21-year-old rising senior at South Carolina will be looking to hike her collection of HOF titles to a six-pack today when the 36-hole event concludes at Ashley Plantation.

Dot Bolling, who has captured the crown a record eight times, is six strokes back in second, with teenager Lyndsey Hunnell third, seven strokes off the pace.

"It doesn't surprise me,'' Bolling said of Swanson's hot round. "The only chance I have is if Meredith doesn't make her tee time today. It's no chance. I will be playing for second. Shoot, she might shoot 10 under [today] at Ashley Plantation."

Swanson, who has been playing on college courses that average close to 1,000 yards longer than Saturday's test, said this exercise is all about coming home and having fun with the ladies she started playing serious competitive golf with eight years ago. That was in 2004, when Swanson became the youngest winner in HOF history at 13.

"I would love to leave my mark here in Roanoke and make a name for myself,'' Swanson said. "It is a big deal, I want to leave my mark here and I'm going to strive to reach that eighth win and try and pass Dot. I think that would be a good accomplishment.

"It definitely never gets old. But if I didn't win, I wouldn't be upset. I would be happy for whoever won. That would be awesome; that would just be some more competition out here.''

Well, it hasn't happened lately in this event. Swanson's advanced game is way too superior for the rest of the pack to handle.

Take Hunnell, who is considered the top junior girls player in the Roanoke Valley. The 16-year-old rising sophomore at Lord Botetourt must feel like the rest of the PGA Tour when Tiger Woods owned the circuit.

"Oh, I would like to win this one year ... maybe,'' Hunnell said. "It's hard playing with an upcoming senior in college because they practice so much. I mean she gets to practice all winter and I have to wait because of snow and winter.

"Ashley is my home course, but it's really easy. Meredith would have to play really bad [today], and I don't expect that to happen.''

Swanson mixed five birdies with only one bogey at the par-3 15th.

"The greens were really putting well,'' said Swanson, whose South Carolina squad finished fifth in the recent NCAA women's championship. "I love bent [grass] greens. I've been playing on Bermuda [grass greens] the whole college season, so it's so nice to be home and play on bent because it's what I grew up on.''

While the competition is not nearly as strong as she faces in college, Swanson said the trip home from Columbia, S.C., was akin to like a soothing respite for her.

"It makes me feel good to win,'' she said. "It boosts my confidence when I can come out here and hit it in the fairway, hit the greens. No matter what tournament it is, it doesn't matter how big or how small, it's always good because golf is so mental. It's always good to get your head in the right place and know that you can win.

"So I have to prepare myself like it is the U.S. Open.''

Swanson's 66 put her Roanoke Country Club squad on pace for its fourth straight and seventh team title in the past eight years. Hanging Rock is second, 17 shots off the pace.

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