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Norman Swenson Loved Golf

As Society of Seniors president Mark Mulvoy remarked, “golf has lost a good one … a very good one.” Norman Swenson, 64, passed away last week.

Nominally from North Carolina, Swenson, described by a friend as “the consummate sportsman,” was likely to turn up at any course in the world, clubs on his shoulder and ready to compete. Poignantly, he suffered a heart attack while returning from Korea from just such an occasion, where he represented Pine Valley in the World Club Championship.

Swenson, a member of the R&A, played college golf at Wake Forest, where his teammates included Lanny Wadkins. Instead of turning pro, as most of his team did, he went into business. With partners, he started and grew a portrait studio business that at one time had 8,000 employees and did $140 million in annual revenue. When they sold out, Swenson returned to golf with a vengeance. He had five USGA appearances to his credit, and he won on his own ball and with partners on more continents than most people will visit in a lifetime.

“No one loved golf and Wake Forest and coach Jesse Haddock as much as Norman,” said John Buczek, Director of Golf for the Wake Forest Golf Academy and a former teammate. “He was a fun-loving guy and a dear friend. Playing golf at Wake Forest puts us all into a fraternity in which we care for each other and pull for each other in whatever we’re doing. Norm was one of the guys that we all loved and he will be truly missed.”

So many wonderful stories were exchanged by phone and e-mail last week about a much-admired, much-liked man from the senior amateur circuit. The one I liked best, and suspect Swenson would have too, goes like this:

Some 20 years ago, Swenson squared off against Bob Fairchild in a Crump Cup match at Pine Valley. On the first hole, Fairchild hit it to 12 feet, and Swenson was 50 feet away. Swenson holed his bomb, and Fairchild missed his short putt. One down. On the next hole, Swenson hit his tee shot off the planet and had to chip out, landing behind Fairchild’s middle of the fairway drive. He hit his third shot to the uphill green, a completely blind shot. Fairchild hit his on the green as well. As they approached the green, one ball was five feet away, the other could not be seen. A quick check of the hole, and sure enough, Swenson had made an amazing birdie 3. Fairchild, who told me the story, missed his five-footer … and for years, when they warmly greeted each other, Swenson would ask “remember when I had you two down at the Crump after two holes and your combined distance from the pin was 17 feet?”

Godspeed, Norman Swenson.


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