By Tom Spousta
Stacy Swan reached into her pocket and held a metal washer in her hand. Her voice began to crack as she told the story of her father, Lewie Luke, a farmer and jack-of-all-trades who loved golf and introduced his children and grandchildren to the game.
Luke could fix anything and always carried a washer about the size of a quarter in his pocket. He’d take grandkids Lydia and Isaiah to play nine holes and passed along his knowledge to them, until he died two years ago. Carrying the old washer, Stacy said, is “my way of bringing Pop with us. The kids don’t know I have it.”
On this Easter Sunday, Lydia and Isaiah Swan, of North East, Pa., added to the family golf legacy by giving strong performances at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National. They were one of two sets of siblings who qualified, joining Shane and Colin Ffrench of San Diego here at the start of Masters week.
Tied for first after the driving and chipping stages of the competition, Lydia took control with her putting stroke at the 18th green to win the Girls 10-11 division. Isaiah was consistent throughout and finished third in the Boys 10-11 division.
Lydia picked up her ball after her final putt, shook hands with a beaming Condoleezza Rice, received congratulatory hugs from fellow players and seemingly floated toward her father, Mike, for an emotional embrace.
“I just had so much fun with it, and having my brother here and just trying to do my best,” Lydia said.
The Swans and the Ffrenches arrived in vans that took participants down Magnolia Lane. The young golfers were greeted by several past Champions, including Nick Faldo, Adam Scott and Mark O’Meara.
“This is it! This is it, Mom,” the Swan siblings said as they rode down Magnolia Lane.
“It really hit us when we got off the plane...For a while it was surreal. It was something you think will never happen. Like a dream.” - Colin Ffrench
Shane Ffrench, who finished third in the Boys 12-13 division, wore his lucky shirt, a gray polo that bore the logo of a TPC course. It was the same shirt he wore when he qualified for the National Finals and when he shot 68 recently in a San Diego junior tournament.
Shane’s birthday is Monday, when Drive, Chip and Putt participants and their families will return to take in a Masters Practice Round. Last year, the National Finals fell on his birthday, and as he watched on television he was riveted by seeing kids his own age competing at Augusta National.
“I thought it was so cool, people my age and younger—at such a history-packed place. I said to myself, I’m going to make it next year,” Shane said.
“It really hit us when we got off the plane,” said his brother Colin, who finished ninth in the Boys 14-15 division. “For a while it was surreal. It was something you think will never happen. Like a dream.”
Both boys were so excited to try to qualify that their parents set an alarm to wake their sons up on the first day that 2015 registration opened.
“I figured I wasn’t going to get to Augusta any other way, so I’d better get the kids signed up,” said their father, Brian Ffrench.
In brilliant Georgia sunshine on Sunday, the Swan and Ffrench siblings lived that same dream of playing Augusta National the week of the Masters.