HAVEN, Wis. — Right beside Jason Day and his family as the golfer awaited the Wananaker Trophy was his caddie Col Swatton. Any distinction between immediate family can be dismissed when it comes to Day and his longtime mentor. When you talk about true impact on Day’s life, Swatton’s influence can’t be overstated.
Swatton has been there since Day was a teenager. When Day’s father died of cancer, Swatton was there. When Day needed guidance in his life as a mischievous teenager drinking at age 12, Swatton was there. For all the hours that Swatton has spent next to Day as he hit golf balls — thousands, easily, from his days as Day’s instructor at the Hills International Academy in Queensland, Australia, to the hundreds of PGA Tour events they’ve partnered up for — Swatton was right there.
And so he was Sunday at Whistling Straits.
That’s why the emotions streamed out of Day as he talked about Swatton after his major breakthrough at Whistling Straits. Their relationship goes beyond replacing divots and raking bunkers. It’s one of the most unique on the PGA Tour. Swatton’s presence in Day’s life was a big reason he ended up with the Wanamaker Trophy.
“On the 18th, all I said was, ‘I love you,'” Swatton said after the round. “And he loves me, and we were just a blubbering mess. It was pretty cool.”
This was the moment Day and Swatton have worked so hard to achieve. Shooting the only 20-under score in major championship history, after not having converted on two previous 54-hole leads in 2015, seems like poetic justice. Day figured it out, just as he did as a teenager — with Swatton still by his side.
“He’s been there for me since I was 12 1/2 years old,” Day said in his press conference. “I mean, 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. And there’s not many coaches that can say that in many sports. So, he means the world to me. I love him to death.”
Day went into the depths of his journey — resorting to drinking after his father’s death as a 12 year old. Watching his mother take a second mortgage on their house. The lows that go with watching a widowed mother trying to make ends meet: “Growing up, we — my mom — I mean, we were poor.”
Golf provided salvation for Day, ever since his father retrieved a battered 3-wood from a garbage heap for his first golf club. That love for the game, although rocky at first when Swatton proved to be a strict coach, kept Day on the right path in life.
With Swatton’s guidance, Day turned pro and has made an exorbitant living in golf. And with Swatton, now going on 14 years as his swing coach and life mentor, Day made major championship history at Whistling Straits.
“This seals it. This seals the whole year basically,” Swatton said. “This makes me incredibly proud. To stand on the 18th green and share that moment…I knew with the work ethic and the drive and the motivation, the skills would develop over time. He’ll continue to grow and get better.”