Will this be the first Sullivan of the post-Mike Swisher era? Naah. It’ll be the intitial Sullivan of the new Sean Smyth regime.
When it comes to the W.B. Sullivan better-ball-of-partners golf tournament, walking in Swisher’s soft-spikes might be a tough act to follow. But the foundation for success has already been laid and fine-tuned, Smyth has learned first-hand from the master and this won’t be the first important event he has staged.
And besides, Smyth is his own man, comfortable in his own skin.
“I suppose it’s just like golf,” said Smyth, “the obstacles appear when you take your eye off the goals. I’ve been involved with enough of them, that I know what has to be done. I feel I have a good team, a good mix of veterans and young guys. And even though Swish isn’t the head por, he’s the head pro emeritus.
“I feel like we’re ready to go,” Smyth continued. “I don’t have any major concerns.”
When the prestigious Sullivan tees it up from Thursday to Sunday, July 28-31, for the 66th time, it will be the first one directed by Smyth, the Lebanon Country Club’s new head golf professional. It’ll also be the first one in 42 years not headed by Swisher.
Smyth took over for the legendary and retired Swisher at the beginning of the 2011 calendar year. Swisher is recognized as the person who elevated the Sullivan’s status to that of the finest amateur golf tournament in the area.
“He was the head pro for 42 years and an assistant for three years, so he participated in 45 Sullivan tournaments,” said Smyth of Swisher. “One thing relative to Mike making it become the event it has become is his asset of behing a very good golf instructor. So the tournament has grown in status. When you have past champs who played on the PGA Tour, people want to play in it.
“He (Swisher) has a checklist for our tournament,” Smyth added. “So you check off things as you go down the list.”
But before taking over for Swisher, Smyth was his assistant for five years. Although he has yet to experience the pressure of being ultimately responsiblity for its running, Smyth has been through the rigors of the Sullivan five times.
“The biggest thing is being the point person for the Sullivan committee, which makes decisions for the event,” said Smyth. “There are so many poeple involved with the tournament, managing the staff and volunteers becomes a huge undertaking, just coordinating things. You’re pretty much wearing all kinds of hats all weekend. If things go smoothly, it looks like you’re not doing anything.
“I certainly learned the history of the tournament from Swish,” Smyth continued. “That it just started as an outing. W. B. Sullivan, that’s the gentleman who started it and he wasn’t necessarily a good golfer. But over the years it evolved an event played by very skilled players.”
At the Sullivan, success is not guaged by the destination. It is guaged by the quality of the journey.
“The players like that when you pull up in the parking lot, there’s someone there to put their clubs in a golf cart,” said Smyth. “They like how we have kids on the 11th hole looking for balls. They like that we have ladies checking everyone in. The guys realize it’s a community tournament, that it’s a country-club tournament. Everyone embraces the event. That’s why everyone comes back.
“Good weather is very important,” added Smyth. “And you can tell it’s been a success if you hear everyone had a good time. Like when you say to players, ‘How did it go guys?’. And when you’re getting positive feedback, you know they had a good time and it was a successful tournament.”
At the time of this writing, the 2011 Sullivan had received 111 entries and Smyth said he expected about a dozen more. Lebanon Countians Dan Brown and Brian Auman are the defending champs.
“Our max is 150,” said Smyth. “I think we’ll match our last year’s total of 122. Truthfully, in today’s world, we are getting the most entries of any of those big events. Going into it, I thought if we got 100 entries that would be good, and now that we’re pushing last year’s numbers, that’s great.”
For his part, Swisher will always be a part of the Sullivan – whether it’s in the forefront or the background.
“He’s still an employee of the country club, even though he’s a part-time employee,” said Smyth. “And I’m scheduling him for some time during the Sullivan. And maybe he’ll just be around for some critical times. Obviously, he’s around the club and hanging around. But I’m sure even if he wasn’t on the schedule, he’d be around for the Sullivan.”