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NATIONWIDE TOUR


on the money list, including a final-round 62 and a holeout from a bunker on the 72nd hole to win the Stadion Classic at UGA. Flores was 84th with the Bogotá finish his best thus far. Among the voices of reason that they


could hear how to pattern their careers were two older players, Kirk Triplett and John Inman, both on the verge of Champions Tour eligibility. Triplett was making his final Nationwide Tour start as he turned 50 in March. Inman was trying to round his game back into shape after a back injury, more than a decade away as a college golf coach at his alma mater, North Carolina, before turning 50 in November. He missed the cut by one stroke. “I’m learning how to play nervous again


and to control my emotions better, which I’m sure all these guys are dealing with. I’m just trying to get back to where I was,” said Inman. Triplett, a three-time winner on the


Erik Flores


So we learned from that. I guess this is just a lot farther to go to play and you have to know where to go.” Flores, who turned 25 in April, is leaning on a longtime friend for guidance. Steven Kafchinski played junior golf alongside Flores and is taking some time away from an assistant professional position and earning his MBA at the University of Nevada to both caddie and manage Flores’ season. As further support, Flores’ uncle, Raul Olivas, hopped on a last-minute flight from Los Angeles to tag along. Swafford, a Florida native who now lives


in St. Simons Island, GA, also has a support group in place. His caddie, Ryan Baucom, was introduced by Swafford’s agent, Jeremy Elliott. Baucom, a former long snapper on the University of North Carolina football team, sports a neon orange Bass Pro Shops hat as he caddies—more good-luck charm than anything. In addition, there are oodles of former UGA Dawgs and Georgians on the Nationwide Tour and many PGA TOUR pros living near his residence on the Georgia coast to offer the ins and outs of pro golf. “Our personalities clash pretty well,”


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joked Swafford about Baucom. “So it’s good to have him along for the ride. My agent (Elliott) is booking everything. I just kind of show up and play golf. But I know that I can ask a lot of guys out here and at home what’s coming. They all say, ‘You just take one week at a time. Pace yourself, don’t burn yourself out.’ ” The first week was a success. They


sampled the Bogotá nightlife a bit on Friday with an entertaining excursion to one of the city’s most famous restaurants, Andres Carne de Res, but mostly stayed close by the player hotel, situated three blocks from the course. Each player noted that the tree-lined, dogleg-heavy Country Club de Bogotá required more than powerful drives and wedges, but also the ability to maneuver the ball and hold back on over- aggressive play. Flores briefly topped the leaderboard in Saturday morning’s third round, playing in the final group, before fading to a tie for 20th. Swafford was one stroke worse, tying for 27th after a final- round 75. Both players were headed home before returning south for the second event in Panama. As of late May, Swafford ranked eighth


PGA TOUR, won the Knoxville, TN, tournament on the Nationwide Tour in


« I HAVE LEARNED HOW TO GET AROUND THE COURSE, AND THAT’S THE BIGGEST THING MANY OF THESE GUYS HAVE TO LEARN. » — Kirk Triplett


2011. He came to Bogotá on a quick plane flight after failing to Monday qualify for the PGA TOUR’s Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles and finished tied for fourth. “I see a lot of guys out here who can hit


shots that I wouldn’t even try or couldn’t pull off,” Triplett said. “But that’s not the point of learning to play at the highest level. I have learned during my career how to get around the course, and that’s the biggest thing many of these guys have to learn or may never learn—how to shoot the lowest score and execute shots when it counts.” That’s the kind of perspective


that


Flores and Swafford will hear plenty of this year. ■


PGA TOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE 2012 45


© PGA TOUR IMAGES/ STAN BADZ


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