Rolling right along
By Matt Le Cren Sun-Times Media November 29, 2012 6:44PM
VERNON HILLS Wednesday Nov 9 2011 Vernon Hills' Eric Swanson warms up prior to their game against Lake Zurich. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 29, 2013 2:13AM
Eric Swanson’s ability to pick up where he left off amazes even those who know him best.
The Vernon Hills High School senior has excelled in golf and bowling, and seemingly can switch between sports despite not playing either one year-round.
“His mom was worried that he wasn’t practicing enough during the golf season,” Vernon Hills bowling coach Ron Long said. “Then he comes to practice and throws a 290 the first day. I said, ‘Tell your mom not to worry.’”
Swanson attributes his proficiency to getting an early start in both sports.
“I started bowling when I was 2 or 3 years old,” Swanson said. “I’d go every Wednesday with my grandmother. I started golf when I was about 8, so I got confidence. I’ve always loved both sports.”
Swanson is entering his fourth year on varsity as one of the top bowlers in the state.
A two-time United States Bowling Congress All-American — only four Illinois bowlers were so honored in 2012 — he is a three-time state qualifier and a big reason why the Cougars have finished second at the last two state meets.
But bowling has never been his only focus. He played baseball his freshman and sophomore years and was a three-time sectional qualifier in golf. He was a member of the first Vernon Hills golf team to make the state finals, helping the Cougars to 10th place as a junior, when he finished 67th individually with a two-day total of 170.
“My golf game was still developing but junior year, I started to excel in both sports for the first time and that was really exciting,” Swanson said. “I was really happy with that.”
Swanson focuses on golf during the warm weather. The only bowling he did during the summer was one week spent at the Junior Gold National Tournament in Indianapolis. But despite not picking up a bowling ball until four days before tryouts, he is already back in top form, which fascinates Long, who has coached bowling, football, track and golf.
“The thing with Eric is his hand-eye coordination,” Long said. “He can pinpoint a target it and hit it. When he’s on, he has tunnel vision where he can see where he wants it to go.
“It’s only the premier athletes who can understand what they want to do with the ball. I’ve only seen a few in my career who can focus like that.”
The focus is the same on the lanes, the fairways and in the classroom, where Swanson sports a 3.5 GPA and scored 29 on the ACT.
“I think there are similarities in both sports,” Swanson said. “You have to take it one shot at a time and that’s why I think I can do so well. I try to concentrate on every shot. I don’t let anyone get in my head.”
While Swanson is talented enough to do both sports in college, he likely will have to pick one, which will not be an easy decision. At this point, he’s leaning toward playing golf, making this bowling season all the more meaningful.
As the only returning starter, Swanson is Vernon Hills’ captain and will shoulder a heavier load this winter, but he is not looking too far ahead, even though he is being touted as a state title contender after finishing 30th as a sophomore and 18th as a junior.
“We lost a lot of guys from last year so we’re not going to be as strong, but I think we still have a shot at doing well in some of these tournaments and hopefully we can make it back to state and see what happens,” Swanson said. “For me, I’m just going to try to do the best I can. I’m not going to say I’m going to be one of the best guys. I like to take it one game at a time.”
— Matt Le Cren