A 15-year-old Taradale High School student was the individual star of the national inter-provincial men's golf tournament despite his Hawke's Bay team falling just short of their dream of winning the title for the first time in 52 years.
In Ashburton on Saturday, Hawke's Bay was beaten 3-2 in the final by Taranaki, its first win in the championship since it started as the Freyberg Rosebowl Tournament in 1951.
Introduced to the tournament at No 5 in the five-man team last year, when Hawke's Bay was a surprise semifinalist after a round-robin win over 2019 winner Auckland, Zack Swanwick won all seven of his games after being promoted to No 2 for this year's five-day championship that started last Tuesday.
He could have made it eight wins, and possibly Player of the Tournament, had he not missed his team's round-robin match against Taranaki for an exam in pursuit of a college golfing entry in the United States.
His wins included a 3 and 2 win over rival Jordan Woodall in Hawke's Bay's 4-1 Saturday morning semifinal win over otherwise unbeaten top-seed Waikato, and then a 1up win over Taranaki No 2 Cameron Harlock in the final.
Swanwick was the only unbeaten golfer among the 72 who played, apart from Northland No 6 Sean Doel, who played in just two of his team's six round-robin matches.
Becoming possibly the youngest to achieve the feat, Swanwick was given a big hand on the last day by teammate and No 1 Mako Thompson who also won in both the semifinal and final, the only defeats for Waikato No 1 Tyler Wood and Taranaki No 1 Sam Jones, the latter reversing the oucome of their round-robin match.
The only other player with seven wins, Jones was named Player of the Tournament.
Hawke's Bay hasn't won the title since 1969.
Swanwick, who started swinging the clubs aged four, last year became the youngest winner of the Napier Golf Club Senior championship and in February this year he equalled the club's Waiohiki course record with a nine-under 63 - nine birdies and nine pars.
In June and July he won a series of Men's titles elsewhere – the Maraenui Matchplay Open, the Horowhenua Open, and the East Coast Open at Porangahau.
He was also invited by NZ Golf to join a three-day NZ Academy at St Peters in Hamilton in July, his first national training event.
The last week hasn't been the only time he's gone unbeaten through a teams competition, a feat he also achieved in 2017 aged 11.
Passing-up selection for Napier West's primary schools rugby tournament, he won the gold club's Junior (Under 19) and Intermediate Men's (7-12hcp) titles instead and was named the Napier Golf Club's youngest-ever Most Outstanding Player of the Year.
But he achieved a rugby dream when he played both prop and hooker for Napier when it and Hastings west jointly won the Ross Shield Primary Schools tournament the following year.
Rugby has rapidly disappeared off the radar as Swanwick looks towards a professional career, with the British Junior Open in the plans along the way.
With 2019 inter-provincials champion Auckland and 2017 winner North Harbour not at this year's tournament, defending champion Canterbury failing to make the playoffs and regular high-performer and 2015 winner Waikato out in the semifinals, Taranaki became the favourite to win the final between the beaten semifinalists from last year's tournament at Whitford Park, Auckland.
Taranaki had won all seven matches, including beating the Bay 3.5-1.5 in the 5th round on Thursday morning, and then beating Wellington 3-2 in their semifinal.
By contrast, Hawke's Bay had a shaky start with two games halved in a 3-2 win over host association Aorangi, and just scraped through with three wins and two losses and another draw, with Otago, on Friday, the minimum result needed to confirm a place in the top four.
Hawke's Bay followed the Aorangi win with a 3.5-1.5 win over Bay of Plenty the next morning, a 2-3 loss to Canterbury and the loss to Taranaki, a 3-2 win over Southland and the 2.5-2.5 outcome against Otago.
In round-robin play, Swanwick beat Jeff Hewitt (Aorangi) 3 and 2, James Tauariki (Bay of Plenty) 1up, Matt McLean (Canterbury) 2 and 1, Tyler McLean (Southland) 5 and 4, and Ryan Bellamy (Otago) 2up.
Thompson finished with a 5-2-1 record, and No 3 Tyson Tawera won four and squared one, No 4 Matt Edmondson had two wins, and No 5 Russell Mitchell had one win and one half, each from eight games, and Josh Dasent squared his only game, as Swanwick stood-down for the round-robin match against Taranaki.
Hawke's Bay has reached the semifinals in the last 20 years, but hasn't won the tournament since 1969.
Hawke's Bay's last-day results:
Semi-final: Hawke's Bay beat Waikato 4-1 (Mako Thompson beat Tyler Wood 3 and 2, Zack Swanwick beat Jordan Woodall 3 and 2, Tyson Tawera beat Sam Vincent 1up, Matt Edmondson lost to James Fellows-Ford 6 and 5, Russell Mitchell beat Ben Slaven 1up).
Final: Taranaki beat Hawke's Bay 3-2 (Sam Jones lost to Mako Thompson 1down, Cameron Harlock lost to Zack Swanwick 1down, Ben Joseph beat Tyson Tawera 3 and 2, Andrew Searle beat Matt Edmondson 3 and 2, Joseph Doyle beat Russell Mitchell 6 and 4)