Story last updated at 1:32 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 2002

Golfers play a round to remember Swede
by Sean Pearson
Special to Homer News

photo: sports
  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
Swede Carlson's widow, Joanne Carlson, left sits with longtime friend Janice Rainwater to watch the Swede Carlson Memorial Tournament and exchange memories.  
Two large buckets of iced-down cans of Coors chilled in the corner of the Kachemak Bay Lynx Golf Course clubhouse Saturday afternoon. Though not necessarily unusual for a warm summer afternoon, these particular cans of beer held a more significant purpose.

"The Coors is here in honor of Swede," said Margot Mondari, manager of the golf course and organizer of the what was hoped to be the first annual Swede Carlson Memorial Golf Tournament.

"He came out here and golfed every day, rain or shine, and was never without his pack of cigarettes or his can of Coors."

Carlson died Jan. 7 at the age of 76.

photo: sports
  Photo by Sean Pearson, Homer News
Tom Fields tees off Saturday at the Kachemak Bay Lynx Golf Course.  
Listening in on the stories and reminiscences around the clubhouse Saturday afternoon, one thing became altogether clear. Whether he was putting on the back nine, swapping stories about the war, or simply working around the homestead, Carlson was quite a character.

Before coming to Homer in the early 1960s, Carlson grew up in Inglewood, Colo. He became a member of the National Guard as a young man, and then signed on with the Coast Guard during World War II. His work with the Coast Guard landed him in Alaska, and he decided to stay. He eventually settled in Homer, and began homesteading a parcel out on East End Road. After establishing his home, he took on a job that required him to frequently work in the Lower 48. It was 1969 when he met Joanne, the woman he would spend the next 32 years with.

"Swede kept coming into the restaurant where I worked," she said. "I just remember thinking, 'Oh, he is so good-looking.'"

The two began dating, and were married in May of 1970.

"When I first moved into our homestead out by Fritz Creek, things sure were a lot different than they are now," Carlson said. "There were only three or four houses on East End Road, and going to town took about 45 minutes because the roads were in such bad shape. Everything was a lot of hard work."

Still, she said she wouldn't change a thing.

"The years I spent with Swede were the best years of my life," his widow said. "He treated me like I was the only woman in the world. If I ever needed or wanted anything, he saw to it that I got it. He was an incredibly hard worker."

Apparently, however, Swede still found time to play a round or two.

"He really never missed a day on the course," Mondari said. "And he always came in 30 minutes before tee time to flirt with whatever girl was on duty that day. He was just a lot of fun to be around."

"Golf was certainly his passion," Joanne said. "He just loved it. He did some caddying for Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. He never missed a chance to be around anything having to do with golf."

Mondari agreed.

"Swede was more than just an avid golfer," she said. "He loved everything about the sport. He is very much missed around this course."

Somehow, amid the stories and memories, the tournament went on.

In the end, the team of Chuck Ruppenthal, Chuck Johnson, Sandi DeHoop and Trace Carlos came out on top. Even after the tournament ended, the reminiscing continued. A few tears fell as friend after friend recounted stories of Swede. Most often, however, there were rounds of hearty laughter as more and more colorful tales of the golfer unraveled. Some friends of Swede's even admitted to dropping a few golf balls in with him for eternity, as one might do with flowers or other life mementos during the funeral ceremonies.

In the middle of Saturday's gathering, Joanne Carlson looked up and smiled.

"I hope Swede's up there watching all of this and laughing his cotton-pickin' head off," she said. "But I bet he's wishing he had his golf clubs with him."