As a freshman in high school in Anderson, S.C., David Seawell finished dead last in the state championship at Furman University Golf Club.
“I remember thinking to myself that I’m going to be the only Seawell not to play golf at South Carolina,” said the youngest of four kids whose father and both older brothers played for the Gamecocks. “I remember like it was yesterday that 45-minute bus drive back from Furman to Anderson. I didn’t want that to happen and it made me mad.”
The next year, David’s father took over as head professional at Woodside Plantation in Aiken, and David’s star rose quickly in his new environment to eliminate his fears. He won the state championship as a sophomore at South Aiken.
On Thursday night, he’ll become the only Seawell to be inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame. Seawell, 42, will be one of nine former Gamecocks officially inducted this week and recognized Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium during South Carolina’s football game against UMass.
“It’s been kind of a surreal experience since getting the phone call about a month ago and leading up to Thursday night’s induction,” Seawell said. “It’s by far exceeded any imagination I might have had about any kind of recognition.”
There’s arguably no bigger golfing family in the Aiken-Augusta area than the Seawells.
There’s patriarch Jackie Seawell, the former Woodside and Sage Valley professional and Houndslake co-owner who was honored as Golfweek’s father of the year in 2013 and inducted into the state of South Carolina’s Golf Hall of Fame in 1998.
There’s oldest brother Jay Seawell, the former Augusta State golf coach who led Alabama to a pair of NCAA golf titles (2013-14). He’ll be inducted himself into the Golf Coaches’ Association of America Hall of Fame in December.
There’s middle brother Daniel Seawell, another PGA teaching pro who runs Houndslake Country Club for the family and had a few sips of coffee himself on the Nike Tour when it came through South Carolina from 1996-2004.
Then came David, who reached the PGA Tour in 1999 before hanging up his clubs at age 26 to sell real estate back in Aiken.
“I think I set the record for leaving for leaving the PGA Tour and getting a real estate license in the shortest amount of time,” he joked.
All four Seawell men played golf for the Gamecocks, yet the only one of them to reach the hall of fame is the only one not still in the golf business.
“He’s the best player,” Jay Seawell said. “We all played the game and played at a decent level, but David was the one who took it to a different level.”
David was a sophomore in high school when the family moved to Aiken. The rest of his siblings, including his sister Julie, were already on their way or getting out of college at South Carolina.
“I think the golf environment of Aiken – the whole area and the junior program at Woodside that dad was notorious for building – all created the perfect storm for David to become the player he was,” Jay said.
David agreed: “The one benefit I had the others didn’t was Aiken. The amount of development in that first 10-month period was where that snowball started to happen. I went from a pretty average golfer to a pretty competitive golfer in a short period of time.”
Seawell still shares the South Carolina school record with 14 top-five finishes for the Gamecocks as he arrived when the program joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992.
After becoming a three-time All-American and All-SEC golfer and qualifying for the NCAA tournament as a team (1993 and ’96) or individual (1994-95) every year, Seawell promptly made it to the final stage of Q School three consecutive years.
He competed on the Nike Tour in 1997-98, making nine of 30 cuts and earning $12,405. He earned his PGA Tour card for 1999, making only two cuts in 23 starts and never finishing higher than 72nd. So he made the educated choice that the pro tours weren’t for him and came home to Aiken to work in real estate.
“I’m very proud of the success I had in professional golf, getting to the various tours,” he said. “Candidly, I wasn’t very good at those tours. I could have grinded a couple more years but I didn’t think my putting would ever get to the level where I could have the success I could hope for.”
“It’s a testament to his game to get to final stage three straight years right out of college, not many people do that,” said Jay Seawell, who recognizes what it takes to get on tour as coach of successful stars including Justin Thomas.
David went back in 2004 to take on the mini-tours using a long putter and had some modest success. He couldn’t imagine traveling the tour now with his wife, Ashley, and 7-year-old twins – Annette and Lee.
“It allowed me to erase any doubts I did have in my mind and realize I made the right choice in 2000,” he said. “Any time I wake up in the middle of the night it’s not wishing that I was out there on the mini tours again. Fortunately my life turned out pretty doggone good and I think I made the right decision.”
Seawell reclaimed his amateur status, but competing isn’t what drives him – unless it’s with his family.
“He doesn’t play very much but when we play at Christmas or Thanksgiving, by about hole 4 or 5 he starts hitting it better than any of us,” Jay said. “It doesn’t take him very long to warm up.”
Said their father: “If David had competed on the tour like he does against his brothers, he would have done better.”
His hall of fame induction has been reward enough for all the effort he put into golf.
“Thinking back and reflecting has been the most enjoyable experience about this induction,” he said. “The minor part of it is some of the successes I had in golf. The most enjoyable part has been thinking about how various friends and family have impacted me positively as a golfer and as a person. It’s a lot of people.”
His family is just as proud of him.
“It means a great deal to our family because we’re so excited for David,” his oldest brother, Jay, said. “He’s moved on past golf, but I think it’s great he is reminded of how special a player he was at school. It couldn’t come at a better time because he’s far enough away from it that it’s more special than it would have been 10 years ago.”
Said Jackie Seawell: “David deserves to have that honor. He was a good golfer and a real good team player. He left a good mark at the University of South Carolina, but he’s a better person.”
Now David hopes his accomplishment might inspire his children the way he was inspired by his family.
“Whenever we would go to Columbia, we would always go and see dad’s ACC championship trophy at the old Frank McGuire Arena,” he said. “Now I’ll be able to take my kids to the Letterman’s Lounge at Williams-Brice Stadium and show them my plaque when it’s up there. It’s going to be special to me to hopefully impact my kids and give them something to be proud of.”