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Par for the Cause: Williamson Returns Home to Start Charity Initiative

  • Former Dartmouth College golfer Peter Williamson photographed on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at the Hanover Country Club in Hanover, N.H. Williamson is working on a golf-themed charity called Capture the Flags. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Former Dartmouth College golfer Peter Williamson photographed on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at the Hanover Country Club in Hanover, N.H. Williamson is working on a golf-themed charity called Capture the Flags. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Former Hanover High and Dartmouth College golfer Peter Williamson competes at a United States Amateur qualifier at Charter Oak Country Club in Hudson, Mass., on July 24, 2012. (Valley News — Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Williamson, shown at a U.S. Amateur qualifier in Massachusetts in 2012, hasn’t seen much competition in recent years because of a lingering hand injury.



Valley News Sports Editor
Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hanover — Idle time has become Peter Williamson’s playground. He’s inviting anyone else interested to join him in it.

With his professional golf career limited by a long-term hand injury and knowing he’d be coming back home for the summer, the former Hanover High and Dartmouth College golfer has set about turning his love for the game into philanthropy. Working with Hanover-based Positive Tracks, Williamson will host a game-themed fundraiser called Capture the Flags on Sept. 10 on the back side of Hanover Country Club’s practice area north of downtown.

The project has served as mental therapy for Williamson, 27, whose plans for a golf-playing career haven’t panned out as expected since turning pro four years ago. Although he still hopes to get back to competition soon, working on Capture the Flags has served to vary his skills should the touring life ultimately not work out.

“Not being able to play 24/7 like I did when I was growing up, I have been looking for ways just to fill my day,” Williamson said on Thursday afternoon during a chat on Hanover CC’s clubhouse patio. “There’s a lot of sitting around playing tournament golf, so having an intellectual side of my career has been really important for me and my sanity.

“Now that I can’t play as much as I usually do, it’s even more crucial. I’ve been kind of wandering around, honestly, for the past year and trying to come up with something either entrepreneurial or something that I can transition to if my hand doesn’t heal quite the way I want it to.”

While the date and location of Capture the Flags is certain, some specifics remain in flux.

The event will run from noon to 4 p.m. and will feature three hours of games structured loosely on a golf theme followed by a one-hour golf clinic with Williamson and, he hopes, members of the Dartmouth golf program. Although the event is free for all ages, any contributions and sponsor support will go to Positive Tracks.

Using the nonprofit’s youth-focused message of “sweat for good,” Williamson has recruited teens from around the area — contacting high school athletic departments and, of course, golf team connections — to design the 18-game course upon which Capture the Flags will take place. Former Hanover High golfer Griffin Palmgren, a longtime family friend, is among those donating time and imagination.

“I feel that I’ve not given back to the community that much,” Palmgren, a Wheaton College sophomore-to-be, said in a Thursday phone interview. “I love Hanover; I grew up there. I would go back and live there if I could. This is a great way to get involved and have a landmark in the community, depending on how well it goes.”

Williamson anticipates 18 different CTF games on the HCC driving range where participants will earn flags as raffle tickets for prizes later in the day. The more flags captured, the better the chances of winning a prize.

“Whether it’s a modified version of cornhole or skee-ball or bocce ball, those kinds of things,” Williamson said. “It’s a fun challenge game we’ll set up, with goals for those challenges. If people complete them, they’ll capture flags for them.”

If CTF takes off, the three-time Ivy League champion golfer anticipates moving the event to Hanover’s four-hole practice course, what he considers an underutilized facility. Holding the inaugural event on the range adjacent to Dartmouth’s Corey Ford Rugby House will allow organizers to take advantage of ample parking and good visibility.

It’s been an education both for Williamson and his game-designing crew.

“I’m learning that communicating with 100 different people is nearly impossible,” joked Palmgren, who returns to Wheaton in two weeks with plans to return for Capture the Flags next month. “There a lot of communication with Positive Tracks. They have a rotating schedule; they’re working not just with me but other kids, and they’re a busy organization. I have to talk to kids on different social media platforms, which I’m terrible at. I’m terrible with technology and phones.”

Williamson’s teen volunteers will handle each of the games at CTF.

“He’s interested in raising money for us, which is incredible,” said Liz Gray, who manages Positive Tracks’ U23 challenges program. “He’s motivated to help support them, but the nice thing is he’s taking the mission to help kids sweat for good and adding an active event himself. He’s using our mission at the same time of getting active and giving back. Their event will help more kids be able to sweat for good.”

Williamson’s fondness for competitive golf remains. As he’s adjusted to his injury, however, he’s learned that future goals may require a tweak.

After a stellar career at Hanover High, Williamson crossed town to Dartmouth in 2008 and spent four years making the Big Green relevant within the Ivy League. Williamson produced an outstanding amateur summer following his Dartmouth graduation in 2012, winning two major tournaments, challenging in several others and earning a spot in the U.S. Amateur.

One of those wins, at the Southern Am in Little Rock, Ark., brought with it a spot at the PGA Tour’s Bay Hill Invitational the following spring. As he prepared for it, Williamson started feeling pain in his left wrist, near where his thumb and forefinger meet. In time, the discomfort became so significant, he couldn’t properly swing a golf club.

“I think it’s relatively common, but they don’t quite know how to fix it,” Williamson said. “I think, in my case, it mimics arthritis, in a way. There’s a lack of cartilage and, from time to time, the bones will hit and create a pretty sharp nerve pain right at the top of my swing. It’s a little roulette-ish, and that’s no fun.”

Not being healthy enough to play multi-day tournaments such as those required of tour qualifying schools, Williamson has begun to dabble in other areas. Having given up living in Florida to pursue pro golf, he’s found himself out west studying architecture at Cal-Berkeley (he majored in studio architecture at Dartmouth) and in Washington, where his longtime girlfriend, Mary Adelaide Brakenridge, is an intern with National Geographic.

He’s also started an entrepreneurial enterprise called Strokes of Genius. According to its website, Strokes of Genius wants to explore all aspects of game design and turn that into hosting events for charity.

Returning to his home course has also given Williamson a place to play golf again. Although not up to four-round shape, he did qualify for the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in March, shooting 74-73 to miss the cut by a half-dozen strokes. Future pro golf plans will coalesce with the pace of recovery.

If it doesn’t, he’s game to try something else.

“It’s been humbling, for sure,” Williamson said. “I think, as a young kid that had a lot of confidence coming out of school, I was thinking the sky was the limit. I went down to Florida thinking I’m going to gun for being the best player in the world, that kind of thing, and injuries will do that to you.

“I have a very different look on how golf is going to play role in my life, I think, and I still feel I can compete with the best of them. It’s just not going to be that record-breaking career that I might have envisioned when I was younger.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.