An Assist From Arnie: Hanover's Williamson Consults Legend
Hanovers Peter Williamson practices on the driving range in June 2008. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover’s Peter Williamson, shown last summer at the U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament in Hudson, Mass., is playing in the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational this weekend. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover’s Peter Williamson awaits his turn to putt during his U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at Charter Oak Country Club in Hudson, Mass., last July. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
As with any recent college graduate, Hanover’s Peter Williamson has been seeking advice lately from older folks on how to best pursue his preferred career interest.
One particular person Williamson met late last year had a few thoughts the recent Dartmouth College graduate has since taken to heart. Now, Williamson is simply working to ready himself for the future, willing to take what comes.
It’s what Arnold Palmer suggested he do.
Williamson is one of Palmer’s guests this week at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla., and it’s quite the crowd he’s joined. He earned it: Williamson drew an invitation to play in the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational as a result of his victory at the Southern Amateur in Arkansas last summer.
The three-time Ivy League player of the year thought he had to maintain his amateur status in order to join the field. While he’s not so certain of that anymore, his failure to get past first-stage PGA Tour qualifying school last fall led Williamson to commit to another summer of high-level amateur tournaments in advance of another go at pro golf later on.
“I asked him about what he did when he was making that transition,” Williamson said of his meeting with Palmer in a phone interview from Orlando on Tuesday night. “For him, it was obviously a different time, and golf just kind of came about. He was always a good player, but the service was a bigger thing back then. Education was a pretty big priority, and it (pro golf) just kind of happened.
“He played well in a couple of events. He kept the momentum going, knew he could do this for money. He thought, ‘Why not make it a profession?’ ”
While a 45-minute chat with Palmer at his Bay Hill office has helped Williamson set his plans for 2013 in motion, The King isn’t the only source the Hanover High grad has mined.
It began with the move to Florida last year, settling in Jupiter about 15 minutes south of the Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, where Williamson has been doing his on-course homework. A number of PGA Tour pros are members there, and Williamson has sought out their counsel either on the range or on the course.
Much of Williamson’s workout time has involved a subtle change in his swing. The 22-year-old wants a shallower stroke, one that will take thinner divots in the hopes of easing the wear and tear on his body over time.
“Around the range, I’ll get somebody to look at me: ‘This is what I’m looking for; am I doing it?’ ” Williamson said. “In terms of a teacher, I’m being careful about who to pick. I’m thinking about getting another eye, but it will take somebody with a special eye because I’m self-taught from the beginning. … There’s no reason to change unless I struggle or have some physical ailment that keeps me from moving forward.”
Everyone else’s offseason hasn’t meant a lack of competition.
In January, on the invitation of Rick LaRose, the four-decade golf coach at the University of Arizona, Williamson joined two other top-flight U.S. amateurs, Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers and Cal-Berkeley’s Brandon Hagy, at the Australian Master of the Amateurs. The four-day tournament — contested on the famed Royal Melbourne Golf Club — involved 54 golfers from around the world; in the midst of his swing changes and well removed from his last tournament, Williamson tied for 37th place.
“Those types of events are awesome for amateurs who are trying to move on, with golf now a global game,” said Williamson, who also played the Jones Cup Invitational in Sea Island, Ga., in early February. “If you’re on one of those global programs, you want to know what airlines to be on, what those 19-hour flights feel like. …
“I was kind of working on some things, getting back into competition. I played OK, nothing spectacular score-wise, and I came back and started working pretty hard on my ball striking. I wanted to see if I could get to a better spot.”
Consultations have continued this week at Bay Hill. Williamson accompanied tour veterans Stuart Appleby and Lee Janzen for a practice round on Tuesday. He won’t lack for other resources this weekend; the tournament, sitting a month before the Masters, typically draws a competitive field, including fellow Medalist member Tiger Woods.
Expect Williamson to hit many of amateur golf’s majors again this year — the Northeast, the North-and-South, the Southern, the Western and others — with the goal of making the United States roster for September’s Walker Cup on Long Island. The USGA selects the 10-player field, and amateur rankings play a role; Williamson enters Bay Hill rated eighth in the world and fourth among Americans in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, which are jointly administered by the USGA and Scotland’s Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
“I’m happy to be out here and be around the guys that have been doing it for a long time and are living the life of a tour pro,” Williamson noted. “There’s a lot of corporate stuff going on, and I’m seeing the best of the best playing this game. It’s a very, very strong field. It’ll be fun.”
Williamson doesn’t expect his next tournament round to come until U.S. Open sectional qualifying in June. Rest is in order, but …
“I want to work to get better,” he added. “It’s a fine line. You have to pick your days. In southern Florida, all of the days are the same. It’s sunny, so you want to go out and play golf. I’ll learn, with time, to take a day off and go to the beach.”
As Mr. Palmer said, give it time. With enough work, it’ll come.
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.