HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – To say that Peter Williamson is making the most of his first summer playing major amateur golf might be the understatement of the century.
Pretty much an unknown within this circle two months ago, the recent Dartmouth graduate from Hanover, N.H., has all but taken the elite amateur circuit by storm, going toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world. Not only has he survived, but he has thrived.
After tying for fifth in the NCAA North Region Championship in mid-May, Williamson and his Dartmouth golf bag hit the road. The three-time Ivy League champion and three-time league player of the year, began with a T-15 at the Sunnehanna Amateur.
A few weeks later he was qualifying medalist and went on to win the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst. After a T-8 at the Trans-Mississippi Amateur, Williamson bested a stellar field and captured the Southern Amateur and the next week was medalist in his U.S. Amateur qualifier.
He hasn’t slowed down. After tying for sixth in the 72-hole, stroke-play qualifying, Williamson won his two opening matches Friday to advance to the semifinals of the 110th Western Amateur at Exmoor Country Club.
He’s now two matches away from yet another prestigious title, one that has been claimed by some of the game’s all-time great players.
“Obviously, it’s been a good summer,” Williamson said. “I’ve really enjoyed the success and hopefully I can keep it going. It’s been pretty special, that’s for sure.”
Williamson made his way into the semifinal round Friday afternoon when he defeated Lorens Chan, an 18-year-old incoming freshman at UCLA, 5 and 3. That coming off a 4-and-3 morning victory over Alex Moon, a recent Texas graduate.
Williamson will face recent Texas A&M grad Jordan Russell, a 4-and-3 winner over Alabama sophomore Justin Thomas in the quarterfinal round.
The other semifinal will pit record-setting qualifying medalist Chris Williams, a senior at Washington, against Abraham Ancer, a senior at Oklahoma. Williams defeated South African and incoming Texas freshman, 2-up, in the quarters, while Ancer turned back North Florida senior Sean Dale, 4 and 3.
Williamson never trailed in his match winning the first hole with a birdie and Nos. 3 and 5 with pars. He won No. 7 with a birdie and then went 5-up by winning 8 — with a bogey. He made it 6-up with a birdie at the 10th and then cruised on in.
“I really hit the ball well today,” said Williamson, a third-team, All-America. “I really could have taken it low today, but I made the putts I had to make and didn’t make a lot of bogeys.
“With the summer I’ve had, coming in here this week I felt like I had a good chance to give it a solid run this week,” said Williamson, who is playing in his first Western Amateur. “So far, so good. I just have to keep it going tomorrow.”
Russell wasted little time in dominating his match against Thomas, who finished this last college season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and was winner of the Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award as player of the year and the Mickelson Award as freshman of the year.
With birdies on the first three holes and a par on the fourth, Russell quickly found himself 4-up. He won the sixth with an eagle and the ninth with a birdie to make it 6-up. Thomas came back to win Nos. 12 and 14, but it was too little to late for the first-team, All-America.
“I made a bunch of birdies and only one bogey all day, so I’m really pleased about that,” said Russell, a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur. “It was just a good day. It’s tough because Justin is such a good friend (the two sat and had lunch together after their morning matches).
“My short game and my iron play have been very good and I’ve been giving myself a lot of birdie chances and that’s what you have to do out here,” said Russell, who finished second at this year’s Northeast Amateur.
“I just didn’t have it this afternoon,” Thomas said. “I played badly at the start and Jordan played very well. It’s hard to do anything when you’re 6-down after nine holes.”
Ancer, the 2011 NCAA East Region champion, won holes 6, 7 and 9 to take a 2-up lead. After Dale won the 11th, Ancer put things away by winning 13, 14 and 15. He closed out the match in spectacular fashion, draining a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5, 15th hole.
“I just went out today with the attitude to have fun and make as many birdies as I could,” Ancer said. “Both of us hit some crooked shots early on this afternoon, but then I got into my rhythm and it went well from there.
“I’ve struggled at times this summer so it feels great to be playing good golf again,” Ancer said. “So right now, getting to the semifinals, it feels awesome.”
Williams had the toughest match of the quarterfinals, although he never trailed. The 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team member won No. 4 with a birdie and 8 with a par to go 2-up. Stone came back and won the ninth with a birdie, but Williams went back 2-up with a birdie at the 11th. Stone kept things going, winning the 17th with a par, but Williams finished it off by winning 18 with a par.
“This afternoon was a tough match,” Williams said. “I didn’t play bad, he just played very well and made some incredible putts.”
His thoughts about advancing to the semifinals: “It’s awesome. It’s what I came here to do. So far I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to do, but there is still some work left to complete the job.
“To me, this is the biggest tournament of the year,” Williams said. “This one is a little extra special. I mean, it’s over 100 years old and when you look at the list of past champions it’s almost mind boggling.”