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DORAL, Fla. – Jim Williams is not a course-to-range-to-bed-and-back kind of captain. On the outskirts of trendy South Beach, he has proved to have so much more style than that.
For the Copa de las Americas’ maiden visit to U.S. soil, at Doral’s Blue Monster, it’s hard to imagine that the U.S. Golf Association could have found a more fitting captain. Except, Williams better describes his role as host. That’s just in his nature – Williams also is a member of the USGA Executive Committee.
The Copa is a biennial event among four-player teams from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. An overall winner is named after 72 holes, and so are men’s and women’s team winners. The U.S. has won the past two events, and enters this year’s final round trailing two-time winner Canada by five shots.
The Americans have spent the early part of the week shaking off rust and bonding as a team. The U.S. posted its lowest team score of the week, 3-over 291, on Saturday. Is the best yet to come?
“All of them are a little rusty because they haven’t played much competitive golf,” Williams said of coming out of winter break.
Williams refereed Steven Fox’s 4-and-2 quarterfinals victory against Chris Williams (no relation) in the U.S. Amateur, which Fox eventually won. When Jim Williams saw Fox this week, he presented a copy of a golf magazine featuring the Chattanooga senior on the cover, just to get him in the mood for the week. Williams said he has enjoyed the banter with his young players this week, too.
In addition to a keen sense of hospitality and a big-brother approach to captaining, Williams brings a set of intangibles to the table that future Copa captains are going to be hard-pressed to rival. The week began with a talk about Doral strategy from Phil Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, a friend of Williams’. The team also got to meet Donald Trump, Doral’s new owner, in early-week festivities, and had Saturday night set aside to see South Beach. Fifth-row seats at Friday’s NBA game between the Heat and the Bulls highlighted the visit – even if the Heat did lose.
“I actually was sitting on the edge where the players came out and I actually high-fived Lebron James,” U.S. team member Erynne Lee said. “It was pretty cool.”
Williams has been a soothing presence around Doral’s Blue Monster. From a shady seat near the scoreboard on Saturday afternoon, he tallied scores in his head and thought about a rough game plan. His players scattered around the Doral practice facilities, knocking off more rust.
The U.S. team enters Sunday’s final round with work to do, but there is no sense of bloodthirstiness about this team. It’s a cue from Williams.
“I wouldn’t call it a frothy, hyper-competitive tone,” Williams said. “You wouldn’t be the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world like Chris Williams, or the U.S. Amateur champion like Steven or ranked and accomplished as Lindy and Erynne without being competitive.”