Williamson wins Southern Amateur in playoff
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Throughout the course of the week, Peter Williamson made his share of putts - long ones, short ones and plenty in between.
None, however, was bigger and more important than the 25-footer for birdie on the third playoff hole Saturday that enabled Williamson to defeat Bobby Wyatt and win the 106th Southern Amateur Championship at Chenal Country Club.
For Williamson, a recent graduate of Dartmouth from Hanover, N.H., it was his second major title of the summer, following his victory a few weeks ago at the North & South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C.
“This is a huge win for me,” said Williamson, a three-time Ivy League champion and three-time league Player of the Year. “I really wanted to prove myself this summer, prove that a guy from Dartmouth could play at the highest level of amateur golf. So far, I think I’ve been doing that.”
Williamson and Alabama's Wyatt - both third-team All-Americans last season - finished 72 holes of regulation at 12-under 276, one stroke better than Daniel Berger of Florida State.
The three separated themselves from the field. John Catlin and Talor Gooch tied for fourth at 4-under 284.
The final round - the back nine in particular - was a roller-coaster ride for all three. They were in the final threesome after Williamson and Wyatt shared the overnight lead at 7 under and Berger was just a stroke behind.
With four consecutive birdies at holes 5-8, Williamson shot 32 on the front, got to 11 under and had a four-shot lead as Wyatt made nine pars and Berger had one birdie.
“Even with those four birdies on the front, I knew I had to keep it going,” Williamson said. “I knew a four-shot lead was not safe out here and especially against very good players like Bobby and Daniel.”
He was right as things got interesting in a hurry.
While Williamson birdied the par-5 10th to get to 12 under, Wyatt cut into the lead with an eagle to move to 9 under, with Berger getting to 8 under with a birdie.
When Williamson made his only bogey of the day at the par-4 11th and Wyatt birdied, the lead was sliced to one.
Wyatt caught him with a birdie at No. 14, putting both at 11 under, and a Berger birdie on the hole moved him to 9 under. Williamson moved back in front with a birdie at the par-5 15th, with Berger getting to 10 under with a birdie.
It was a crucial hole for Wyatt, who reached the green in two, but three-putted from 35 feet, missing a 6-footer for birdie.
“Those three putts at 15 killed me,” said Wyatt, who earlier this summer won the Sunnehanna Amateur. “I really felt I had the momentum going after 14. But I’m proud of myself because I came back at 17 with a birdie that ended up forcing the playoff.”
Berger also birdied 17 to again trail by one. All three missed the green at 18 and each made outstanding up-and-downs, leaving Williamson and Wyatt tied and sending the pair to the par-4 first hole to start the playoff. Berger came close to joining the party as his shot from the greenside bunker hit the pin and kicked 6 feet forward.
Both made par at the first hole and again at the second playoff hole, the par-4 18th. They returned to No. 1 and that set the stage for Williamson's win, which was secured when Wyatt narrowly missed his 20-foot birdie try.
“What an unbelievable day,” Williamson said. “All three of us played great golf. There was only one bogey among us all day, and that was mine. We shot a combined 15 under, each of us shooting 67. That’s pretty amazing, especially in a final round.”
For Wyatt, it was yet another close finish this year. After placing second at the NCAA Southeast Regional and winning the Sunnehanna, the first-team All-SEC selection tied for fifth at the Northeast Amateur, was fourth at the Dogwood and second at the Players Amateur.
“It’s disappointing, for sure; it always is when you come so close,” Wyatt said. “But overall I feel I gave it my best shot. I’m proud of the way I played all week. I left some shots out there, but give Peter credit. He played great, and he’s a deserving champion.”
In addition to winning the prestigious George W. Adair Memorial Trophy, the Southern Am victory earns Williamson an invitation to the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., in March.
The rub there is in order to take advantage of the invite, he still has to be an amateur. His original plan this summer was to play amateur golf and turn pro after the U.S. Amateur and go through the PGA Tour qualifying process.
“I’m well aware of the Bay Hill exemption and what a great thing it is,” Williamson said. “Now, it looks like I’m going to have a decision to make, but the way I look at it, either way it’s going to be good.”