Notebook: Miller, Williamson in transition stages

Peter Williamson tries to figure out where his ball hit at No. 10 during the 2013 Jones Cup Invitational at Ocean Forest.

Peter Williamson tries to figure out where his ball hit at No. 10 during the 2013 Jones Cup Invitational at Ocean Forest.

SEA ISLAND, Ga. – One is headed overseas. Another is PGA Tour-bound. Mike Miller and Peter Williamson both have creative ways to fill their schedule until the Walker Cup.

Both players are in a transition stage in their career. They don’t want to begin their professional careers until after September’s Walker Cup. They’re not mid-amateurs (age 25 or older), but aren’t playing college golf, either. Miller, 20, played one semester at Penn State. Williamson, 22, graduated from Dartmouth last June.

Miller, who shot a first-round 76 Friday at the Jones Cup, leaves next week for the Portuguese and Spanish amateur championships. Williamson will make his next start at the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. He opened with 84 at Ocean Forest Golf Club.

Miller first travelled overseas last year, finishing fourth at both the Lytham Trophy and Irish Amateur. He played the events after meeting the Golfing Union of Ireland’s Pat Finn at the Carey Cup, a Walker Cup-style match between New York’s Metropolitan Golf Association and GUI.

Miller, No. 25 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking, will play the Azalea Invitational before heading to Ireland for this year’s Carey Cup, which is scheduled for April 27-29 at the European Club in Brittas Bay, Ireland. He’ll remain overseas for a return to the Lytham Trophy and Irish Amateur, then play the usual summer events in the States. The Brewster, N.Y., native figures to face some potential Walker Cup foes at those events. That experience should help in the matches, as would a home-state advantage. The Walker Cup is being held at National Golf Links of America in Miller’s home state.

“They’ll be hooting and hollering,” Miller said of the potential home crowd if he’s picked for the U.S. team. “It would be loud and definitely be good for our side.”

Williamson earned his PGA Tour start by winning last year’s Southern Amateur. He also won the North & South Amateur in 2012, a big reason why he’s No. 8 in the R&A’s amateur rankings. He moved to Jupiter, Fla., in September and has been preparing for his PGA Tour debut by playing at Medalist Golf Club with the many pros who live there, including Rickie Fowler, Bud Cauley and Hank Kuehne.

When asked if he’s played with Tiger Woods, Williamson replied: “I haven’t yet. Hopefully soon.”

Williamson, a New Hampshire native, is getting accustomed to playing golf year-round. He’s been working on shallowing out his swing so that he takes smaller divots. The extra practice time had resulted in soreness in his wrists. He said he struggled with distance control Friday at Ocean Forest.

“I’m just trying to figure it out,” he said.

• • •

COAST-TO-COAST: Jonathan Garrick isn’t headed to Hawaii with his UCLA teammates. Ocean Forest isn’t a bad backup, especially when in contention at the Jones Cup. Garrick, a UCLA freshman, is T-6 after shooting 72, four shots back of co-leaders Cory Whitsett and Rowin Caron.

“It’s unfortunate not to be there, but this is a top-10 amateur tournament and this course is the toughest I’ve ever played in competition,” said Garrick, a freshman who won the Cal Poly Invitational earlier this season. “We’re here, so (missing Hawaii) isn’t all that bad.”

UCLA’s lineup for the Amer Ari Invitational wasn’t finalized until Sunday. Garrick and Anton Arboleda decided to travel to Georgia after failing to make the lineup via a match-play qualifier. Arboleda shot 79 Friday.

Their 11th hour, cross-country trip was made more difficult by delays. The teammates left Los Angeles Wednesday morning, then were delayed five hours in Atlanta. They arrived at Sea Island about 2 a.m. Thursday after flying to Jacksonville, Fla., and driving approximately 80 miles. Garrick played about 14 practice holes later that day. It was 3:45 a.m. in his home state when he awoke Friday to play the Jones Cup’s first round.

There’s good news. UCLA head coach Derek Freeman told him a victory here would exempt him into the Bruins’ next event.

• • •

FAIR-WEATHER FAN: BYU’s Zac Blair has travelled to a warmer climate to keep his game sharp this winter. It’s approximately 50 degrees in St. George, Utah, and the lack of snow makes it possible for Blair to play golf. He said he visits St. George almost every weekend. Taking part in last month’s Walker Cup practice session in Florida and the Patriot All-American (T-18) in Arizona has helped Blair stay in form, as well. He shot 72 Friday at the Jones Cup. This is his first time playing the event.

“I’ve played a bit more than I usually have. I’m a bit sharper than I usually have been,” Blair said.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: Defending champion Justin Thomas shot 78 after being even-par through 10 holes. He played Nos. 14-16 in 5 over after making triple-bogey at the par-3 15th. Thomas was part of the featured pairing of Williamson and U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox. They were a combined 27 over par. Fox shot 81 and Williamson fired 84. ... Dru Love, the son of Davis Love III, shot 78. Seth Waugh’s son, Clancy, shot 82. ... Two mid-ams – John Engler and Nick Gilliam – are T-6 after shooting 72.

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