MIDWAY, Utah – Alex Williams was 2 down to the world’s No. 2 amateur, Chris Williams, midway through their first-round match at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Eight holes and four birdies later, Alex Williams had authored Wednesday’s biggest upset at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
He won, 2 and 1, over Chris Williams, a member of last year’s Walker Cup team. Chris Williams had birdied Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to take a 2-up lead, but Alex Williams was bogey-free on the back nine at Soldier Hollow.
“It feels great,” he said. “I told myself there was going to be a turning point in the match, where I could either win it or lose it, and that was No. 10. It was a big putt. We both made birdie. It gave me more confidence that I could keep it close until the end.”
The Williamses, who are not related, halved the 10th hole with birdies after both players hit wedges to about 5 feet. Alex Williams putted second on that hole, making his putt to stay 2 down.
This is the second consecutive year that Alex Williams advanced to the Round of 32 at the Publinks. Wednesday’s opponents shared more than a last name. Both were members of Washington’s program this year. Alex Williams, a former Oregon State golfer, was the assistant coach at Washington – where Chris Williams is entering his senior season – until April.
“There was some drama,” Alex Williams, 25, said. “I didn’t continue after April. I pretty much got fired. … I made some bad choices,” he said, declining to elaborate.
This was Williams’ first season at Washington. He also taught English in Peru and served as the assistant coach at Army before taking the job at Washington. He is working in the pro shop at the Cedars on Salmon Creek in Vancouver, Wash. He said he was a “little scared, a little uptight” about Wednesday’s matchup. There was no talking, beyond the required communication, in the match.
Alex Williams’ play didn’t show any nerves, as he made birdie on three of the match’s final six holes. He won the 177-yard, par-3 12th by holing a 40-foot birdie putt, then won the 14th with a 5-foot birdie putt that squared the match. “I wanted to apologize after that shot, I missed it so bad,” Alex Williams said of the approach to 14.
Chris Williams lost the next hole when he made bogey from a greenside bunker. He reached the par-5 16th in two shots with a hybrid before Alex Williams’ third shot trickled through the green. Chris Williams lagged his 40-foot eagle putt to 3 feet, and Alex Williams’ birdie chip just stopped on the edge of the hole. Chris Williams’ 3-foot birdie putt lipped out, and he had to hole a 3-foot par putt just to halve the hole.
Both players hit good shots on the 222-yard, par-3 17th. Alex Williams hit his tee shot to 12 feet, then made the birdie putt. Chris Williams’ 8-foot birdie putt to extend the match just slid past on the left edge.
“I just couldn’t make the putts that I needed to,” said Chris Williams, who was runner-up after losing a playoff at last week’s Sahalee Players Championship. “It’s kind of been the story of the year so far. That’s the difference between winning and losing, a lot of times.”