NCGA Members Doug Williams, Jeff Wilson Playing in U.S. Senior Open
July 9, 2014
Among those soaking in the limelight at this week’s U.S. Senior Open is a pair of NCGA members.
Amateurs Doug Williams and Jeff Wilson (pictured) are slated to tee off in the championship starting Thursday at Oak Tree National Golf Club in Oklahoma.
And they both bring interesting backgrounds.
Williams, who was featured in a USGA Senior Open notebook on Monday and is making his U.S. Senior Open debut, has lived in eight countries, once caddied for Jack Nicklaus in an exhibition in France and developed a golf course in Hong Kong with Gary Player.
Yet one of his most memorable experiences was a head-to-head match against an up-and-coming prodigy named Michelle Wie. In 2001,a then-43-year-old Williams took on Wie, then 11, in the first round of the Manoa Cup, otherwise known as the Hawaii State Amateur Match Play Championship.
Williams, who resides in Hong Kong but is an NCGA member via amateurgolf.com, closed out a win versus Wie on the 15th hole.
“At 11 years old, she had an unbelievable swing, she hit the ball farther than any woman I had ever seen, and almost as far as the guys,” Williams told the USGA. “It was a bit of a circus. There were about 50 people watching. Her family was there, Hawaii press, national press.”
Those hoping for a Wie win were left disappointed.
“After I won, it was just stone silent and a bunch of sighs and disappointment. Nobody booed, but everyone was rooting for Michelle,” Williams said. “Nobody would believe that an 11-year-old girl would be capable of beating anybody, but Michelle was easily better than half the field. You could tell she was going to be something super special.”
Now 56, Williams earned his spot in the championship by medaling in a sectional qualifier in Honolulu.
When asked if he felt more pressure heading into this week or playing against Wie, the answer was easy for the California native.
“That was something that was surreal; it was weird, but I didn’t feel any pressure,” said Williams of the 2001 match. “It was like a dream, really. It was like, what is going on here? You didn’t really believe it.”
Wilson, meanwhile, earned his spot in the championship by shooting a medalist-earning 4-under 68 in a qualifier held at Green Valley CC.
It was hardly a first. The 51-year-old has been the medalist in three U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships and advanced to the semifinals in each of those events.
A collegiate teammate of Jeff Brehaut at the University of Pacific in Stockton, Wilson played eight years as a professional but he gave it up in the middle of the 1994 Web.com Tour season to join his family’s automobile business.
As of last year he was still involved with the family Toyota dealership in Vallejo, but still finds time to compete in amateur competitions, including NCGA events, after being reinstated in 1997.
His USGA resume is also glowing. In 2000, he earned low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He’s also been stroke-play qualifying medalist twice at the U.S. Amateur, the latest coming just four years ago at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash. One of his rounds? A nifty 62.
Like Williams though, there’s one memory that stands out.
At the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Wilson played two groups in front of the marquee pairing of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott. The noise and buzz were overwhelming, even for someone with Wilson’s USGA experience.
“There were so many people out there,” Wilson told the USGA.