Williams beats Russell for Western Am title
Chris Williams poses after winning the prestigious title.
Chris Williams poses after winning the prestigious title.

By Ron Balicki, Golfweek

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Aug. 4, 2012) -- Last year, at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill., just outside Chicago, Chris Williams won the 72- hole, stroke-play portion of the Western Amateur with a record 16- under performance.

But that’s as far as his success would go. He lost in the opening round of match play to then world No. 1 Patrick Cantlay, 3 and 2.

This year, Williams, a senior at Washington, again captured medalist honors and in the process broke his own tournament record with a 17- under 271 score.

This time around, however, the 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team member went on to take it all the way to the finish line.

In the rain-delayed championship match Saturday afternoon, Williams, a first-team All-America and winner of this year’s Washington State Amateur, edged recent Texas A&M graduate Jordan Russell, 1-up, to capture the 110th Western Amateur at Exmoor Country Club in this Chicago suburb.

Williams dominated the incoming nine holes all week. During the 72- hole stroke-play qualifying, he made 16 birdies and was 14 under on the back nine for the week.

Williams waves to gallery on No. 11

In his first three matches, he won seven holes with birdies on the closing nine. And in the final, he overcame a 2- down deficit at the turn by winning four of the final nine holes.

“I’d have to say this is the biggest win of my career,” Williams said. “This is a great tournament and maybe the toughest test in golf with the format it has. And to look at the list of all the great players who have won this and to know my name will now be among them, it’s awesome.”

Russell grabbed a quick lead with a birdie at No. 1 and went 2-up at the turn with a par at No. 9.

A birdie by Williams at No. 11 and a par at No. 12 brought the match all- square, and another par at No. 14 gave Williams his first lead of the match.

After reaching with their approach shots -- Russell in the fairway and Williams in the left rough -- at the par-4, 16th hole, play was stopped (3:55 p.m., CST) as thunder, lightning and rain hit the area.

After 102 minutes, they returned to the course and Williams’ par putt him 2-up with two holes to play.

But Russell was hardly throwing in the towel. The 2011 U.S. Amateur semifinalist birdied the 17th to keep the match alive. At the par-4 finishing hole, both players found the fairway off the tee.

Russell put his approach shot eight feet above the hole, while Williams finished some 25 feet left and above. Williams first putt came up 2 1/2 feet short. Hoping to send the match to extra holes, Russell’s put hit the cup and spun out.

After Williams conceded Russell’s par, he not so calmly rolled in his putt for the victory.

“I was shaking on that last putt,” Williams said. “My heart was beating a mile a minute. I can’t explain the relief I felt when it went in.”

After a long rain delay, Williams secures the match on No. 17

It was pretty much how Williams felt the entire afternoon.

“It was an intense match,” he said. “Jordan is a great player and I knew it was going to be a battle and that I was going to have to play very well to beat him. I was nervous all day. In a tournament like this it’s hard to keep your nerves in check.”

For Russell, from College Station, Texas, it was yet another frustrating finish this summer. He came close to winning the Texas State Amateur, only to finish T-5. A couple weeks later he led the Northeast Amateur after each of the first three rounds, leading by two shots going into the final 18 holes.

However, he made bogey at the 72nd hole which created a playoff with Justin Shin, who birdied the final hole. Shin then won the three-hole, aggregate-score playoff.

And last month he was in the hunt after three rounds at the Porter Cup, but a closing 3-over 73 left him tied for 18th.

“It just wasn’t to be today, just like it’s been pretty much all summer,” Russell said. “But that’s golf. What can you do? I just have to put it behind me and move on.”

Still Russell said he couldn’t be too disappointed in his Western Amateur week.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with the week,” he said. “Of course I would have liked to win, but I really can’t complain. It was a good match and I feel I really made him earn (the win). Chris is a very good player and he played great all week, especially today.”

While enjoying the fulfillment of the victory, Williams, who said he took a quick nap and watched some “pretty exciting” Olympic table tennis on TV during the weather break, also put things in perspective.

“Week in and week out, every week is someone’s week,” he said. “This week just happened to be my week.

“I’ve had my struggles this summer, pressing too hard and putting too high expectations on myself,” Williams said. “I’ve worked hard and practiced a lot. Each week only one guy is happy and fortunately this week it’s me.

“Right now it’s hard to find the words to describe how I feel. All the lows, all the loses, makes winning here that much sweeter. It feels awesome.”

Results: Western Amateur
WinIDChris WilliamsMoscow, ID150072-66-66-67--271
Runner-upTXJordan RussellBryan, TX120069-70-70-70--279
SemifinalsNHPeter WilliamsonHanover, NH90070-69-69-69--277
SemifinalsMexicoAbraham AncerMexico90069-68-72-67--276
QuarterfinalsFLSean DaleJacksonville, FL70074-68-70-68--280

View full results for Western Amateur

ABOUT THE Western Amateur

Invitational event, and the most important tournament in American amateur golf outside of the U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite possibly the hardest amateur tournament to win.

156 invited players come from across the globe to play one of the toughest formats in amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18 holes of stroke play on Tuesday and Wednesday after which the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches each day if you're going to the finals) to decide the champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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