That an accomplished professional athlete in a sport other than golf would also be handy with a driver, irons and a putter is hardly unheard of. Ken Harrelson and John Brodie played pro baseball and football, respectively, and also played regularly on the PGA Tour. More recently, baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz has earned sponsor’s exemptions on the PGA Tour Champions and qualified for the U.S. Senior Open.
Still, what former NFL defensive tackle Kyle Williams is attempting to do this week at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Resort is no less impressive if it’s not entirely rare. Williams, along with partner Gregory Berthelot, are competing at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and after advancing out of stroke-play qualifying over the weekend as the eight seeds, the duo won their opening-round match on Monday to move to the Round of 16.
A six-time Pro Bowler with the Buffalo Bills who had 48½ sacks before retiring in December after 13 NFL seasons, Williams helped contribute early in the 4-and-2 victory over collegians Andrew Grayson and Liam Purslowe in the Round of 32. Williams birdied the first and second holes from five and 30 feet on the Old Macdonald course, as the team played the equivalent of five under for the round.
“It was obviously a hot start and it ended up being basically the deciding factor in the match,” Williams said. “We birdied the first three and got up and down [for par] on four. We were off and rolling and in a comfortable spot to get that [win].
“I know what we're up against and you'll have other guys you're going to play against that are competitors and skilled players. We're looking forward to what tomorrow holds.”
Williams is competing in his first USGA event—this was also his first time trying to qualify for a USGA event—although he has won a national championship before (he played at LSU when the Tigers were college football’s champs in 2003). He said he played some golf as a teenager, but didn’t get into the sport until he was in college. His best 18-hole score is a 65 at the University Club in Baton Rouge.
It doesn’t hurt that his partner has some experience winning golf titles himself; Berthelot won the 2011 Louisiana State Amateur.
The duo have a busy two days ahead if they hope to claim the team title in this fifth-year event. The Round of 16 and quarterfinal matches are scheduled for Tuesday with the semifinals and finals set for Wednesday.