- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

For every Ernie Els on the PGA Tour there are 10 Jay Williamsons. I'm talking about guys in their early 30s who have been knocking around for a number of years making a cut here, missing a cut there, barely being noticed waiting for their Big Break. They have usually spent more time in qualifying school than high school, and they know all the good places to eat on the Buy.com Tour.

Then one weekend everything comes together for them their driver drives, their putter putts, their irons iron and golf fans get to know them a little bit. Maybe it's Williamson's turn to have that kind of weekend at the Kemper. He certainly put himself in nice position yesterday by firing a 64 one off the course record to share the top spot with Steve Lowery. Other Williamson types are also in the hunt, of course Brent Quigley, for one but since Jay has played well at Avenel before, let's talk about him this morning. Let's talk about his long arms and his short legs and his Lilliputian putter.

If Williamson's name rings a bell, there's a reason for it: Four years ago, he was the third-round leader in the Kemper at a nifty 12 under before losing his grip Sunday and shooting a 79. After that he drifted back to the minor leagues, and he might still be there if he hadn't regained his card at Q-School in '98 and '99.

He's playing the best golf of his life this year, though, winning $261,052 to place 90th on the money list. And the score he put up yesterday tied his career low but only after he switched his driver and putter at the last minute and went to shorter clubs. And why, pray tell, would he do that?

"I have got longer arms and shorter legs than most," he explained. "I try to have my equipment fit my body. The putter I used today is the shortest I have used all year long. For some reason I get away from using it because it's different. It's harder to stay with it when you have a bad day or two."

The length of the putter is a secret like an actress' age. Williamson said he's "sick of people asking me" about it, "so I don't have an answer any more. I just tell them it's short. Lee Janzen kids me about it. He knows mine is short; he doesn't want to have the shortest one out here."

Janzen admits to wielding a 32-inch putter, so figure Williamson's is a 31 or 31 1/2. Put it this way: The last time I used a putter that size was on a hole with a windmill.

Williamson thinks if he can hang around the lead again this year, he'll hold together much better on Sunday. You have to remember, he says, he didn't have a high-powered amateur career like a lot of the guys on the Tour. In fact, he didn't even play golf in college. (Hockey was his sport at Trinity in Hartford, Conn.)

Looking back on the '96 Kemper and the Great Meltdown he said, "I was so fortunate to be in that position. It was just my second year out here… . I think I'm more mature now. I'm definitely a better player. And my personal life is certainly, I would say, more solid. I'm married. I have a 1-year-old girl at home who kind of keeps me out of trouble or in trouble, however you want to say it.

"I really don't think I was good enough [four years ago] to handle the pressure of being the leader on Sunday. But I feel like I have worked hard to overcome the feelings that I had in my golf swing that day. If I get another chance [to win] again this year, I would be really disappointed if I shot a 79."

In many ways, however, the Williamson of '99 isn't much different from the Williamson of '96. He still lives on the fringes of the Tour, excluded from the prestigious invitationals, and his second-class status frustrates him from time to time. He was particularly irked this year when he didn't get into Colonial as an alternate, so he went home to Orlando and worked out his anger by beating balls for a couple of weeks.

"Today may have been a reflection of that," he said.

He also continues to go it alone, without a coach, which few pros do. His wife thinks he's nuts because he's always tinkering with his swing and could probably use some professional guidance. But Williamson just feels that, hey, "every day out here is an experiment, and you try to figure out how to overcome the anxiety and the pressure and things like that."

The step from Tour player to established Tour player can be a long one especially for a golfer with short legs. But Williamson is doing his darnedest to make it. He really doesn't want to be known as "a guy who goes to Q-School every year," he said. He would rather have December off every year, like the Big Cheeses do. But it's all about playing well on Sunday. He seems to have the hang of Thursday.

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