Peter Williamson: Golf Prodigy & Player of the Week

By Thomas Hauch

For Peter Williamson, success came on the very first try. A standout on the Men’s Golf team, Williamson earned his laurels back in the spring of 2009, when as a freshman he became only the fourth Dartmouth golfer, and the first since 1995, to secure the Ivy League Championship. That stellar performance, which capped off an equally successful year, earned him the honors of both Ivy League Player and Rookie of the year. Now in his third year, Williamson remains one of the most dominant players in Ivy League golf and has since emerged on the national circuit.

But coming from the Northeast, Williamson has always struggled to garner the attention he so rightfully deserves. As he explained in an interview with the Review, “I didn’t actually have that many scholarships.” Born and raised in Hanover, it was never easy for Williamson to find much competition as a child. Even though his high school team captured the state championship in each of his four years, and although he took medalist honors as a senior, Williamson’s talent remained relatively untapped by recruiters. 

That is not to say, though, that they ignored Williamson completely. Over time, he did receive scholarships from several other schools. But when choosing between Dartmouth and the rest, it was ultimately a decision between being a “big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond.” In the end, he figured that, “going to a school and being able to make a difference would be a lot more enjoyable.” His decision has given him very little reason for regret. Over the past two years, Williamson has enjoyed success at every level of competition, earning him a preeminent stature among Ivy League golfers.

Now he has begun to challenge the nation’s best. This past summer, Williamson qualified for and competed in the U.S. Amateur Championship, as well as the U.S. Public Links Championship. The most prestigious event of its kind, the U.S. Amateur was played this year at Chambers Bay in Washington State. Stretching over 7,800 yards, the course was the longest, and no doubt one of the most brutal, venues in the tournament’s history. 

As Williamson explained, though, he was up for the challenge. With his tall physique, he could certainly handle the length. And as a player who “avoids big numbers,” he wasn’t planning to let the pressure unsettle him. In match play, Williamson, an unflappable putter and a fierce competitor, knew he could handle the nation’s best. “I love controlling my own situation, which is why I love match play so much.”  But having to negotiate a full course load at the same time, Williamson struggled to prepare his game adequately. He was unable to advance past the initial stroke play in either event. 

As a Dartmouth student, having to negotiate Sophomore Summer is just one of the many challenges he faces. Another is the long New England winter, which keeps the Indians indoors from November to March.  The players do have access to a small facility in Leverone Field House, but ultimately there are compromises. As Williamson explained, “you build your short game pretty quickly, but your long game falls behind.” Having lived in Hanover all his life, however, Williamson has gotten used to it at this point. “Growing up in New Hampshire, I never had the ability to play all year long. I spent a lot of time putting in my room, and chipping in the snow. The short-game became the premium of my game.”

Looking to the future, Williamson assured me that he would be making a run at the professional circuit. He had actually intended to enter the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament this September. Q-school, as it is usually referred to, consists of four stages played over the course of several months in the fall. It is quite simply the most challenging gauntlet in golf, one that punishes even the tiniest cracks in a player’s game. Having taking classes all summer, Williamson held no pretensions about his preparation. “It’s an expensive process, too. And I just wasn’t ready to invest my time and money in the effort.”

Next year, though, he plans to take the dive. And though he doesn’t expect to break through just yet, it should give him an edge over the rest of the 2012 class. 

If the professional scene falls through, Williamson would be perfectly content falling back on his Dartmouth education. Williamson is a Geography/Studio Art double major, with a specific concentration in architecture. He anticipates going back to graduate school after his professional run and pursuing a career in golf course design, “staying connected to the game even if it doesn’t become a profession.” This winter, Williamson is taking an off-term to travel abroad. Having been on campus for the past five terms, it should be a welcome respite from academics, as well as golf.