Kim Williams says she hates to whine, but what the heck. She has a right.
She's gone through more than any one golfer should have to, with a gunshot wound and a head-on collision and seemingly-endless surgeries topping the list.
A struggling Williams is back at Highland Meadows Golf Club for this week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.
It was the site of a rather dramatic effort by Williams in 1994, when she posted a 10th-place finish in the Farr a week after being struck in the neck by a bullet.
The shooting occurred a week earlier during the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic. Williams was walking into a pharmacy when she was hit by a stray bullet from a nearby target range.
Her gutsy finish a week later, with the bullet still lodged in her neck, made her a Toledo fan favorite.
Williams could use a friendly, supportive gallery when she tees off in tomorrow's first round because, well, things aren't going so well.
Since tying for sixth place at the Asahi Ryokuken International in South Carolina in mid-May and winning the bulk of her $50,000 in 2002 earnings, Williams has missed four cuts, including last week's U.S. Women's Open, and has finished 71st and 72nd in other events.
“It's just my game,” she said, sighing. “I hate to have a whiny attitude because it's out of character for me to be so down. It's the first time I've ever been like this. It's just really frustrating because I haven't been able to hit the ball like I did before the accident.”
Ah, yes. The accident.
Williams had just finished the first round of the first tournament on the 2001 schedule, the YourLife Vitamins Classic in Orlando during mid-January.
“And I'd played really well,” she said. “I was in the last group and I bogeyed the last hole in the dark, but I shot even par and that was either the low score or second-lowest score in the afternoon wave. I hit every fairway, hit 17 greens and I was in the top 10. It was a good start.”
Little did she know it was also a good finish. Leaving the golf course, Williams' vehicle was hit head-on by another and she suffered a broken collarbone, a broken sternum and a knee injury that required surgery. In addition, she underwent major abdominal surgery in March before returning to the tour in May.
“My collarbone snapped in half and it didn't grow back the same,” she said. “So, obviously, it has changed the mechanics of my swing.
“What it has really affected is my iron play. My strength is good, my flexibility and range of motion are fine, but it has had an effect because my greens-in-regulation is way down and that was always a strength.”
Williams, who through 14 years on the tour has undergone back and knee surgeries as well as a 1995 procedure that removed the bullet from her neck, has hit just 57 per cent of the greens in regulation this year, which ranks her 130th among tour players. It's a rather obvious reason her scoring average (74.0) ranks 109th.
Williams said the shooting was the scarier of her two frightening moments, perhaps because she was unconscious in the immediate aftermath of the car crash. She said the thought that her career was over may have flitted through her mind after the accident.
“But after a while I figured, ‘Oh, well,' and just got busy going to rehab and trying to get healthy,” she said. “Believe it or not, I'm probably more frustrated now than I was after the accident. I feel I'm doing all I can do, but I'm still struggling. It just gets me down.”
Still, in light of the incidents, Williams insists she has never asked, Why me?
“I don't ask that because I've seen worse things happen to people all the time,” she said. “I hate to whine. I'm alive and well. I'd just like to shoot a couple good scores.”