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The new Rory? Meet the top-rated US amateur who just turned pro with Nike

21-year-old Chris Williams turned down a place at the British Open to turn pro this week — and he’s settling in just fine at the Travelers Championship.

Williams, right, walks alongside University of Washington teammate Trevor Simsby
Williams, right, walks alongside University of Washington teammate Trevor Simsby
Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images

ON HIS FIRST weekend as a professional golfer, Chris Williams didn’t want to be going home early.

He rattled in birdie putts at 13, 15 and 18 for a two-under par 68 on day two at the Travelers Championship, enough to keep him safely clear of the cut mark and on the draw sheet for Saturday morning.

On Wednesday America’s top-ranked amateur announced his decision to turn pro and sign an endorsement deal with Nike Golf, joining a hot stable of stars headed up by the world numbers one and two Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

The decision wasn’t without its drawbacks — if he’d stayed as an amateur, Williams could have played at the Open Championship in Muirfield next month — but when Nike come knocking, it takes a lot to say no.

The 21-year-old recently graduated from the University of Washington where he made his name as one of the country’s top young talents. Before that home was in Moscow, a small city in northern Idaho where a young man with a love of golf essentially had the run of the place.

Williams practicing on the range this week (via @NikeGolf)

“We really didn’t have a driving range,” he explained this week. “It was non‑existent. It was a pasture.

“For me to practice, I had to go out and practice on the course, and it was great because no one was there. The town is 20,000, and that’s with 10,000 students. So nobody plays the golf course. There is no one in the town. It’s like a ghost town in the summer. So I was able to play and practice on the course as much as I wanted. I had the whole place to myself. ”

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In recent years, the Travelers at TPC River Highlands has become the natural starting point for young pros teeing up for the first time. It was no surprise then that Williams bowed out of the amateur ranks after missing the cut at the US Open and headed to Connecticut.

“After last week it’s stress, stress, stress, and you get here and it’s pretty easy,” he said. “I mean, it seems easy compared to last week.

“It’s a good transition, a lot of guys have done it in the past.  They’ve turned pro here, and that’s definitely what I wanted to do.”

An opening round of one-over par on Thursday was followed by yesterday’s 68 which saw him safely through to the weekend. No wonder he sounds like he’s enjoying himself.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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