Minnesota Golf Association

Williamson Wins in Arizona; Berry Ties for 4th, Schmierer for 10th

May 2, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jay Williamson played on the PGA Tour for 16 years and made more than $5 million. He won once on the Nationwide -- now Web.com -- Tour, in 2007, but he never on the big tour. He did come close, though, losing twice in playoffs. At the 2007 Travelers, he led Hunter Mahan by a stroke going into the 72nd hole. Mahan hit his approach at the last hole of regulation play to 8 feet and made the birdie putt to force a playoff. On the first extra hole (No. 18 again), Williamson hit his approach to 6 feet, Mahan to 3 feet. Williamson missed. Mahan made.

So basically, Williamson did his part. He played well enough to win. He was just unlucky that the guy chasing him at the Travelers happened to be Mahan. 

In 2011, at age 44, Williamson gave up the PGA Tour and tournament golf, and went into the insurance business in his native St. Louis. When he turned 50, in 2017, he started playing tournaments again, and this week he demonstrated that he still knows how to win as he claimed the first prize ($2,500) in the Arizona State Senior Open. 

The former Trinity College star in baseball (he batted .321) and hockey (he scored 60 goals and assisted on another 69) came from five strokes behind in Wednesday's final round by shooting a 7-under-par 65 on the Pine Course at McCormick Ranch Golf Club. With that, he posted a 36-hole total of 135, which was good enough for a two-stroke victory over Ken Tanigawa.

Tanigawa is a 50-year-old Champions Tour regular who earned exempt status on the senior tour by finishing fifth at Q-School last fall as an amateur, and then turned pro. He  closed with a 69 -- and was the only other player besides Williamson to shoot a score better than 71 on Wednesday, which is an indication of how well he and Williamson played.  

While nearly all of the other contenders were trying just to stay around par, Williamson was making birdies on four of the first seven holes. He got his fifth birdie of the day at the 519-yard, par-5 12th hole, then hit his worst shot of the day -- maybe of the year -- at the 210-yard, par-3 13th. He hit it with a rescue, and it sailed off to the right, landing 10 yards right of the cart path, 40 yards right of the green. That resulted in his only bogey of the day, but he came right back with a birdie at the 404-yard, par-4 14th.

Tanigawa, playing two groups behind Williamson, shot 34 on the front side. He pulled into a tie for the lead with a birdie at the 10th (363 yards, par 4) and matched Williamson's birdie at the par-5 12th. But he made a double bogey at the 13th to fall one back, and Williamson's birdie at the 14th made the gap between them two strokes.

Tanigawa, a Phoenix resident who won the Arizona State Amateur twice in his late 40's (which meant beating college guys half his age), got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 517-yard, par-5 18th. But Williamson had made a birdie there, too. 

Jeff LeMaster, who started the day in second place, ended up third with an aggregate of 140, after shooting 73.

Minnesota's five-time State Senior Open champ, Don Berry, got off to a promising start Wednesday, with a birdie at No. 1 (398, par 4), but made two 6's in a span of three holes, in both cases after hitting tee his tee shots into water hazards. The first 6 was a bogey at No. 4 (511 yards) and the second a double at No. 6 (400). In between, he conjured up a birdie at the 165-yard, par-3 fifth. The 56-year-old head pro at Edinburgh USA  also birdied the par-5 seventh (556) but followed that with another bogey at the 190-yard par-3 eighth. 

A tee shot that found a bunker in front of the 13th green led to another bogey, before Berry rallied with birdies at the 14th (404, par 4) and the 18th. That got him back to even par and a 72, which earned him a tie for fourth place at 141, along with first-round leader Alan Sorenson. Sorenson was another victim of No. 13; he made a triple bogey 6 there on the way to a 76. 

"The start was good, and so was the finish," the 16-time Minnesota PGA Player of the Year said afterward. "But the middle was ugly. I think my alignment was off, and that's why I was pulling so many shots. I was hitting better on the last couple of holes." 

One other Minnesota pro finished in the top 10, albeit barely, and that was Brad Schmierer, 65, the former head pro at Hastings Country Club (now Dakota Pines). He found two water hazards and struggled on the greens all day, failing to make a birdie until he coaxed a 15-foot putt into the hole at the par-3 17th. He had a chance to finish with two birdies, actually, but pulled a 5-footer at the 18th. Schmierer settled for a par as he concluded a 77, which he described as "my worst round of the year." It gave him a total of 145 and a tie for 10th.  


Arizona Senior State Open

At McCormick Ranch -- Pine 

Par 72, 6,741yards

Scottsdale, Ariz. 

Final results

1. Jay Williamson, St. Louis                        70-65--135

2. Ken Tanigawa, Phoenix                          68-69--137

3. Jeff LeMaster, Las Vegas                       67-73--140

T4. Don Berry, Rogers                             69-72--141

T4. Alan Sorenson, Bakersfield, Calif.       65-76--141

T10. Brad Schmierer, Scottsdale            68-77--145

T17. Jon Chaffee, Scottsdale                   72-76--148

T28. Dave Kluver, Mesa, Ariz.                  76-75--151

33. Greg Avant, Chandler, Ariz.               77-75--152


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