Cold New Jersey weather didn’t stop then freshman Alex Williams from practicing her short game over winter break in 2018.
After months of practicing with her teammates on Methodist University’s Downback Golf Course and dedicating breaks to working on her game, Williams, a recipient of the PGA Works Scholarship, earned a chance to compete as a second-semester freshman. Little did she know, she would quickly set a milestone by becoming the first black female student-athlete to win a collegiate event in the more than 30-year history of the women’s golf team at Methodist University.
“It’s not common to see many freshmen in the lineup because they’re getting used to new grass, new lineups, and new environments,” said Women’s Golf Coach Tom Inczauskis. “It was super exciting for her to have her first time in the lineup as a freshman. I’ve been doing this for 11 years, and you don’t often see freshmen doing that.”
Williams’ history with golf starts back in 2008 when she visited Freeway Golf Club in south Jersey with her father and uncle.
“I had just stopped playing soccer, and my dad was getting golf lessons,” she said.
She picked up the club and took a shot, which caught the eye of someone working at the club.
“Someone came over to my dad and told him to sign me up for lessons,” she said. “They told him I had a natural swing.”
Williams went on to play golf in high school. She was the only girl playing for her high school, so, at times, she didn’t really feel part of the team. When she joined the MU women’s golf team, she found herself engaged with a group of supportive and dedicated young women who worked collaboratively to improve both individually, and as a team.
In fact, Williams was one of four Academic All-Americans to play on the 2019 National Tournament Team. Other players included Peyton Durham ’19, Morgan Bowen, Paige Church and Jillian Drinkard, who was later recognized as the NCAA Division III Freshman of the Year and a 1st Team All-American.
“Where I grew up playing, there weren’t a lot of girls playing golf,” she explained. “I wanted to play with girls who were better than me, because I wanted to be better. It is really cool to be in a program where you’re playing with a bunch of girls who are really great at golf.”
After meeting Williams and watching her play, Inczauskis knew she had the talents to become a great golfer. According to Inczauskis, Williams possesses a number of traits that are great for a team golf setting.
“She doesn’t get too high or too low in her emotions,” Inczauskis said. “She keeps a short memory when she is out there, she can forget a bad shot. She’s really focused on the shot at hand.”
Williams’ dedication and focus served her well on the course and in the classroom. Williams engages in the classroom and maintains a high grade-point average, which earned her the title of WGCA Scholar All-American athlete, a difficult feat while traveling around the country for competitions.
But Inczauskis said Williams is always more focused on the team than she is on herself. The game of golf is individual in nature. However, in team golf, those individual scores contribute to an overall score for the team.
“You can be the best golfer in the country, but if you don’t have the other teammates in mind, you can’t win a national championship,” Inczauskis said.
These two traits in particular played out well for Williams during the Birmingham-Southern Showdown, where she made history by placing first over 59 other golfers.
According to Inczauskis, Williams wasn’t sure where she was ranked during the round. She was more concerned about where the team would place. Even after she won, she just wanted to know how the team had done.
“I was just hoping that we won the tournament as a team so that we could get to nationals,” she said.
Williams and her teammates secured an at-large bid to the 2019 national tournament thanks to the win at the Birmingham-Southern Showdown as well as victories at the Berry Callaway Gardens Invitational and the Piedmont Spring Invitational and second-place finishes at the Oglethorpe Jekyll Island Collegiate and the Redlands Bulldog Classic.
The team went on to finish in third place at the Division III National Championship in Houston, Texas. Williams competed in five tournaments in 2019-20 before the season was cut short in the wake of COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the last three tournaments were cancelled, including the Birmingham-Southern Showdown where Williams hoped to repeat as medalist.
When asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming collegiate golfers, Williams says that it’s all about balance. For her, working hard, balancing a social life, and doing well in her classes is all par for the course.
Golf isn’t the kind of sport where you can take three days off and expect to go out and score a 72,” she said. “It’s a lot of discipline. Practicing every day with my upperclassman teammates definitely helped. The coaches and staff really helped me be comfortable and drove me to be a better golfer.”
“She’s going to have an incredible career in the golf industry,” Inczauskis said. “Her career is going to skyrocket because she can play, she’s smart, and she works hard.”