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Becoming a pro

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Becoming a pro

Former PGA TOUR intern Xavier Williams chases dream of turning pro



    Written by Julie Nelson @ChampionsTour

    “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan

    There’s something to be said about someone who chases their dream, sets expectations and stays motivated. But there is everything to be said about someone who does so under the toughest of circumstances.

    Xavier Williams grew up developing a love for the game of golf in Shallotte, North Carolina by way of First Tee of Coastal Carolinas program. The shared passion instilled in him by his grandfather at a young age propelled him to become an elite high school golfer in Brunswick County (Southport, North Carolina). The result of his dedication and commitment resulted in an opportunity to test his mettle at the collegiate level at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

    “Xavier got started in golf with First Tee in Columbus, Georgia,” said William’s grandfather Chester Randolph. “I think he was about four years old. I was there teaching. He wanted to go – one year, too young, but I took him anyway. About four years later, he was helping me instruct the younger kids. He loves golf. He’s been in it for a long time. I’m hoping he’ll do very, very well. He’s intense, very passionate. I think he’s going to be one hell of a golfer one day.”

    The decision to attend North Carolina A&T was an easy one for Williams. Not only did he want to be part of his rich family history and follow in his grandparents’ footsteps, but at the time he wanted to study mechanical engineering. The university offered one of the best programs in the country.

    Williams, 22, became the first North Carolina A&T men's golfer in school history to win a weekly award from a conference. The Big South Conference named Williams its co-golfer of the week in September 2021 after he finished tied for first at the HBCU Division I Invitational in Newman, Georgia. He also assisted the Aggies in a runner-up finish at the MEAC Men’s Golf Championships during the 2020-21 season.

    With a modest collegiate career under his belt and a degree in journalism and mass communications, he is now focused on realizing his dream of becoming a pro. It’s the dream Williams has been driven by since his early years in high school.

    The pivotal moment for Williams landed his junior year while attending the PGA TOUR’s 2017 Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina. He and his teammates spent the week working on the driving range.

    “I spent the week watching the best players in the world compete at Eagle Point Golf Club,” Williams said. “On Sunday, I could feel the tension on the golf course. I watched Brian Harman birdie the final two holes to win by a stroke over Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez. Hearing the noise from the crowd erupting and all the cheering when the last putt dropped, I remember thinking, ‘This is the feeling I want – make a 15-footer on the last hole to win a tournament on the PGA TOUR and have the crowd cheer my name’. I want that.”

    That desire has not wavered. In fact, Williams has continued to put in the work to position himself one step closer to his dream reaching fruition.

    The former Aggie earned one of the 2022 Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Collegiate Ranking Top Five spots for the season. The APGA Collegiate Ranking was announced in October 2020 through a partnership between PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global and the APGA Tour. The APGA Collegiate Ranking is based on player’s Golfstat adjusted scoring average and designed to evaluate the top players positioned to qualify for APGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament access.

    “Xavier is one of our APGA collegiate rankings top five,” said PGA TOUR Vice President of Player Development Kenyatta Ramsey. “The PGA TOUR sponsors a program intended to help eliminate barriers for top minority golfers, black golfers specifically, in their transition from college to the professional. It’s a two-year period and goes by adjusted stroke average and your senior year, if you earn a top five designation, you get access to the APGA Tour for a year. We pay for your expenses for six months and then we pay for your Korn Ferry Tour Q-School.”

    Williams’ path to the pros, though, took a detour when he accepted an internship with the PGA TOUR in the summer of 2022. He spent time working with PGA TOUR Champions, assisting on special projects and supporting that Tour’s sales and revenue efforts for tournaments.

    “Xavier was a support staffer for our Tournament Business Affairs and his role was to update current programs that we provide our Tournaments on a yearly basis,” said PGA TOUR Champions Director of National Sales, Brian Shearan. “Having an understanding of golf and tournaments certainly was helpful in the areas that he worked in.

    “He did a phenomenal job bringing those qualities that you learn when you play golf into the business world. I think for anybody who’s played the game of golf, it’s like a fast-track to the business world with the same commonalities of working hard, nothing’s given to you, and to keep improving your skill set. Being able to bring those type of skills and hard work into the business world, certainly helped him in his internship.”

    For Williams, the internship helped him further foster an understanding of all the intricacies and layers the TOUR has to offer. He learned how the TOUR impacts lives on and off the course through charitable initiatives, cementing his belief in how remarkable the game of golf is, in so many ways and across so many levels.

    “My time at the Tour was definitely the experience of a lifetime and something that I will not soon forget,” said Williams. “It’s crazy to think that I almost didn’t take the internship because I wanted to play professional golf. What I didn’t know at the time was that the internship would ultimately be the best time of my life and help make my future plans that much easier. I’ve never been around such an amazing group of people that want to help you succeed in whatever way they can. The PGA TOUR is definitely the best sports organization to work for.”

    By way of imagination, passion and hope, dreams are staples in everyone’s life, motivating glimpses into what a future can become. As one ages, though, the sense of urgency, combined with busy schedules, if allowed, can sidetrack the pursuit of a goal. Not for Williams, though. Should golf not pan out, his mulligan, so to speak, is sports broadcasting.

    But he’s not throwing in the towel yet. Instead, Williams is willing to do whatever it takes to reach his goal and full potential.

    “I come from humble beginnings,” said Williams. “I am a God-fearing man. I love the game of golf and am dedicated to making my dreams a reality. This is all I do. It’s all I think about. It’s what I put all my effort and energy into. I have a Plan B, but my Plan B is still really my Plan A. I think the only thing holding me back is the mental side of golf. I’m taking steps towards getting a mental health coach and working diligently to find out what it means to really be a pro. I’m taking care of my body, am selective on how I spend my leisure time and how to get one percent better each day.”

    The game of golf is already hard enough. For most people, a challenging reality is funding it. For Williams and many others, there may not have been a fully-clear picture that, before one makes it big, one may – quite literally – need to sink a clutch putt just to put gas in the car, fund their next competitive opportunity or stay in their share of sketchy motels. Most see only the glitz and glamour, but the journey to get there is usually anything but luxurious.

    The North Carolina native has faced his fair share of adversity throughout his journey. For him, it’s about helping shape his community and encouraging others like him to pick up the game and chase their own dreams.

    “When you sponsor someone like Xavier, you have a young person who comes from a cultural background that’s different than what golf has seen in the past,” said Shearan. “There are the factors of his skin color, where he grew up and not having an advantage of being in an environment where he could practice and play for free or at play at top facilities. It’s ok that someone has that advantage, but there’s people in this world that don’t have that. For someone like Xavier, there’s opportunity for him to keep growing and it’s our job to try and nurture a person like Xavier to be able to play better golf. I’ve had the belief that the process dictates the bottom line and understanding the process keeps you moving forward while pursuing your goals. To be able to help provide that opportunity for him would be advantageous for anyone or any company. He’s got a bright future.”

    With five starts under his belt on the APGA Tour, Williams is hungry and eager for the 2023 season and hoping that his dream ultimately becomes a reality. That reality is to one day earn his PGA TOUR card.

    “As Xavier enters his first full-year schedule in professional golf, the key, as with all these young aspiring professionals, will be showing progress every day and taking advantage of the opportunities that are in front of him,” said Ramsey. “In order to do that, he, like every aspiring professional, needs to have support that allows him to work on his craft full time. Sponsorships will be so important over the next year as he continues to develop as a player and any sponsor would get to follow a human-interest story of someone who wants to chase their dream. I think being able to support a young athlete in that pursuit to get to the top is really enticing to corporations and individuals, especially when you can support someone from the ground level. The crest of someone’s development as a professional golfer is unknown. Xavier is just starting his journey and it will be exciting to see where that journey is going to take him.”

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