Two weeks ago LPGA veteran Kim Williams was headed toward the biggest paycheck of her winless six-year pro career. After zero top-20 finishes in 14 tries this year, Williams had finally found herself on a tournament leader board, only two strokes back after 28 holes, when rain suspended play at the 54-hole Youngstown-Warren ( Ohio) Classic. Naturally, Williams, a six-foot redhead from Orlando, was feeling lucky. Hours later she was feeling lucky to be alive.
At about 9 p.m. on July 2, Williams was about to enter a drugstore in nearby Niles when she felt a sudden pain in the left side of her neck. "It felt like somebody hit a baseball line drive into me," she said. "I remember saying, 'What was that? What was that?' " It wasn't until she put her hand to her neck and saw her fingers covered with blood that she realized she'd been shot.
A bullet from a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun had plunged through the left side of Williams's neck, burrowed under her right collarbone and come to rest just above the top rib on her right side, nudging her esophagus. More bewildered than frightened at first, Williams continued into the drugstore and calmly asked a clerk to call 911.
At Cleveland Metro-Health Medical Center, trauma doctors were astonished at the providential path the bullet had taken, and, after performing a number of tests, decided not to remove it for fear that they might do more damage in the process. Police at first thought the incident was a drive-by shooting, but a Howland Township man contacted authorities the next day and said that he and a friend had been taking target practice in the woods about a mile west of the drugstore and that the bullet may have come from his gun.
The 31-year-old Williams was discharged from the hospital less than 36 hours after being shot. Despite soreness in her neck that restricted her swing, lingering fatigue from anesthesia and the sensation of the bullet against her throat every time she swallowed, Williams was determined to play in last weekend's Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. Unsure when she teed up for Friday's first round whether she could play a full 18 holes, Williams not only completed the round but also played her best golf of the year, tying her low score of 1994 with a three-under-par 68. So exhausted was Williams at the end of the day that she was driven immediately to the first aid tent for fluids and ice.
Stopping at a Toledo hospital on her way to the tournament the next day, Williams received more IV fluids, a massage and breakfast. She continued to the course and shot a 72. With a final round of 70 on Sunday, and not a single three-putt in the entire tournament—she claims she putts better when she's tired—Williams finished tied for 10th. She then hopped in a car and drove to Franklin, Mich., where she qualified on Monday for the U.S. Open, which starts July 21.
Williams's mettle earned her praise, but what was really important to her was the $9,662 she earned in Toledo. "I'm not wealthy," she says. "I need to work. I have bills to pay. I really don't have the luxury of being able to not work." Especially after incurring what she estimates to be more than $30,000 in medical expenses—$3,000 of which she must pay herself.
Luckily, Williams has retained her sense of humor as well as her swing. "I don't mean to make fun," she said, "but I might endorse Target Drug Stores." She might well have added that when she wins her first tournament, she surely will have given new meaning to the phrase "No. 1 with a bullet."