FIFTEEN years ago, Simone Williams’ life changed forever. “Simone Who?” you may ask. In the mid-1990s, Simone Williams was Australia’s top-ranked female amateur golfer.
She attended the Australian Institute of Sport in Melbourne and was a prolific winner, taking out the Australian and Queensland Schoolgirls’ Championships and the Australian, Queensland and NSW junior championships.
The Queenslander, who played out of the Redcliffe Golf Club in Brisbane, also captured the NSW, Victorian, West Australian and South Australian strokeplay championships.
In 1994, Williams represented Australia in the World Cup in France along with Karrie Webb and South Australian Anne-Marie Knight.
Laurie Montague, who was the national women’s coach, said at that time Williams “had the world at her feet”.
We all know Webb took the professional golf world by storm reaching world No. 1, winning seven majors and banking millions of dollars.
Knight also turned professional and plied her trade with some success on the Ladies European Tour.
But whatever happened to Williams – the champion golfer who, at 19, was primed to turn professional?
Well, she’s alive and well and living in Melbourne with her husband and two-and-ahalf-year-old son Bailey.
She never did turn professional because in 1996 she had a serious car accident that left her with an injury that dented her hopes of joining the play-for-pay ranks.
“I was moving back to Queensland from Melbourne when I had the car accident,” the 35-year-old explained.
“About five kilometres north of Moree I got to a corner, hit some gravel and rolled the car five times.
“I had a few scratches and cut my head open, but I was pretty lucky to get away with it and didn’t think there was anything wrong.” But there was. Coach Ian Triggs identified a problem with her swing and sent her to a physiotherapist, who found that her shoulder was out of its socket.
With her shoulder back in place, Williams, who played off a +2 handicap before the accident, worked tirelessly on her swing and returned to the national squad.
But the damage was done – physically and mentally – and she quit the game.
“After the accident I never really played well again,” she said.
“I tried and tried and decided if I couldn’t play at the level I knew I was capable of I thought I’d rather quit.
“When you are used to playing at a level and then struggle to break 90 it’s frustrating and upsetting.”
There are those who find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that someone who was the best amateur in the country could be content walking away from the game.
“I am happy now because I love being a mum and I still work part-time in finance,” she said.
One of Williams’ career highlights was playing alongside former world No.1 Annika Sorenstam at the Australian Ladies Masters.
“It was great to watch how Annika went about her business,” she says.
“She made it look so easy, hitting fairways and greens and making birdies. She was so cool, calm and collected and went on to win the tournament.
“I was really nervous and shot a couple over, but it was good experience and it was then that I realised I wanted to be a professional golfer.”
Unfortunately, Williams didn’t get to fulfill her dream, but she’s not complaining.
“I think things happen for a reason – maybe turning pro wasn’t what I was meant to do,” she said.
“Sometimes, after I have had a social game and hit a great shot, I think ‘what if ?’.
“I feel I should get back into it, but then again I hit plenty of other very ordinary shots.
“And besides, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to golf anymore.”