WESTERN AMATEUR: Williams betters his own record in stroke play

Chris Williams set the Western Amateur scoring record for 72 holes when he went 16-under-par last year at North Shore Country Club, in Glenview. This year, with the 110-year-old tourney moving to Exmoor, in Highland Park, he did even better.

The University of Washington senior buzzed around Exmoor in 66-67 in Thursday’s 36-hole session to finish stroke play at 17-under-par 271. That earned him medalist honors by two strokes over his playing partner, 18-year old Laurens Chan from Honolulu, Hawaii. Chan will be a freshman at UCLA this fall,

“I played well last year and I apparently played better this year,’’ said Williams. “The courses were similar – short courses, tight, with long rough and soft greens. They played right into my hands.’’

Williams’ job is far from done, though. The Western Amateur calls for 72 holes of stroke play qualifying just to advance 16 players into the match play portion of the championship. So now Williams faces two days of matches if he’s to win the prestigious title. Last year he made it to match play at North Shore but lost to eventual runner-up Patrick Cantlay in the first round.

“Last year I ran into a buzzsaw, which was unfortunate,’’ said Williams. “But I’ve been working hard all year, and I’m happy that it paid off in a big tournament like this. It was all about attitude. I had very high expectations, like I’ve always had, but this week I was able to relax and have a good time.’’

Chan, in his first year playing a summer of big-time amateur tournaments, was impressed.

“Today was a good day. I played well, and I got a front-row ticket to watch one of the best amateurs in the world,’’ said Chan. “Now I see the difference between the best amateurs and me. He was firing at pins and his putting was so simple. It was fun to watch.’’

Williams is No. 5 in the world amateur rankings, and the highest on that list to qualify for the Western’s Sweet 16. No. 1 Bobby Wyatt and No. 3 Patrick Rodgers didn’t survive the first cut of stroke play.

Theo Lederhausen, a Harvard University junior from Hinsdale, was best of the Chicago players. He tied for 41st at 286 and didn’t qualify for match play, but the Western will be a good tuneup for him. He’s in the field at next week’s Illinois State Amateur at The Links at Kokopelli in downstate Marion.