BOYS GOLF: Williams remains positive despite missing state tournament with illness

May 17—Life is like the game of golf — things outside of your control are going to happen.

However, it is up to you to decide how much you let them affect you.

The Claremore boys golf team faced a challenging situation last week when its top player, sophomore Jack Williams, was sidelined by illness just before the Class 5A State Championships. Williams, who had been leading the team throughout the season, fell ill with hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD), which led to a fever and rash that prevented him from competing at the state level.

According to, HFMD is a contagious viral infection with symptoms that include fever, sore throat and loss of appetite, as well as sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. There is no treatment for HFMD, and the virus usually clears up within 7-10 days.

Williams first fell ill just before the Pryor Invitational on April 25, forcing him to miss the event. Determined to help his team, though, he competed at the Class 5A East Regional on May 1 at the Pryor Creek Golf Course despite not being fully recovered. Although the Zebras qualified for the state tournament, Williams shot his worst round of the season with an uncharacteristic score of 79 and finished behind teammates Tripp Jackson and Gage Hall.

"I was running a fever a couple of days before that, and then I decided just to play in regionals because I thought I'd get to feeling better by state," Williams said. "So I played in regionals and didn't do good, but we qualified for state. Then I just never got over it and got to feeling worse after regionals."

As his condition worsened, Williams ultimately had to withdraw from the state tournament, which took place on May 6 and 7 at Winter Creek Golf & Country Club in Blanchard.

His absence was a significant blow, for he had led the team in eight of the nine tournaments he played during the season, averaging a score of 75 with a best round of 70. If Williams had competed and maintained his average, Claremore would have likely placed fourth in Class 5A instead of eighth.

Williams remained positive despite his disappointment, recognizing that he still had two more years to compete at the state level.

"I knew I wouldn't be good (enough to play)," Williams said of his mindset leading up to the biggest tournament of the season. "I had a rash all over me, and I had a fever that whole time I was sick. I didn't feel good. I was obviously mad about not going to state, but I wasn't too mad just because I knew that, obviously, it wasn't my senior year. I definitely would have been a lot more mad (if that were the case)."

Claremore coach Tim Gregg had to make a quick decision, selecting versatile senior athlete Cameron Braswell to replace Williams at the state tournament. Primarily a football player and an all-state wrestler, Braswell had limited experience in competitive golf, having only joined the team for his senior year.

Emphasizing the importance of resilience and adaptability in both life and golf, Gregg consoled Williams by helping him to see the situation from a positive perspective.

"That's something that I immediately texted Jack and talked to his parents about," Gregg said. "'Hey, it's outside of our control. We can't be stressed about this kind of stuff.' I thought it was just a good learning opportunity and gave Cameron the opportunity to get to go. But at the same time, we wouldn't have even been in the position to go to state if Jack wouldn't have played at regionals with the symptoms that he was having."

Although Braswell scored a 293 and placed 70th of 72 golfers, his effort and consistency with rounds of 97, 98 and 98 were commendable given his limited experience in golf.

Gregg praised Braswell for his effort and leadership, noting that his commitment in the gym and his senior leadership made him a valuable addition to the team. He also acknowledged that Braswell's dedication in other sports translated well to his brief stint in golf, highlighting his ability to compete under pressure.

"You can definitely tell golf is Cameron's third sport, if it's even his third sport," Gregg said. "It might be his fourth or fifth sport with how many sports he plays. I would have loved to have Cameron for four years, but this was his only year he came out for golf, and to have the skills he had was pretty remarkable. He puts in the effort in the gym, and he was a leader for us in workouts. Scoring wise, I would say there were probably three guys who were close between sixth and eighth (on the team). But just with him being a senior, the leadership he had in the gym and the skills that he didn't show up with to golf is what made me take him over other people."

The Zebras had a successful season with four tournament wins, including the Skiatook Invitational, Miami Invitational, East Central Cardinal Classic and the Metro Lakes Conference Tournament. Despite the unexpected shuffle at the top, the team handled the adversity well, focusing on a "next man up" mentality, which Gregg admired.

Claremore's resilience in the face of Williams' absence demonstrated their determination and team spirit, setting a strong foundation for future success.

"I'm not really wanting to say we're gonna win state next year, but with the shuffling of the private schools out of 5A and us reloading, I think we'll be better next year than we were this year," Gregg said. "And the year after that, with the new transfer rules and what I've been hearing about kids wanting to come here to play golf now, it's different than it's been in the past. I would say we're just going to be reloading every year."

Reflecting on the season, Williams expressed satisfaction with his overall performance and is committed to improving for his junior year.

If this season was any indication, it seems that he is ready to make another jump in his development as a player and contend for an individual state championship.

"I'll just be practicing every day and getting better," Williams said.