Golf: Williams fights back after freak accident

BILL BLIGHTON reports from North Carolina
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Kim Williams had a bullet removed from her neck and another added to her golf bag before taking the first-round lead in the US Women's Open Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina, yesterday.

She scored a one under par 69 after being badly injured in a bizarre accident in March, 1994, when a 9mm bullet, fired a quarter of a mile away by a sharpshooter, ricocheted off a wrecked car and lodged in her neck.

The incident happened in a Ohio supermarket car park and Williams, a 33-year-old from Nashville, was advised against surgery, living in fear until the missile was eventually removed last October.

She said: "My neck hurt every day of the year but it became inflamed and too painful. The doctor suggested I should have it out. But it was also very taxing mentally, the bullet was lodged near the main artery and I was constantly worried that it may move."

The operation was extremely dangerous and delicate but there was little delicacy displayed by the Bullet golf equipment company who swiftly seized on the commercial possibilities, offered Williams a contract and now their name is emblazoned on her bag.

She had four birdies on the demanding Pine Needles course to move two strokes ahead of British pair Trish Johnson and Catriona Matthew, who both did well to overcome a testing gusting wind for a one over par 71. it was a particularly refreshing return to form for Johnson, who slipped into the golfing wilderness after winning twice on the US circuit in 1993.

Her putting became so erratic that she took to using the sand iron on the greens during tournaments and it was that novel remedy and a tip from 21 year old Australian Karrie Webb which has given her the chance to recover from her slump.

She explained: "I was actually holing putts with my sand wedge and I realised that it was heavier than my putter. Now I have a putter like a mallet and Karrie helped too by suggesting that I line my putter up to the hole before addressing the ball. I played a practice round with her earlier this week, she won $65 from me but it was worth every cent."

US WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (Pinehurst, North Carolina): Early Leading first-round scores: (US unless stated): 69 K Williams. 70 K Tschetter, J Lidback, R Higashio (Japan), M Redman. 71 E Klein, T Johnson (GB), C Matthew (GB), M Will. 72 M McGann, C Nilsmark (Swe), S Croce (It), N Harvey, C Johnston-Forbes, S Steinhauer, G Graham, C Pierce (GB), M Bell. 73 J Piers, C Kerr, B Iverson, S Redman, T Kerdyk, V Goetze, L Kiggens, C Rarick, P Sinn. 74 M Hattori (Japan), V Skinner, J Carner, M Hirace (Japan), C Johnson, A Nicholas (GB), B Moucha, L Lee, K Golden. 75 K Albers, K Parker- Gregory, T Barrett, M McNamara, L Depaulo, S Turner, P Jordan, E Dahllof (Swe), D Pepper, D Ammaccapane.