WESTFIELD, Mass. - Westfield State University has renamed its annual fall golf invitational tournament in memory of alumnus Brett Williamson '11.
Williamson passed away in the summer of 2017 after a long and courageous battle with Cystic Fibrosis.
A member of the inaugural golf team at Westfield State, when the school revived the program in the fall of 2008, Williamson served as a team captain for the Owls.
Williamson was a member of the Owls' varsity golf team from the fall of 2008 through his graduation in 2011. Among many standout performances on the golf course, he helped Westfield to win the Elms College Blazer Invitational in Westfield's first intercollegiate meet in 20 years, on September 16, 2008. He placed second individually at MCLA Invite 2008, and won that tournament in the fall of 2009. Williamson placed fifth as an individual at the MASCAC Championship in the spring of 2010. Williamson was the low-scoring Owl at the first Westfield State Invitational tournament on October 11, 2008, the same tourney now re-named in his memory.
After graduating from Westfield State, Williamson worked as the assistant golf professional at the Ludlow Country Club under longtime pro Mike Bechard.
Westfield State golf coach Rich Sutter announced that the tournament would be renamed in honor of Brett at the start of the event on September 26, 2017. Westfield State won the inaugural version of the tournament with a team record low score of 295, and freshman Kyle Fairbanks outlasted teammate Matteo Godek in a playoff after both shot 72 to tie for low round of the day.
Brett's parents, Kathy and Bill, and sister Leah attended the awards ceremony to present the team and individual champions. Kathy made brief remarks at the time of the presentation, and shared this open letter to players who participate in the tournament.
Letter from Kathy Williamson to golfers at the Brett Williamson Invitational - September 26, 2017
Our son Brett Williamson was born a golfer. He started swinging a club at the age of 2. He played for hours, going around and around our house. He also loved basketball and was eventually known for his 3-point shot.
There were two things that were unique about Brett. He was right-handed but played sports, including golf, lefty, and he was born with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease in which a mutation causes serious damage to the lungs and digestive system.
Brett never let either of these things stop him from living a full life. Brett had his first hospitalization for his CF when he was 6 years old and pretty much every year after that he would have to be hospitalized for a week or two. As soon as he got out of the hospital he was back on the basketball court or golf course doing what made him happy.
Brett attended Ludlow High School where he played both basketball and golf. He made all Western Mass in golf and graduated from Ludlow High School in 2007. After high school Brett decided he didn't want to go to college too far from home because of his health, and applied to Westfield State University even though [at the time] they did not have a golf team.
I remember attending parent orientation when coach Sutter spoke to the parents. I asked him if he considered developing a golf team. Coach became very excited and said that he would like to have a golf team and he would want to coach it. He asked if I had a son who was a golfer and I assured him that yes, in fact I had a son who loved to golf.
In 2008, men's golf returned to Westfield State University after a twenty-year hiatus. Brett qualified to be a proud member of that team with Rich Sutter as the coach. During the next three years, Brett's dad and I went to every match and tournament. No one on either team ever knew what a struggle it was for Brett to just breathe. He never complained once in three years. We watched him carry his bag up and down fairways, knowing that it took every ounce of his energy to play 18 holes, but he never complained or felt sorry for himself.
Brett didn't hit the ball a mile. Most the time the other players out drove him, but he outshined everyone with his chipping and putting skills. Brett was co-captain and made some wonderful friends while he was on that golf team. He admired Coach Sutter for his leadership, his ability to show guidance to his players, and his sense of humor.
Brett graduated from Westfield State University in 2011 and decided that he wanted a career in golf. He began to take courses to become a golf professional. He was the medalist and one of only three golfers who qualified the first time he took the player's eligibility test to become a golf professional. He was so proud of himself and we were so happy to see him succeed at something he loved. He was the assistant golf professional at Ludlow Country Club until he became extremely ill and had to stop working and he was too weak to play golf.
It was decided in December 2016 that Brett needed a lung transplant because his lungs were only functioning at 13% capacity. He courageously went through days of testing to qualify for the transplant. The only thing keeping him off of the list was that he was too thin. He tried everything to put weight on but would suffer one setback after another.
On Friday July 7, 2017 Brett went in the hospital with a major lung infection. One of the last things he told his father that when he got his new lungs the first thing he wanted to do was play golf at Pebble Beach with him. Seven days later, on the morning of his 28th birthday, we lost our beautiful son. He fought until the very end. It had been six years since Brett played on Coach Sutter's golf team but Coach was one of the first people to be at Brett's service. Coach gave us comfort in knowing that Brett had made an impact on his life and he had not forgotten him.
So, no matter what obstacles you may face remember Brett's story and face them with courage and a huge smile---just like he did. This tournament named in Brett's memory, because of Coach Sutter, will assure that Brett's legacy lives on for many years. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for this honor to our son, Brett Edward Williamson, Westfield State class of 2011.