Beginning his second season as men’s golf coach at East Mississippi Community College, Benji Williams also serves as the head golf professional at Lion Hills in Columbus.
Despite carrying only five golfers on his roster throughout the 2014-15 campaign, Williams guided the Lions to a runner-up team finish at the EMCC-hosted MACJC State Golf Championship played at Lion Hills. In succeeding veteran EMCC coach Dale Peay a season ago, last year’s postseason showing by the Lions marked the fourth time in the last five years that East Mississippi earned state runner-up golf honors as a team.
Individually for the Lions this past spring, sophomore Steven Eilders became the ninth golfer in school history to represent East Mississippi Community College in the NJCAA Men’s Golf Championship. In addition, Eilders and fellow EMCC sophomore Hunter Harmon were accorded second-team all-state honors based on their season scoring averages.
A three-sport athlete at Sulligent (Ala.) High School, Williams attended Concordia College in Selma, Ala., on a baseball scholarship. While in college as a four-year baseball letterman for the Hornets, he developed a passion for the game of golf and immediately began to pave out his career path.
Upon graduation from Concordia College-Selma in May 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Williams married his high school sweetheart – the former Michelle Chandler – and the newlyweds moved to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to jointly attend the College of Golf at Keiser University, the only regionally accredited golf career university in the United States. With an associate’s degree and a perfect 4.0 grade point average in professional golf management, Williams’ first job in the golf business was at The PGA Learning and Performance Center in Port St. Lucie.
During his final semester at Keiser University, where he was a member of the school’s golf team, Williams and his wife headed to Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., for an eight-week internship. Following graduation, the couple moved back to their hometown to open a pro shop at Oak Hill Country Club in Sulligent. Advancement continued for Williams in the golf business, as he soon became an assistant golf professional at the 36-hole Craft Farms Golf Resort in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Williams qualified on his first attempt to become certified as a PGA Apprentice Level 1 in the PGA Golf Management Program 2.0. In July 2012, he shot 75-72 (147) on the Ryder Course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie to qualify.
As the parents of a 2-year-old son, Bentley Chandler, Williams gives daily golf lessons and runs instructional golf camps as the head golf professional at Lion Hills in addition to his day-to-day duties as the Lions’ head golf coach. His wife, Michelle, who has passed her LPGA playing ability test, works part-time at Lion Hills assisting with the pro shop and giving golf lessons.