There are many instances of injuries causing people to switch sports or athletic career paths, from former English football player Jimmy Bullard to Olympic silver medalist Rebecca Romero. What each athlete has in common is the constant pursuit of competition. The same can be said for St. Joe’s graduate student Wills Montgomery.
The Exton, Pennsylvania product was set on playing baseball through elementary and middle school, but after sustaining a serious foot injury leading into his first year of high school, he was left to find another sport. Unable to run with the injury, his doctor told him that he was still able to twist his foot, which led to Montgomery picking up golf while recovering.
One drawback to golf, however, is that the sport is primarily an individual competition, unlike basketball, soccer or other common team sports. But Montgomery not only did not mind that aspect, he thrived off it.
“I could only blame myself if I did not play well and if I did play well it was all because of the work that I had put in,” Montgomery said. “There’s a quote that I have ingrained in me, and I am paraphrasing here, but it says that golf is a lot harder than baseball because in golf you have to go find your foul balls and play it from there.”
It wasn’t until his sophomore year of playing that he realized that he might have a bright future in the sport after competing in a playoff at the 2014 ChesMont League Championship.
“I remember standing on the tee during the sudden death playoff with the other three guys in the playoff, all seniors who were going to be playing at the next level; one had a scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame, ”Montgomery recalled. “So after that, I realized that I could play at the collegiate level.”
The business intelligence and analytics major ended up finishing second overall in the event while also averaging 78.1 strokes per round. His high school career is littered with impressive achievements from capturing the Central Dauphin Invitational and Hershey Invitational medalist honors as a senior, to represent Pennsylvania at the 2016 Williamson Cup, and winning the 2015 Hickory Valley championship and the 2016 Pennsylvania junior Tour Indian Springs title.
When Montgomery landed on Hawk Hill his first year, his success in high school accelerated at the collegiate level. He was named Atlantic 10 (A-10) Rookie of the Week twice, posting three-top 20 finishes and one-top 10 in all ten events while averaging 75.36 strokes per round in 25 rounds.
One would think that one of those individual accolades would be Montgomery’s favorite memory from his golfing career but instead, that was when the Hawks won the 2019 Columbia Invitational.
“That’s been the only team win that I have been a part of and it has been something that I have been striving to achieve ever since,” Montgomery said. “It was a special time to share with all of my teammates and it is something that I will never forget.”
A common misconception held is that golf can not possibly be a team sport as each player is directly competing against one another, but Montgomery wants to put that narrative to rest and explained that at the end of the day, each player on the roster still has the same goal of contributing to wins.
“I get asked all the time how golf can be a team sport and how it’s set up that way,” Montgomery said. “We all know that how we play a certain day is not going to influence how others on the team will play, in contrast to a sport like basketball where players can make other guys on the court better with how they play, but with that being said, there are still individual accolades that we all set out to achieve. Whether those goals and accolades come from within or from outside noise, the number one concern is team success. ”
The graduate student still has sights set on continuing to improve his game as St. Joe’s has only four more events before the end of their regular season with the A-10 Championship just around the corner.
“I’m hoping to improve on my consistency moving forward,” Montgomery said. “I believe that my ‘good’ golf can compete with anybody in the country, but it just comes down to how often I can play my ‘good’ golf. Playing just one round of good golf over the course of a 3-round tournament is not going to achieve anything, so putting together more solid rounds and doing it over an extended period of time is something I am looking forward to seeing if I can achieve . ”
This article was first published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 5, 2022 as part of the Inquirer’s college correspondent program.