October 8, 2015
Hokies honor veteran on the course
Long-time booster to be recognized this weekend

Since Jay Hardwick has been the golf coach at Virginia Tech, Freddie Williams has been a big part of the Hokie Nation. The first donor to the program, Williams has been a vital cog in what has become one of the great support groups in college athletics.

Always an important part of the program, Williams will take on added significance, beginning this weekend. When the Hokies take the course at Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Freddie Williams’ name and rank will be emblazoned on a team golf bag. Joey Lane, a junior co-captain, will carry that name with pride and honor this week. He earned the honor by winning the season-opening qualifying tournament. For the remainder of the season, a different Hokie golfer will carry the bag each week.

“Freddie was such an inspiration to everyone he came in contact with, especially me, and our friendship grew,” Hardwick said. “When I went to play the Florida Winter Tour in late 1972, Freddie came to watch some of our tournaments. In April 1973, I went back to Giles CC as the Head Golf Professional, a position I held for 10 years until coming to Virginia Tech in 1983. During that time we took a team from the club annually to the World Pro-Am Championship in Castle Harbour, Bermuda, and Freddie went with us every year.”

The significance of this honor beginning at a tournament hosted by East Tennessee State is striking. Williams, though very much a part of the Hokie program, is a 1963 graduate of ETSU and in 2013, was inducted into the ETSU ROTC Hall of Fame.

Following graduation, Williams was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. Upon deployment to Vietnam, Williams was assigned to 155th Assault Helicopter Company. He was medically retired to the rank of Captain following his being severely injured in a helicopter crash in support of the U.S. Special Forces. Captain Williams, the aircraft commander and his crew had just extracted a four-member Special Forces team.

Captain Williams suffered severe spinal cord injuries and was initially paralyzed from the waist down for many months. With help from the Veterans Administration hospitals, he eventually learned to walk with assistance. Ultimately, he learned to walk unassisted and drive an automobile.

Following his military service, Williams was an aide to Virginia State Senator Danny Bird for seven years and then served as registrar for Giles County for 15 years. Williams also has been active in local civic clubs in the Pearisburg area.

Williams and Hardwick formed a strong friendship when Hardwick was the PGA Professional and General Manager at Giles Country Club. At GCC, Hardwick encouraged Williams to give golf a try and they regularly played together. The veteran eventually became a 24 handicapper, despite his physical limitations.

“When our team supported the Wounded Warriors last year through the Folds of Honor program, I got the idea of honoring someone that we knew - someone locally - and immediately thought about Freddie,” Hardwick continued. ”I ran the idea of carrying a team bag with his name and rank on it by Coach Brian Sharp, who has known him since he came here as a player in 1991 and he really liked it, so I discussed it with the players and they were on board. Nike was instrumental in making the bag panel for us and when we received it two weeks ago I had the honor of calling Freddie and telling him what we were doing. Obviously, he was emotional, as was I in telling him, but this is a very small thing we are doing compared to the sacrifice he made for us and our country.”

When Hardwick returned to his alma mater to begin his highly successful coaching career, Williams was immediately involved. The program’s first donor, Williams was the honorary starter for the Hokie Spring Swing Golf Classic, the program’s fund-raiser, for more than 20 years.

“I am proud that we are able to honor not only Freddie, but all wounded warriors, by carrying the bag and bringing recognition to the brave men and women who serve our country,” Hardwick concluded.

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