A Bay Area “late bloomer” has a purposeful life

Bob Williams walks slowly from his cart to the practice ground on a sunny March day at the Menlo Country Club in Woodside. He carefully retrieves his racquet and smashes a few shots. He is mostly frustrated with the results and mumbles like any golfer tormented by this crazy game.

Williams faces the same challenge as other recreational players — life is busy. He spends most of his time on various projects, including promoting sportsmanship in collegiate athletics and speaking at peninsular schools.

Another not-so-random detail worth noting: Williams is 100 years old.

He grew up in Sausalito and lived for almost 16 years In front The Golden Gate Bridge opened in May 1937. Williams was in the front line of cars on the Marin County side of the bridge on this important day.

He attended the Naval Academy (his roommate was future astronaut Alan Shepard for a time), served in World War II, and enjoyed a successful career as an insurance executive. Then, in retirement, he got really active. Williams enjoys golf and still plays nine holes in Menlo almost every Sunday morning, an amazing feat when you’ve lived a full century.

But he also loves to write, mentor young people, inspire colleges for sportsmanship, honor veterans, and support his alma mater. He has found new meaning in these pursuits over the past 20+ years. And, perhaps not coincidentally, he chugged through his 80s and 90s despite heart problems before hitting the big, round number last summer.

“I love the idea of ​​being a late bloomer,” Williams said.

Bob Williams holds his golf club at Menlo Country Club, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Woodside, California. Williams, 100, a centenarian, remains active and plays golf regularly.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Unsurprisingly, he attributes much of his longevity to regular exercise. He ran (and then walked) in the stands at Stanford Stadium. Williams routinely went hiking, he said, until he was in his mid-90s. By his late 70s, he was doing push-ups three times a week.

Now at 100, William’s voice is rough and his mind sharp. He wrote a four-page article on “How to Live to Be 100, a 9-point Retirement Happiness Program,” complete with small black-and-white photos showing him at different stages of his life. He uses this as a guide when giving motivational speeches in schools.

Some of his suggestions are well known – exercise, avoid life-threatening falls and seek passions. Williams also advocates the joy of writing, joining and participating in organizations, and the “power and joy of appreciating others and expressing gratitude.”

As for golf, he first shot better than his age (79 at the time) by posting 77 at Sharon Heights in Menlo Park. He described himself as a casual player driven by the constant search for improvement. Williams took frequent classes in London, where he once lived part of the year, and he joked that he’d forgotten what he’d learned before coming back to the Bay Area.

But you’re never too old to think a breakthrough is on the horizon. Stanford women’s coach Anne Walker praised Williams’ swing last year, a comment he thinks about every time he plays. Walker also introduced him to standout Cardinal Rachel Heck, who won the NCAA championship last year; Williams hopes to host Heck in Menlo this spring or summer.

More than anything, Williams values ​​the social component of golf. He and his playing partners joke about spinning a Union Oil (76) or El Camino (101). They welcome the camaraderie as much as the good shots.

“It’s just the socializing that golf brings — that’s meaningful to me and my life,” Williams said. “It feels so good to be fooling around with friends.”

Bob Williams at Menlo Country Club.  At the age of 100, Williams still plays nine holes in Menlo almost every Sunday morning.

Bob Williams at Menlo Country Club. At the age of 100, Williams still plays nine holes in Menlo almost every Sunday morning.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

After his brief session on the range last month, Williams was asked if he still hits balls regularly. His reaction had nothing to do with being 100 or slowing down in the face of fatherhood. Rather, he simply said, “I’m too busy.”

Consider his recent appearance as a speaker at Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park. The kindergarten class gave him a rousing ovation, and Principal Alicia Payton-Miyazaki later emailed Williams praising his presentation — mostly about the Nine Point Happiness Program — and telling him how moved the students and teachers were.

His main project is promoting sportsmanship in college football. It began about 20 years ago, when Williams lamented the way players from many teams often abruptly left the field after games without acknowledging their fans.

Williams launched a persistent letter-writing campaign, trying to persuade schools that their football players should win or lose. Say hello to the student department. Maybe sing the alma mater. This happened occasionally, not routinely, in William’s experience.

Viardos Sports