08/01/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
THE DAY HAD GONE WELL FOR golfer Kim Williams. She was just two strokes off the lead after the second round of the Youngstown-Warren Classic in Warren, Ohio, and was hoping for her first LPGA win ever. Then it happened. A few steps from a drugstore where she was going to buy baby oil to protect her putter from rust, she felt a sharp blow to her neck. "I put my hand to my neck, and when I took it down it was covered with blood." Williams, 31, had been shot.
The wounding was apparently a bizarre accident—caused by a stray 9-mm bullet fired a mile away by a target shooter who later turned himself in to police—and, miraculously, it seems to have given Williams's career a boost. After four days in Cleveland's Metro-Health Medical Center—where doctors elected not to risk surgery and to let the bullet remain lodged above her right clavicle unless it causes problems—Williams was released. But instead of recuperating at her Orlando home, Williams returned to the tour four days later and began playing her best golf of the year. At the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic she shot a three-under-par 210, finishing in a tie for 10th place.
Last week, after posting a 72 to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open in Lake Orion, Mich., Williams admitted to being exhausted. "My legs feel like Jell-O," she says. But the fatigue, she says, has actually improved her putting. It's as if someone has been watching over her—and Williams thinks she knows who. Drifting in and out of sleep during her stay in the hospital, she says she suddenly became aware of former touring pro Heather Farr, whose death from cancer last November at age 28 had a profound impact on her fellow golfers. "It just took all the air out of the room," says Kim. "I immediately felt Heather's presence. I could hardly speak."
Then there is the bullet itself—Williams can feel it every time she swallows—which, for Williams, helps put golf in perspective. "God must have some plan for my life," she says. "I'm just so astounded that I was spared."