Monday, August 27, 2007

Jimmy Walker Back on the Radar Screen

It was great to see Colt Knost winning the U.S. Amateur championship, but for me the biggest news of the weekend was Jimmy Walker's victory in the Nationwide Tour National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic. Walker began the day seven strokes off the lead, but shot 67 and wound up winning by one as the leader collapsed.

Walker is from Cibolo, one of San Antonio's bedroom communities, and plays out of Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, where his instructor, Bryan Gathright, is the director of golf.

I recall talking to Bryan about five years ago - before Jimmy had even gained exempt status on the Nationwide Tour - and being told that Walker would someday be the No. 1 golfer in the world. It seemed believable as Walker's career took off from there, and as Jimmy display the booming drives and deft putting touch that made Gathright so confident.

Walker gained status on the Nationwide Tour in 2003, then was that circuit's money leader and Player of the Year in 2004. A race up the world rankings to the elite level of golf seemed possible as Walker embarked on his 2005 PGA Tour rookie season.

But in the very first tournament of the year, Walker hurt his neck, and he never recovered. He missed almost all of 2005, got into some tournaments in 2006 on a medical exemption, but essentially fell off the radar screen.

So this year it was back to the Nationwide Tour, where the results have been mixed. Walker has made all but five cuts, but had only one Top 10 prior to last weekend. He was 62nd on the money list prior to the Pete Dye Classic, well outside the Top 25 who automatically earn PGA Tour cards.

Now, after the win, Jimmy has jumped all the way to No. 16 on the money list, and the PGA Tour appears within his grasp again.

It's good to see for a player who is a nice guy with a world of talent.

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