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But for all he does, Walker remains

true to his roots and relishes his role as a minority who grew up in the Valley under “the love” from an African- American father (Leonard) and Hispanic mother (Juanita). He said his heritage gives him a unique perspective, and the patience Walker exudes as his career unfolds is proof positive. AZ GOLF Insider recently sat down

with Walker for a question-and-answer session. Here are some of Andy’s thoughts on junior golf, The First Tee, winning national championships, what it takes to be a competitive golfer and how to teach the game to all levels. He even shared a little secret about his upcoming wedding.

Who or what got you into golf? My dad, who at one time was president of the Desert Mashies, got me into golf. I was 3 or 4 years old, and I loved being on the course with him … I remember I was 5 when I played in my first tournament at Mountain Shadows, and even though I was the youngest player in the tournament, I blew them away. I wasn’t a phenom like Tiger, but I knew how to get the ball in the hole thanks to my dad.

What was it like growing up in Phoenix? It was a great childhood. I played a lot of sports when I was a kid: basketball, baseball and golf, which included the JGAA. I had some athletic genes, as my dad played Triple-A baseball, and I had cousin, Ray Ellis, who played for the Cleveland Browns. My nephew, Lenny Walker, who plays baseball and football at Tolleson High, he might be the best of us all.

Your bio lists 40 wins as an amateur. Did you have time for anything else? Yes, I did win some tournaments as a kid (laughter), including at the local and national level. But I still had time for baseball and basketball and other stuff. By the time I got to Camelback (High School), I had to make choices, but it was always going to be golf. That was my game and my talent.

What was your favorite golf memory as a kid? Traveling with my dad. . . . We had our traditions on the road, like we always

22 | AZ GOLF Insider | SPRING 2016

South Mountain Community College has won four of the last seven National Junior College Athletic Association men’s golf championships. Here is a team photo from last year’s national championship squad (from left): Head coach Andy Walker, Ben Harden, John Souza, Connor Klein, Jake DeForest, Ryan Douglass and assistant coach Aaron Puetz.

played a (card) game of gin to see who got to pick the menu that night. When we were on the road, we bonded, and that’s the same way it is for me with my son, AJ.

You’re the same age as Tiger Woods, so we’re guessing you played against him at the junior and college level? Oh, yeah, I’m six months older, so we probably ended up playing against each other in 20 to 25 tournaments. Those are some fond memories. I got him a few times but not as many as he got me.

How did you end up at Scottsdale Community College? Well, I was going to sign with the University of New Mexico, but the coach left at the last minute for another job in Texas and the incoming coach wanted to redshirt me. I knew Mike Ketchum, who was the coach at Scottsdale, and he had put together a really strong team. It was only one year; we finished second at nationals and I made an All-American team, so it was all good. The summer before, I had met Jason (Gore), who was playing at the University of Arizona, and we both transferred to Pepperdine, where we won an NCAA title.

What was winning that 1997 NCAA Championship like? It definitely was one of my best moments of my golf career. I was a sophomore and

played No. 3 and Jason was a junior and played No. 1. The way we did it, winning by 12 shots after leading by even more than that, was awesome, and it ended up getting me into the Pepperdine Hall of Fame.

Not many know that you had a lot of success on the minitours, winning 28 professional tournaments worldwide, and that you chased the PGA Tour for over a decade. I did pretty well with the minitours, state opens and especially the Gateway Tour, where I ran the table for a couple of years. But chasing the big tour was another story. I played well early, but my third year while playing the, I had a lot of injuries and started playing kind of mediocre. So it was a mixed bag, although I played in a few (PGA Tour) events over that 12-year span.

Your Big Break Ireland experience had to be fun. How did you get on the show and what did you get out of it? I knew a lot of people who worked for the Golf Channel, and they were always looking for a little personality, so I got a call for an interview. Lo and behold, they called me back. I didn’t want to do it at first. I felt it might be going backwards in regards to my golf career. But in the end, I opted out for the exposure, thinking it might take me somewhere. It turned out to be one of those experiences where you look back and say, I’m glad I did it.


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