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You almost won the Big Break, didn’t you? I should have won it, yeah. I mean, I won every challenge, it seemed, but the day I got eliminated, I won the challenge and still had to go to through the elimination round because they were down to just a few of us (four contestants). I missed a couple of putts, and then I three-putted from 15 feet and that was it. The sad walk (laughter).

How did you get into teaching? It was 2010 and I had just missed the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school by a shot. I’d been out there for six years making about $100,000 a year, and I was struggling to get by even though I was playing some pretty good golf. My first student, who is now a friend of mine, Phil Kerr, was playing golf with us through a mutual friend and he asked me to work with him. Phil ended up going from shooting 100- plus to par in about six months. That inspired me, and I liked the feeling of finally being at home and being able to be with my son.

What’s your teaching philosophy? I don’t necessarily teach you how to swing a golf club. I’m big into rhythm and tempo. If that’s off, nothing else is going to work. I try to find what you do well and enhance that. My goal is to teach people to shoot lower scores by turning a 5 into a 4 or a 4 into a 3 or a 7 into a 5. That’s my basic approach to teaching.

How did you become the coach at South Mountain CC? I met (former SMCC coach) Jake Harrington when I played and lived over at the Raven (Phoenix). We kind of hit it off and I became his assistant coach for three years. When he left to go to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, I got the job at South, which I love. I’ve got a great team; we won the national title last year with five freshmen, and I’ve got three of them back this year. I’m a lucky guy.

How good is this version of the Cougars? We recently won a tournament by 28 shots. We were 14 under, and Connor Klein shot 8-under 64 in the final round.

You have been instrumental in bringing junior combines to golf. Tell us about that. I founded U.S. Golf Combines last year, and we had probably 150 kids go through them. It’s very similar to what they do with football in that you measure skills. But the big thing is to help kids build a resume so they can earn a college scholarship. A player like Jordan Spieth doesn’t need us, but 98 percent of the other junior golfers do. The big news is, I’ve got two new business partners and we’re taking U.S. Golf Combines to a new level that will be able to reach thousands of kids.

Andy Walker and his soon-to-be bride Detria will be married in early April. The couple met at Pepperdine and have carried on a long-distance relationship that has stretched all the way from Phoenix to Dubai.

Filip Lundell got second, Justin Warren tied for third and Jake DeForest finished fifth. I mean, we threw out a 71 and 72. Now that’s strong!

How do you become a juco powerhouse that’s been rated No. 1 in every week but one since you became head coach two years ago? (Laughter) I look for kids who are under the radar, kids who have D-1 skills and are willing to learn. I always ask them if their ultimate goal is to play on the PGA Tour, and if they say no, then they probably don’t want to play for me.

Are you thinking about making the coaching jump to Division 1? Last year, I had a couple of good offers at some pretty big schools. I might have taken them, but my son came back here to live in the Valley after his mom was transferred from her job in Texas. There was no way I was leaving Arizona, so I put it on hold.

Is there a dream job out there for Andy Walker? Well, there’s two pretty good schools here in Arizona that I’d love to coach if the opportunity ever presented itself. But for right now, I’m content to be here with AJ and coach at South.

How is the First Tee doing in your opinion? Financially, it’s very successful. It’s a good program for teaching life skills and introducing kids to the game. I’d like to see them develop more kids who can compete at a higher level.

Is golf making progress in its attempt to diversify? Not really. I still think the access and the quality of instruction is not there for minority kids. I do think more minorities are playing, but not at a high level. I mean how many black players have you seen at the Tour level in the last 10 years? Maybe four or five?

We hear you’re getting married: When and to whom? The big day is in early April at a cool little retreat up in southern Utah called Amangiri Resort. My bride’s name is Detria, she lives in Dubai and we met at Pepperdine. It’s kind of fun: We didn’t date in college, we were just friends. Then we reconnected four or five years ago, and we were still just friends. But a year ago, I guess we got romantic. She’s wonderful. Let’s just say I outkicked my coverage!

What lies on the horizon for Andy Walker? Winning another national championship for South (Mountain) would be nice. On the business side, keep teaching competitive players and do more corporate outings and combines. I’m really not looking for “the grind” anymore, just spending more time with my family. To me, that’s what it’s all about — family. n

SPRING 2016 | AZ GOLF Insider | 23


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