2004: Walker in fast lane to Tour

By Ron Balicki

In many ways Jimmy Walker is no different than many who play golf for a living. When it’s time to get away from the golf course and free his mind from birdies and bogeys, Walker finds relaxation by fishing or taking in a movie.

In another way, the Nationwide Tour regular sets himself apart from his fellow pros. Walker, 25, likes to “relax” by heading out to the San Antonio Raceway with a 2004 Corvette Z06 and go from 0 to 125 mph in about 111⁄2 seconds over a quarter mile.

“I’m not sure you can call that relaxing, but it sure does give me a nice kind of rush,” Walker said. “My dad (Jim) and I do it for fun and we’ve really gotten into it. We just do it and race against time.”

Walker said he wanted to buy a street racer last winter to go along with his father’s 2000 Corvette. He told himself that would be something he would do when he won his first Nationwide Tour title.

He didn’t have to wait long. The former Baylor University standout captured the season-opening BellSouth Panama Championship in February and used a large chunk of his $90,000 check to make his four-wheeled dream come true.

“It’s basically a street car so I don’t drag race in competition,” he said. “It’s something I do for fun, an outlet to take my mind off golf.”

Still, Walker enjoys the thrill of the fast track and it seems golf is no different.

This year, he hopped on that fast lane on the Nationwide Tour and it could take him to the PGA Tour. He won twice in his first four Nationwide starts this season and has three other top 10s. He has earned $253,805 heading into this week’s Wichita Open in search of his third victory and a battlefield promotion.

Walker has paid his dues on a variety of mini-tour trails. He earned his Canadian Tour card and in 2002 won the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Swing at Eagle Mountain event, which he says “showed me I can play at the professional level.” He also has won tournaments on the Gateway and Tight Lies tours.

He started coming into his own in ’03 on the Nationwide circuit, again starting out as a Monday qualifier but going on to post 10 top-25 finishes in 18 starts. He earned full exempt status for ’04 by finishing 31st on the Nationwide money list.

“It’s been a nice, steady progression,” he said. “It’s been step by step. This year, it’s like all the hard work is showing and paying off. I always felt I was playing catch up last year.

“I really worked hard on trying to get myself mentally ready from the first tee shot, to put myself in a weekend mode on Thursday and Friday.”

From the outset in 2004 Walker was in weekend mode, going wire-to-wire in Panama. Three tournaments later, he rallied from eight strokes behind to win the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

“I’ve won by being the front-runner and won from behind so that makes me feel good,” he said. “It also lets me know I have what it takes to compete out here and at the next level.”

Now he wants the opportunity to see how he and his game stack up on the PGA Tour. When he does get

himself into contention, you can bet he will not be scared, not anymore.

“It is so much fun being in that position, having a chance to win coming down the stretch,” he said.

“I don’t get nervous, I get excited.”

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