Thoughts on Colleen Walker, LPGA Multiple Winner
It’s human nature. We are moved, at least partly in the intellect, partly in the gut, when we read of someone’s passing from an insidious disease. When we have had it touch us more closely, however, the response is stronger, because it is deepened and informed by experience. Somewhere in our brains, we search for some sign of fairness, especially when the subject offers a high example of how to live as a human being.
My family recently lost a friend and colleague to breast cancer – young, the energy of three people, accomplished, three young children losing their primary champion, on and on. There were moments that were hard to bear, but we knew that those even closer had to bear much more. Their life stories will be forever changed.
And so, as I read of Colleen Walker’s passing today, my experience kicked in, and I realized that, in the words of Paul Harvey, there would be “the rest of the story,” one that I would not see or hear. Colleen Walker was, without a doubt, loved and admired. “The rest of the story” is for them.
Since I never got to meet Ms. Walker, I’ll begin with the surface material. She was born in 1956 and grew up in Jacksonville, taking up golf at the age of fourteen. At 18, she was the Palm Beach Post Athlete and Player of the Year. Walker was a highly honored Florida State University golfer through ’78 (a marketing major), and turned pro in ’81, joining the LPGA in ’82.
Walker won nine times in twenty three years, including the Mayflower Classic, the Boston Five Classic, the Circle K LPGA Tucson Open, the Lady Keystone, the Oldsmobile LPGA Classic, the LPGA Corning Classic, the Safeco Classic and the Star Bank Classic. Her one major victory came at the du Maurier Classic of ’98, in Canada. Her career earnings fell just short of three million, she played on the Legends Tour and is enshrined in various Halls of Fame.
Pretty good, but there’s that “rest of the story,” which includes her marriage to Ron Bakich in ’87 and the birth of her son, Tyler Walker Bakich in ’96. That would make him around 16 years of age about now, and losing his mother in that part of life is his “rest of the story.” For those of us who ever wonder what our friends would say about us, try this – “…not only a great ambassador for the LPGA and the game of golf, but more importantly, was a true and faithful friend….from her caring smile, unselfish ways and deep devotion to her family, she will be dearly missed, but her love will live on in our hearts. I am blessed to have called her ‘friend.’” – Barb Mucha, fellow golfer.
Colleen Walker’s fight with cancer did not come out of the blue. It attacked her twice, the first time in 2003, and she rejoined the tour after extensive chemo and radiation. She overcame conditions like tendinitis in both elbows and cartilage damage in the wrist to continue playing, and was rewarded with the Heather Farr Award in ’04, a symbol of perseverance.
I still don’t know “the rest of the story,” but Colleen Walker’s friends and family do. She was an important presence to them, and even those of us who never met her can deduce that to garner such words of tribute and thanks, she must have demonstrated something very special with her life. In that knowledge, we will applaud her for that as well a terrific game of golf, and wish her loved ones a deeply meaningful “rest of the story.”