PGAs of Europe

Inside The Ropes at The Ryder Cup…

The Yorkshire, UK, coach, along with mentor and PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Master Professional Pete Cowen, is at Hazeltine National Golf Club working with six players.

During two practice rounds, Walker has been a familiar figure alongside the groups of Chris Wood, Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick, analysing and assessing and stepping in with input if needed.

Reflecting on his role at the 41st Ryder Cup, Walker admits much of the groundwork has been laid prior to arrival but he’s is on hand to fine-tune if required.

“It is a funny week, I saw Dan with Pete at the range last week, and that’s where you do the work really,” said Walker.

“Matt I had seen him in Italy the week before but he had come to America to practise. I saw Chris Wood as well and you kind of get it all off your chest then on what you’re doing.

“Really, when you are here, it is reiterating what you’ve worked on and dealing with anything that crops up – whether it is shots they hit on the course, how they feel or whatever it is. You might not be used that much but it’s just in case.”

They are also a sounding board – not just for the players but for European captain Darren Clarke and his vice captains too.

“I’ve been to one Ryder Cup, Pete’s been to 11 so they tap into that a bit, we speak to vice captains about how they are playing and feeling, also acting as a middleman between them. It’s quite diverse but the lion’s share is shots and how they are feeling and what’s happened if they’ve missed it in a certain direction.”

Doing your work under the eyes of thousands of spectators could potentially be pretty intimidating but Walker takes it all in his stride.

“You definitely get more accustomed to it, even just going to major championships, there is a novelty to it but like anything else you just get used to it, you’re less fazed, calmer and you have dealt with difficult situations in the past which helps you deal with them in the future. I’ve got some experience, not as much as Pete or David Leadbetter, but enough.”

Working with elite level performers brings its own set of challenges – not least because they are so good – but it’s a role that Walker relishes.

“It’s harder to see things because it is much more subtle, but a lot of principles cross over and you self-perpetuate. The more you do it, the more you get an eye for it, the more experience you have, the more you handle situations better.”

And like any person seeking to improve there is no resting on laurels. It’s very much a case of always learning and building the knowledge base.

“I don’t think you can afford not to,” added Walker. “We are lucky to be exposed to elite level players and the more you are exposed the more you learn, you almost gain a competitive advantage in a way. The day you stop learning is the day it’s time to hang up your boots and do something else.”

For any aspiring coaches, Walker has some sage advice.

“You have just go to love your topic. In my experience I’ve always been motivated when I’m interested. If you lose your interest that is dangerous, I’d say Pete (Cowen), like myself, is obsessed with golf and coaching and that’s the key.”

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