Jimmy Walker: Three-time Tour winner on Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods and life on other planets

Jimmy Walker at the Very Large Array radio telescope facility in New Mexico.
Robert Seale/SI
Jimmy Walker at the Very Large Array radio telescope facility in New Mexico.

It took you 187 events to get your first win. Now you've won three times since last October. How have you raised your game?

With time comes more experience, and now I have more experience on Tour. I've learned how to really play and enjoy all of the courses, so that's helped. And I also started working with Butch Harmon about a year and a half ago, which has made a difference with the physical part of the game. It's given me more confidence.

When you reached out to Butch Harmon, he didn't even return your calls at first. Do you feel people are finally giving you the proper recognition?

I don't feel like I deserve anything. You have to go out and earn recognition. I hadn't won, and I was searching for help, and I wanted to see the best. [Harmon] called around and vetted me a bit, and what he heard was, "Jimmy is underutilizing his talent, and you can make him better." That's why he took me on. You always have to keep learning in this game, and to keep trying to become better.

What's the most important thing that Harmon has taught you?

He's taught me a lot about patience—about letting things come to you and just happen. And we've done some really good work with the swing. I'm working on things that require breaking 20 or so years of habit, which is hard to do. It's a continual process, and I'm really happy that he took me in, and that we're working on what we are.

What separates the Tour winners from the guys who can't close it out?

A lot of it is mental. When you watch guys on the range, you see that everybody out here has the physical skills and tools to win, but it's hard to put it together for four straight days. That's the key. For years, I put three good rounds in, and I'd have one bad round, and that kept me from playing the level of golf I'm capable of. Then, I felt it was just nine holes per tournament holding me back. It's just a matter of hanging in there.

You played with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open. What was that like?

It was fun to get to see the whole circus up close. I can only imagine what that's like on a Saturday or Sunday, when he's playing well and in the hunt. But we had a good time. He was very nice.

You're into astrophotography, which means you take pictures of stars and other celestial objects, and you're very good at it. Do you find it hard to juggle your hobby with your day job?

It takes a lot of work. You have to drive out of the city a couple hours and go to a really dark place to set up all of your equipment. Once I started getting decent at it, I started talking to some guys who do remote telescope hosting in New Mexico. They set up all your stuff for you, and you can log in every night to the computer that runs the telescope camera and control it remotely.

A lot of Tour pros are into hunting and fishing. You hunt, too, but you're hunting for other galaxies.

It's a little pricey, but I don't have any golf club memberships or anything, so I said "What the heck, let's try it." I wasn't able to do enough [work on the images I photographed], what with golf, travel, and just being tired. But now, I wake up in the morning and my telescope camera has been shooting all night, whenever the weather is good, which is about 280 days a year in New Mexico. So when I have time, I can put the images together.

Do you think there's extraterrestrial life out there?

With all the pictures I've taken, and the reading I've done about galaxies, and how many stars there are in galaxies, and how many galaxies there are in the universe, there's no question that there's something out there. There's gotta be. Have aliens visited Earth? I seriously doubt it. [The universe] is so big, it's hard to comprehend, really. But I have no doubt that there is life out there, just based on the numbers.

Which Tour pro do you suspect is actually from outer space?

[Laughs] Tiger, because the stuff he's done in his career is out of this world.

 

The Jimmy I Know

By D.A. Points

Two-time PGA Tour winner

"Jimmy and I finished first and second on the Nationwide [now Web.com] Tour money list in 2004, so we go back a ways and have known each other a long time. We have lots of things in common. We like to drink wine together, and our families are close.

"[Because of his recent success], people are just starting to get to know him, and the media thinks that if you've been out on Tour for a few years and you didn't win right away then you're a journeyman or a grinder. But that's not even close to right. Jimmy won three times on the Nationwide Tour, and he's played well for a long time. Now it's just his time. Same with me. We've both been playing for a lot of years, and sometimes it's just your time.

"Jimmy's just a normal guy. He's close with his parents and his wife's parents. He loves his kids, and he's just a good person."

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