LAS VEGAS (AP) — Katie Walker underwent three operations by the time she was 11 months old, the last to amputate her left leg from just above the knee.
Now, she’s a freshman on the golf team at Cal State Bakersfield in her hometown despite having spent her entire life in a prosthesis.
“I never really considered myself having a handicap,” Walker said Saturday, on hand as an ambassador for her sport at the Frys.com Open. “My motto’s always been that if you put your mind to it and you’re determined, you can do it. You might do it a little differently, but you can still accomplish those things.”
Walker was helping out with a clinic for close to 200 high school golfers Saturday at the TPC Summerlin course led by noted instructor Butch Harmon, who personally invited her to take part.
The 18-year-old Walker was born with a heart murmur, one kidney, an improperly formed gastrointestinal tract and a missing tibia in her left leg that eventually led to it being amputated.
Her left hip wasn’t fully developed, either, so the prosthetic leg covers her entire leg to help compensate. She had her first surgery at 3 months old, another at 5 months, then the amputation at 11 months.
That never stopped her. Walker was always active: She showed lambs and pigs in 4-H, swam, rollerbladed and ice skated. Her big brother, Joey, helped push her, too. He is 22 months older and plays baseball at Bakersfield College.
“I never really let my leg slow me down,” Walker said.
She figured golf was a sport she could play all her life, and her father, Marlan, was a self-proclaimed “hacker.”
Walker was fitted for the first of her 18 different prostheses at a year old and has made numerous trips to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a host for the Frys.com Open.
Two years ago, the left-handed Walker had a hole-in-one during an area high school qualifying tournament – hitting her pitching wedge shot into the hole on the 84-yard, par-3 13th at Wasco Valley Rose Golf Course in California.
Golf Digest predicts the odds at 12,000-to-1 for an amateur to make a hole-in-one. Her parents missed it after she asked them not to attend that day.
“I was an emotional wreck,” said Walker, who initially scared her dad when she called home because he thought she had been injured based on her excited tone.
Walker also has produced three songs, but her music has been put on “the back burner.” Yet she typically sings while on the golf course. Walker, who took a midterm exam Friday before driving to the desert with her parents, plans to pursue a degree in nursing or kinesiology.
“She’s definitely a gift,” said her mother, Nancy.
Walker walked some holes Saturday, watching John Daly on the par-5, 492-yard third. Daly overshot the green on his approach, chipped 12 feet short of the hole then spun his putt around the cup before it bounced just out.
“I thought for sure it was in,” she said. “It was insane.”