Tuesday, 27th September, 2016

PGA Pro Set To Tick The Bucket

Story published at 12:05, Thursday, September 25th, 2014


Mike Walker, left, with Thomas Bjorn (courtesy of Getty Images)

Mike Walker, left, with Thomas Bjorn (courtesy of Getty Images)

Mike Walker will tick off a ‘bucket list’ ambition when he steps inside the ropes at the Ryder Cup this week.

The Yorkshire PGA professional, and European Tour coach, has seen most things in golf but a close up view of the sport’s greatest spectacle will be a first.

Walker left a career in the pharmaceuticals industry to pursue a coaching career alongside PGA Master Professional Pete Cowen and now travels the world passing on his expertise to some of the game’s biggest names.

Both he and Cowen are at Gleneagles fine-tuning the preparations of a third of Paul McGinley’s team – Walker looks after Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn while Cowen tends to the games of Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson.

“The Ryder Cup will be a real highlight as far as I’m concerned. Pete (Cowen) is used to it but for me it’s a bucket list thing,” explained Walker who has never even attended the biennial showpiece as a spectator.

“I have been to all the majors, travelled the world and you kind of run out of things you want to do but the chance to be inside the ropes at a Ryder Cup is definitely one of them.

“My first memories of the Ryder Cup are of Seve and Olly, and my idol was Nick Faldo so I always enjoyed watching him in the Ryder Cup.”

Rotherham-based Walker has been working with Westwood for the best part of a year during which the Florida-based golfer’s dedication and return to form earned him one of McGinley’s three wild card picks.

“The last two months he has really got fit, lost 20lbs, worked hard and he’s got the bit between his teeth,” said Walker. “I think Lee has shown just about enough form, and with his experience on top of that, I think Paul McGinley was really keen to pick him.

“Lee has always had a good temperament, he has a naturally kind of psychological strength. When you’ve got that much experience he has seen it all and is ideal for the Ryder Cup.”

So too is Bjorn, who is making his third appearance for Europe which Walker believes is apt reward for his return to form.

“Bjorn has had a fantastic couple of years. It’s so difficult to qualify for the Ryder Cup, you have to play unbelievable well and Thomas deserves his place in the team.”

Walker is relishing the impending battle over Gleneagles’ PGA Centenary Course but isn’t buying into the Europe as favourites tag.

“On paper Europe are just favourites but they are all such good players everybody can beat everybody on their day,” he added. “The difference has always been the solidarity of the European team, you sense the friendships in the team, that’s the perception from the outside.”

With his ringside view, Walker will know for sure come Sunday.

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