Dave Price: NU senior Walker is mentally prepared
Knowing how important a good mental approach is in golf, Ryan Walker is looking to take his game to a new level in his senior year at Nevada Union High School – and beyond.
Both on and off the course.
Walker spent considerable time working on his game during the offseason and the rewards are paying dividends – especially the mental ones – because he has already emerged as one of the leaders for the Nevada Union boys golf team this season.
And in the process, Walker used his head to develop a unique approach to completing his senior class project when he attended the 53rd PGA Merchandise Show & Convention on Jan. 26-29 in Orlando, Fla.
Talk about a dream come true. Walker never hesitated when his friend, Stephanie Schalker, called up and asked if he wanted to see this show at the Orange County Convention Center.
“Stephanie said she was going back with her mom, Janet Wood, who works for Booklegger (director of operations). I said, ‘Absolutely.’ To walk in and see 500,000 square feet of golf, that’s like heaven on earth to me,” Walker said. “Then I got to thinking about how I could make this my senior project. To be able to combine having fun with my school project, I had an absolutely incredible time.”
His project involved meeting with Robert Kraut, president of Booklegger, a Grass Valley-based company that distributes golf accessories and is well-known at the PGA Merchandise Show.
“They’ve been attending the show for a long time, so they’re very well-respected in the industry,” Walker said. “They were right in the center of the show, right in the thick of traffic. I saw a lot of golf celebrities – Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Jim McLean, Matt Adams – It was pretty much a ‘who’s who’ of the golf industry.”
Having written a six-page paper on what he learned, all that remains to complete the senior project is to give his presentation to a panel of judges. In the meantime, Walker has turned his focus to the course and the business of climbing to a new level in his fourth season with the Nevada Union golf program.
“He’s doing a really fine job,” Nevada Union coach Hank Davidson said. “He put in time in the offseason, he took lessons, and it’s paid off.
“Ryan has been playing as our No. 3, but he’s playing better than that. He’s playing well, he’s a good leader, he’s exceeded my expectations. This is his year.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Miner shot a solid round of 40 at Alta Sierra Country Club on Wednesday to share the team lead with D.J. Milligan in Nevada Union’s 212-239 win against Placer.
“That was OK, but by no means does it show what I’m capable of,” Walker said with a shrug.
This is vast improvement from last year, when Walker was not an everyday member of the Miners’ varsity lineup. So what’s been the difference? Winning the mind game.
“Maturity,” he said. “Being able to handle the ups and downs and not let it affect me. That’s the big difference. You’re done as soon as you get angry out there.”
It helped being around a quality player like Erik Flores, a 2005 Nevada Union graduate who is now a first-string player for nationally-ranked UCLA. Flores definitely served as a role model for players such as John Hyland, Gavin Butcher, Milligan and Walker – now known as the “Big Four” in Nevada Union’s lineup.
“I learned a lot from the times I played with him,” Walker said. “I know I’d like to follow in Erik’s footsteps and play in his league. Our Big Four, we all pretty much have the same ambition.”
Actually, Walker is going to be in the same league as Flores starting in the fall because he will be at Pacific-10 Conference rival Arizona State – on an academic scholarship. He has carried a 3.7 grade point average through four years of high school and his work in the classroom has paid dividends.
“I could have gone to a Division II school and played golf, or something like that, but I want to get my education first and foremost,” he said. “I was accepted into their (Arizona State) business program as a freshman, which is pretty rare. Normally, you can’t get in until your junior year. It was a fantastic opportunity that was too good to pass up.”
Walker, who also plans to carry a minor in journalism, hasn’t completely discarded the idea of playing at the collegiate level, either. Even at Arizona State.
“There are more than 200 golf courses within an hour’s drive in Phoenix, so I’ll have a lot of chances to play and work on my game and improve,” he said. “Then, I’ll probably try to walk on the team as a sophomore or junior.”
“Ultimately, I’d like to play professional. But even if I’m not one of the fortunate few who are able to do that, I’d like to stay with golf somehow, whether it’s something to do with sales or market or even broadcast journalism.”
Yes, it does sound like young Walker is winning the mind game.
To contact Dave Price, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.