Walker a major champion and major inspiration

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Colleen Walker’s passing Tuesday night brings back the memory of her determined spirit.

Back when I first started covering golf, she was among the first LPGA pros I wrote about at the old Office Depot pro-am at Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. I wrote about how skillfully she handled the dilemma so many LPGA pros confront.

Back when Colleen was closing fast on her 40th birthday, she confided she could hear her biological clock ticking. She and her husband, Ron Bakich, really wanted to have a baby. She realized, however, that her competitive clock was also ticking and she also wanted to win her first major championship. She wasn’t sure if she could balance motherhood with the commitment it would take to win a major.

She solved the problem.

Walker had her baby, Tyler Walker Bakich, two months after her 40th birthday. Nine months after that, she won her first major, the du Maurier Classic. Then she won her very next start.

“She found inspiration,” Ron told me back then.

After the birth, Colleen attached a photo of her son on a tag on her golf bag so she could see him every time she plucked a club from it. She also kept a trinket with Tyler’s name spelled out in baby blocks on the bag. Tyler traveled 10,000 miles with his mama on tour in his first year of life.

Walker, who battled through breast cancer in ’03 and various other injuries in her career, was an inspiration to fellow players. She won the Heather Farr Award in ’04 for her persevering spirit. Though her cancer went into remission, it returned late last year. She died at 56.