LOS ANGELES – So what’s life like when you’re the hottest player on the planet?
Jimmy Walker will tell you it’s terrific even if he isn’t exactly basking in the regal life you might expect here in the shadow of Tinseltown.
No, Walker isn’t spoiling himself at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just up the road from Riviera Country Club, while playing the Northern Trust Open.
In fact, his humble abode this week doesn’t have enough water to allow him to take hot showers in the mornings.
He doesn’t even have the basic convenience of a sewer hookup.
The most dominant force on the PGA Tour this season is stumbling out of his 43-foot Tiffin motor home in the mornings and hiking down a hill to take his showers in a public restroom. The man who has already won $3.6 million in earnings this season is shaving beside strangers.
“Feels like we’re in college again,” says his wife, Erin.
And that’s just fine with Jimmy Walker, who is enjoying the sanctuary their somewhat “Spartan” life provides at an RV campground that couldn’t exactly accommodate all their needs this week.
After winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Walker gathered Erin and their two young children and packed them into their motor home for the long drive south to Los Angeles. When they finally arrived at their appointed campground 25 minutes from Riviera, there was a mix-up with their reservation. They were stuck with a site that didn’t have the hookups that make their traveling abode its usual luxury vessel.
With the craziness Walker’s swift emergence as a golfing force has brought into their lives, even this week’s inconveniences haven’t been able to spoil the sanctuary that keeps Walker grounded.
Though disappointed with his even-par 71 Friday at Riviera, Walker gave himself a chance this weekend to win for the fourth time this wraparound season, for the third time in his last four starts. He’s just five shots behind Sang-Moon Bae.
“Today was one of those days. I just wasn't hitting it, didn't have great control over the things that were going on,” Walker said. “But, yeah, I’m definitely happy to be in a decent spot going into the weekend."
Whether a day ends with some frustration, like Friday did, or with exhilaration, like Sunday’s win at Pebble Beach did, Walker knows he’ll find what he needs in his mobile home-away-from-home.
“We love it,” Erin said. “You have to be a little adventurous, but it works great. It’s just like living in a house. We have a refrigerator, a washer and a dryer.”
Jimmy and Erin have two boys, Mclain, who is 3½, and Beckett, who will turn 1 next week. Jimmy drives the motor home, which they use most of the time they are on the road together. When needed, for long trips between venues, the family will fly together with somebody driving the motor home to the new tournament site.
“With two little kids, it’s great,” Erin said. “I’m not the kind of person who can pack and unpack every single week. It just stresses me out. More than that, this keeps things normal for all of us. Jimmy has the same bed, the same pillow. We can cook when we want to cook. The boys can run around outside, which they like to do. We have crazy boys. They like to play outside with their trucks and get dirty.
“It’s definitely not for everybody. If you like room service every day, it’s not for you, but it works well for us.”
Though the boys are young, Mclain is starting to understand that his daddy’s becoming a big deal. He’s seeing the craziness his father is creating. He likes running out on the green to hug his father after wins.
“At the beginning of the week at Pebble, Mclain’s like, `I want to run out on the green and give Daddy a hug again. Daddy’s going to win,’" Erin said. “I’m like, `It’s kind of a long shot, Mclain,’ but he kind of gets what’s going on.”
The boys keep Jimmy grounded, too. After he won at Pebble Beach, Jimmy called a close friend in Carmel, who owns a restaurant there. He asked if they were still open. “We are for you,” his friend told him.
That’s where the family celebrated, but it made for a long day.
“By the time we got back [to the motor home], the boys were in full-on meltdown mode,” Erin said. “Jimmy was like, `Well, back to reality.’”
That’s how the hottest player on the planet rolls these days. He keeps it real.