The Joy of Golf: Sky’s the limit for Jimmy the stargazer

Joy Chakravarty 17:04 13/02/2014
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Shooting star: Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker knows a lot about stars. It’s time now to get used to the stardom. The 34-year-old Texan, who has won the Open, the Sony Open and last week’s Pebble Beach AT&T National Pro-Am in just eight starts this season, has a most unusual hobby for a professional athlete – astrophotography.

Visit his website, and you will see how good Walker is with his specialised equipment, which set him back more than $50,000 (Dh183,000) at the time of purchase.

His unusual passion has also landed him a unique endorsement deal with Celestron Telescopes. Walker the golfer is also as fascinating as his hobby. He turned professional in 2001, and had played on the PGA Tour ever since.

His first full season on the main tour was when he graduated from the Nationwide Tour (now Tour) as the No1 player in 2004.

Injuries and indifferent form meant he could never cement his place in the PGA Tour but it finally changed in 2009, when he needed to make a five-footer for par on the last hole of the last tournament of the season to be inside the top-125.

He made that putt, finished 125th on the Money List, and never looked back after that. And yet, his first win came in November last year at the Frys. com Open, and since then, he has won two more tournaments.

That makes him only the fourth player in last 20 years to win three times in eight or fewer starts at the beginning of the season.

The other three are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval. The world No24 now leads the FedEx Cup by miles, and is also No1 in the Ryder Cup standings. It will be interesting to see how Walker’s career develops, but he should start taking a few selfies now.

After all, he is a superstar.

Unusual facts about Riviera

This week’s host venue on the PGA Tour – the Riviera Country Club – is considered one of the classic golf courses in the world. It is believed original architect George Thomas actually short-listed the present layout after designing 15 possible options. And this was in 1927, in the days when there was no computer-aided design.

Host of four Major championships, including the famous 1948 US Open which was won by Ben Hogan, there are many unusual facts attached to the club.

It is one of the few golf clubs in the world that can boast of hosting the Olympics. Riviera hosted all equestrian events during the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

It was also where both Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus played their first professional events.

Woods played his first pro event, as an amateur, in the 1992 LA Open and missed the cut, while Nicklaus made his pro debut in the 1962 LA Open.

His paycheque that week was a princely $33.33. The course is known as ‘Hogan’s Alley’, because of his success there.

He won two LA Opens and a US Open and also made his comeback there in the 1950 LA Open following a life-threatening car crash. It was almost a fairy-tale comeback – Hogan (who was told by doctors he’d never be able to walk again and to forget golf) tied in regulation with Sam Snead, but lost in a playoff.

Eastwood the saviour

If your life is under threat and you are given the choice of having one Hollywood character by your side to save your life, there is a good possibility you’d choose Dirty Harry or The Man With No Name (at least I would!).

This time, Clint Eastwood did not even have to draw his Smith & Wesson, but Steve John, tournament director of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, was glad the 83-year-old superstar was next to him.

On the eve of the tournament, John was attending a reception along with Eastwood, chairman of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and a long-standing patron of the tournament, when he started chok-ing on a piece of cheese.

Eastwood noticed John was in bad shape, and quickly performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on him, which included lifting the 202-pound John while holding him from behind and pushing him up in the air a few times.

John said: “I was looking at him and couldn’t breathe. He recognised it immediately and saved my life.”

“I saw that look of panic people have when they see their life pass-ing before their eyes. It looked bad,” Eastwood added.

Stat of the Week

3.422 million – dollars earned by Dustin Johnson in his eight visits to Pebble Beach. He has won the AT&T National Pro-Am twice (in 2009 and 2010), finished second last week and has three other top 10s, including a tied-seventh in the 2010 US Open when it was held there.

Quote of the Week

“I’ve been a pro for two years, and for the majority of it, people just think of me as Tiger Woods’ niece.

So, now I have a game of my own, and I have a title now, a win, which is exciting. It’s nice now to say to people that I can play, and I’m not just a name.” – Cheyenne Woods, after winning the Australian Ladies Masters on Sunday, her first title on a major women’s tour.

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