Courtesy Bill walker
Walker became executive director at the start of the year, replacing Thomas Pagel, who left to accept a job with the United States Golf Association. This week he'll experience his first-ever Men's State Amateur, the longest-running consecutive-year golf tournament in the world. He said the opportunity to work with the Utah State Am was a big factor in him wanting to take the UGA job. The 36-year-old Walker grew up in California, moved to Texas as a teenager and played golf for Stephen F. Austin University. He worked for the Houston Golf Association and the South Texas Amateur Golf Association before coming to Utah. Even though he played college golf, Walker finds he doesn't play as much as a golf administrator and his latest handicap is 8.1. He and his wife, Lisa, are the parents of a baby daughter. Deseret News sports writer Mike Sorensen recently caught up with Walker.
Q: Tell us what you think after being on the job for six months.
A: I love it. It's been exciting to be part of such a great organization. The golf community here is so strong along with the local professionals and amateur golfers, and that was one thing that appealed to me professionally. I wanted to be part of a strong organization in a strong golf community and I really found it here. It's been a great experience.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you see with the UGA and golf in general in Utah?
A: With the economy the way it is, we're dealing with a luxury item, something people are going to play recreationally. So we really have to promote the game across all levels, competitively and for the average Joe wanting to play a round of golf for fun. We have to grow the game across all levels, including junior golf. We won't have golf if we don't promote the junior side of things. We need to get more people interested in the game. That's the biggest challenge, just trying to grow the game.
Q: What changes do you plan for the UGA, if any?
A: It's been a really stable, well-run organization prior to me getting here. It's kind of a 'if it's not broke don't fix it,' kind of thing, I think what we want to do with our membership is we want to get more people keeping their handicaps accurate and getting more people out on the golf course. Obviously we had a rough spring weather-wise; hopefully in 2012, we'll get a little better weather, so we can get golfers out there earlier so they can support their local golf courses and golf associations.
Q: Next year the first USGA event in Utah history, the U.S. Men's Public Links, will be held at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in July. What will your role for that be?
A: Part of my background is working with volunteers and that is a big part of what I do now. What we need from the Public Links next year at Soldier Hollow is people out there supporting it. Regardless if you have 50,000 spectators or 500, you still have to staff it accordingly and making sure all of the pieces are covered whether it is transportation or marshals, that kind of thing. So we're going to hit the ground running in mid-August with the volunteer push for the Public Links, so people can be part of something that hasn't happened here, which is a national championship. It's going to be neat to be part of the Public Links. I have experience helping run tournaments from my time at the (Houston) Shell Open. Having the first USGA event ever in Utah obviously puts Utah on the map.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I like to be with my family and now that I'm in Utah, I'm going to start enjoying the outdoors more. I like watching sports, golf, basketball and football and am a big baseball fan. My family is originally from New England, so I am a Boston Red Sox fan and I also like the Houston Astros after living there.
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