What can we learn from Jimmy Walker?

Last week on the US PGA Tour Jimmy Walker won his third tournament in just 8 starts of the new season.  Prior to his first win he had played 187 tournaments without winning on the PGA Tour over a period stretching back 7 or 8 years.  Not only hadn’t he won, but he had very few top finishes during that time period – just one second place finish and two third place finishes.  And by winning three times in his first 8 starts on the PGA Tour Walker joins an elite group of just 3 players who have previously achieved this feat in the last 20 years – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval.  Truly amazing!

On many previous occasions in my Chairman’s Chatter I have referred to talent and questioned what it is that really makes up talent.  What then is it that has made Jimmy Walker’s talent level jump to a new dimension?

For a start, he obviously always believed that he could win.  It took him a long time to learn how to win but once he got it he has repeated.  What has assisted him to become a winner other than always believing that he could do it?  PGATOUR.com recently published a record of Walker’s scoring through the years on par 4 holes.  In 2006 Walker had ranked 176th in par 4 scoring with an average of 4.11 strokes per par 4 hole.  By 2012 he had improved to 62nd in par 4 scoring, averaging 4.05 strokes per hole.  Apparently Walker did some self-analysis and worked out that if he had parred every par 4 hole through the year he would have saved 60 shots and he would actually have won one tournament that year.  So he identified an area to work on and in 2013 – Bingo! – he finished 2nd in par 4 scoring with an average of 3,99 shots per hole.  At the same time as his par 4 analyses and realisation that this was an area of his game that needed work, Walker appointed Butch Harmon as his new coach.  He jelled with Butch and after making a few tweaks he gained some distance off the tee and he had better ball-striking stats, especially in his long irons.  He has similarly put a lot of effort into his putting and that too has improved.  In his three tournament wins he has made 115 out of 116 putts from inside 4 feet and he has also been one of the best long putters on the PGA Tour.

Walker is now 35 years old so it just goes to show that one is never too old to learn and that talent is derived (as I have said before) through being presented with an opportunity, recognising the opportunity and then working hard at ensuring that the opportunity is taken and success is achieved.

Let’s consider a few thoughts relative to Jimmy Walker’s recent progress.

  1. Learn from the Past, but….!  The past does not equal the future.  Don’t allow your brain to be negatively impacted by previous failings or ‘blips’ on the radar screen!  There is no such thing as bad luck.  Deal with what has happened and move on.  Be positive, be objective and never give up and you can and most likely will achieve your goal.  Walker hadn’t won for 187 tournaments but he never let that hinder him and he still believed that he could win.
  2. Don’t allow Negative Happenings from the Past to Influence your Way Forwards.  If you haven’t managed to achieve something yet, don’t allow yourself to think that you cannot do it or it will never happen.  If you have lost something before, let it be part of a learning process, but never a negative one.  If you allow such thoughts to infiltrate your mind it is most likely that you will continue to fail.  Walker always believed that he could win – he focused on those aspects that would help him to achieve his goal without questioning himself or his ability to win.  His prolonged lack of winning was not a negative.  It was gone.  Tomorrow is a new day and with it come new opportunities.  If you believe that the rest of your day or your next day will be as challenging as what’s already happened you will most likely do things or say things that will help to ensure that your own negative predictions hold sway.
  3. Maintain a Sense of Proportion.  Forget about incidental setbacks and move forwards positively.  You can train your brain to leave those things that negatively impact you behind.  Of course, the loss of a loved one within the family falls outside of this sphere, but the focus of this article is on learnings that we can take from Jimmy Walker – he forgot about his 187 tournaments without a win and simply focused on those elements that would allow him to win.  He won!
  4. Address Your Inner Being and Your Thresholds.  Let by far the majority of days be good days, even when they may contain elements that perhaps set you back in some way.  A bad hole needs to be quickly forgotten, just as in life somebody irritating you or perhaps taking you out of your comfort zone must be dealt with without allowing it to negatively impact the entire day.  Another example of this is being capable of keeping emotions separate to business.  Try to make every day a good day, even after a bad round!  A great example of this is Phil Mickelson – even after a poor round he still takes the time to meet and greet his fans and he smiles as he signs autographs.  Little wonder that he is so popular and that he has such excellent sponsor support for his brand.
  5. Improve Your Attitude and Your Body Chemistry.  If you are feeling down, unenthusiastic and de-motivated, it will negatively impact your entire being.  In such situations your day and your attitude will in all probability get progressively worse.  Find a way to deal with these circumstances.  Make a conscious effort to break the pattern and your day (and your life) will improve.
  6. Focus on the Good Things.  It’s amazing how one can do something truly excellent but there will always be somebody who will find something to criticize rather than looking at the total picture and praising the good things.  Sadly, looking for the bad things tend to be the norm rather than the exception.  This goes for the individual (self) as well.  Focus on the good things and ultimately everything will improve and get better.  Walker did some self-analysis – he was good but not yet as good as he wanted to be.  His weaknesses have become his strengths (e.g. his par 4 scoring average and his putting).
  7. Expect the Best and Dream Big!  Become more aware of the opportunities instead of focusing on the doom and gloom.  Always looking at the bad things (e.g. 7 or 8 years of not winning) will ultimately lead to more problems and a downward spiral.  Be positive and focus on the amazing opportunities that lie in front of you.  It’s all relative.  Different people are motivated and inspired by different things but each one of us enjoys success.  Look in wonder at the world and the world will become a wondrous place to live in.  Every day that Jimmy Walker wakes up he must feel like he is in heaven!  He expected to win and now that he has won his world has become so much more marvellous.
  8. It’s Never Too Late.  Never give up.  Jimmy Walker is 35 years old and he is only now starting to win and to express his talent.  He is hitting the ball further and he is putting better.  There are many other examples of people who achieve success later in their lives.  Consider Simon Cowell of Pop Idol fame (and now many other famous television series).  He was 42 years old when he was first appointed a judge by ITV on the first ‘Pop Idol’ series.  That was the first real opportunity that allowed him to express his talent!  A year later, in 2002, he was appointed a judge in the first season of American Idol.  He became famous for his one liners and his signature phrase “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” which was usually followed by a somewhat blunt assessment of the contestant’s talents or sometimes a comment relating to their personality or even their physical appearance. It is interesting to note that a lot of his one-liners were the product of coaching that Cowell received from the noted publicist Max Clifford – this again goes to show that once presented with the opportunity he made a concerted effort to ensure that he grasped his opportunity and grew his talent.  12 Years later and he not only owns some hugely popular television series (such as The X Factor) but he is also regarded by such noted titles as Time magazine and New Statesman as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World!


Ron Boon


Ron Boon