There’s no shortage of superlatives to describe Lakeview High School senior Andrew Walker.
“A quality kid,” says his high school golf coach, Tony Evans.
“He’s fantastic,” says teammate James Staab.
“A pretty classy young man,” says his father, Filmore Walker III.
And then there’s the title that the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association has bestowed upon him in each of the past two years: “Mr. Golf.”
With his signature straw hat perched atop his head, Walker has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in a four-year high school golf career. As a freshman in 2013, he helped Lakeview win the MHSAA Division 1 state championship. Last spring, he earned his first individual state title while leading the Spartans to a runner-up finish. And in each of the past two seasons, he has been selected as ‘Mr. Golf’ Award winner.
So what’s left for the state’s top-ranked high school golfer?
“I’m looking to win Mr. Golf a third time. That’s my goal for this year,” Walker said. “No one’s ever done that in Michigan. To be able to have a chance at doing that is an amazing thing.”
FROM PROMISE TO PRODIGY
Walker’s skill at hitting golf balls was evident at an early age. Thanks to his father’s job at the Kellogg Co., he and his family lived in South Africa for three years.
Walker was half a world away from home when he began kindergarten – and when he first picked up a putter.
“We were living in South Africa and he was on the putting green at the age of 3 or 4 hitting putts,” Filmore Walker III said. “He probably started competing at the age of 6 and has been going at it strong ever since. I think his first World Championship, he was 8 years old down at Pinehurst and finished tied for 20th out of 150 kids.”
It has never hurt that Walker comes from an athletic family. His father played college basketball at Michigan Tech University, where he still ranks among the school’s all-time assists leaders.
Still, Walker had to put in the work to eventually become one of the top high school golfers in the nation.
“We’ve seen the talent, but of course you’ve got to nurture it and you’ve got to grow and he’s got to love the game,” Filmore Walker III said. “He has a passion for the game and loves the game of golf, and I think that is what has driven him.”
Filmore Walker IV, Andrew’s older brother, also was a standout on the Lakeview golf team. It was during one of his practice rounds that Evans saw the level of talent would eventually be joining the Spartans.
“When Filmore was a senior, we went up for a practice round up at Oakland Katke-Cousins, where we were playing the state tournament, and Andrew had the best score as like a sixth-grader,” Evans said. “You don’t really get much better than Andrew.”
In 2013, Walker became the fifth-youngest person and the youngest African-American golfer to compete in the U.S. Amateur. Soon enough, comparisons to a young Tiger Woods were hard to escape.
“Tiger Woods in his prime. … I looked up to him a lot when I was younger,” Walker said. “Being black, looking at Tiger and seeing what he was doing while I was growing up I think was great for me. Because it was like, ‘Hey, I can do that. I have a chance to go and be able to do that.’ So it was definitely inspiring. … But I try to play my game.”
ELEVATING HIS GAME
When Walker played the U.S. Amateur at age 14, he was listed at 5-foot-5 and 115 pounds. Now he’s 6-foot-1 and, thanks to some help from a personal trainer, 155 pounds.
While his frame has noticeably changed, Walker’s mindset on the golf course has remained the same.
“I play patiently – I try to anyway,” Walker said. “You are not always going to be on your game, especially with golf. This is a game where you are moreso off your game than on your game. You have to be patient and wait for your opportunities with each and every round, each and every hole and each and every shot.”
A week after winning the individual state championship as a junior, Walker won an event in the American Junior Golf Association. Then in October, he was named an honorable mention Rolex Junior All-American. Now he’s leading a 10th-ranked Lakeview golf team as it tries to improve on last year’s state runner-up finish.
Walker’s laser-like focus on academics parallels his focus on golf. He attends the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center, scored a 31 on his ACT and his 4.125 GPA will have him graduating in the top 10 of his class. At MSU, he plans to major in engineering.
“It’s hard to really tell with him whether he’s 3-under and 3-over at times on the course,” Evans said. “He handles himself with such great class and has been a great leader for us, obviously both on the course and off the course and in the classroom.”
It’s no surprise that Walker has rubbed off on some of his teammates and helped them elevate their games.
“He’s supportive and just a great guy to be around,” Staab said. “You strive to have your game like his and he’s an even better person than he is a golfer. He’s just great to be around and I love being around him for sure.”
After Walker wraps up his standout career for the Spartans this June, he’ll get ready for his next career as a Spartan. While he had opportunities to play college golf in warmer climates, he chose to stay in-state and help MSU head coach Casey Lubahn and the Spartans.
“When I was deciding where I wanted to go, it was like, look at this place and this type of weather, that’s where a north school might have a disadvantage,” Walker said. “But looking at the teammates and the coaches that I’ll have while I’m there, it’s just amazing how they treat each other and how much of a family we are as opposed to just teammates or just my coach. … That’s one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to, but I’m also looking forward to playing some good golf.”
Nick Buckley can be reached at email@example.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley
MHSAA BOYS GOLF TOURNAMENT
DISTRICTS: May 25-28
REGIONALS: June 1-4
FINALS: June 10-11
Division 1: At GVSU (The Meadows)
Division 2: At Battle Creek (Bedford Valley)
Division 3: At MSU (Forest Akers East)
Division 4: At MSU (Forest Akers West)
MR. GOLF AWARD WINNERS
1986-87: Mike Roth (Alma)
1987-88: Doug Hoey (Dearborn)
1988-89: Tim Hux (Plainwell)
1989-90: Brad Coch (Bloomfield Hills Lasher)
1990-91: Bill Lyle (Ann Arbor Pioneer)
1991-92: Derek Robison (Jackson Lumen Christi)
1992-93: Jason Deha (Farmington)
1993-94: Matt Seppanen (Rochester Adams)
1994-95: Shawn Roch (Howell)
1995-96: Mike Austin (Flint Powers Catholic)
1996-97: Mike Austin (Flint Powers Catholic)
1997-98: Eric Wohfield (Brighton)
1998-99: Steven Polanski (Livonia Stevenson)
1999-00: Jimmy Chestnut (Grand Blanc)
2000-01: Colby Beckstrom (North Muskegon)
2001-02: Colby Beckstrom (North Muskegon)
2002-03: Matt Harmon (East Kentwood)
2003-04: Ryan Brehm (Mt. Pleasant)
2004-05: Brendan Gielow (Muskegon Mona Shores)
2005-06: Brendan Gielow (Muskegon Mona Shores)
2006-07: Payne Gniewek (Riverview Gabriel Richard)
2007-08: Matt Thompson (Battle Creek Lakeview)
2008-09: Joey Garber (Petoskey)
2009-10: Joey Garber (Petoskey)
2010-11: Francesco Ruffino (Birmingham Seaholm)
2011-12: Sam Weatherhead (Grand Rapids West Catholic)
2012-13: Kyle Rodes (Plymouth)
2013-14: Andrew Walker (Battle Creek Lakeview)
2014-15: Andrew Walker (Battle Creek Lakeview)