Terry Walker talks about pursuing his caddying dream, his speedgolf world champion son and plenty more
Caddie Terry Walker has traveled one of the more unlikely roads to get to the PGA Tour where he loops for Andrew Landry, a first-time winner earlier this season at the Valero Texas Open.
Walker, you see, spent nearly 30 years as a businessman. After selling his company in 2010, he decided to pursue his real dream: becoming a caddie on the PGA Tour.
Better late than never, right?
For the soon-to-be 56-year-old, grandfather of four, Woodlands, Texas, resident, it has – so far – exceeded all expectations.
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The Caddie Network (TCN) caught up with Walker fresh off his first trip to the Open Championship at Carnoustie to talk about his unique path to the Tour, what it’s been like and also a rather incredible story about his youngest son, Chris, who was the 2012 Speedgolf World Champion.
By the way, here are a couple of dispatches from Walker’s trip to Scotland:
TCN: After a successful career in logistics, you sold your business and became a caddie. Why?
Walker: I was on the sales side of things. Ultimately, I formed a small consulting firm in Houston that I owned and sold it in 2010. We were moving parts and bits and pieces on planes, boats and other things. It was truly logistics – all kinds – freight and overseas vessels and aircraft.
I spent some time outside with that job, but not even close to what it’s like now. I treat it all the same, truthfully. You have a job to do and if you want to be really good at it, you’ve got to work hard. The work ethic has never been an issue for me. I applied what I learned from the business world to caddying. I got a good education in the business world. You deal with some stressful situations at times and I think I handle those relatively well. There’s a lot of correlations between the business world and being a caddie. You keep communication lines open and you wear a number of caps.
The first time I ever caddied was when I was 17. I wanted to do it for a living, but that was going to be hard to do with a family, eventually, back then. When I semi-retired in 2010, I decided to pursue it full-time.
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TCN: What was it about caddying that intrigued you? Is it everything you thought it would be?
Walker: I was introduced to golf when I was about 13 years old. I have an identical twin brother who was very good at golf and I would caddie for him. When I watched tournaments as a teen, you might find this hard to believe, but I wasn’t paying too much attention to the players… I was paying attention to the caddies.
I fell in love with being out there. I’m not near the level of player a lot of the caddies are, but I fell in love with what I saw, being out in nature and being able to help somebody achieve success. I didn’t think I could make a living at it. When I semi-retired, I wanted to do something I truly loved.
I caddied a little for my son Chris. After he finished at Notre Dame in 2012, he turned pro and played in some Hooters Tour and other mini-tour events and I loved every part of it — the hard work, studying the courses, shooting yardages, looking at the course-management side of things. I loved all of it.
TCN: Let’s talk about your son, Chris, for a second. He actually won the 2012 Speedgolf World Championship at Bandon Dunes. How the heck did that come about?
Walker: It surprised everybody in the family that he won!
I had never heard of speedgolf until 2012. We were at an Adams Pro Tour event that Chris was playing in and the guy running that tour asked if anyone was interested in playing this speedgolf tournament out in Bandon.
Chris had done some running at the time to stay in shape. He thought it was interesting. He tried speedgolf one time at home and thought it was exhilarating, so he decided to go.
He was probably the best golfer in the field, but not the best runner. There’re people who have won gold in the Olympics that do speedgolf now. They’re faster than Chris, obviously. But he wanted to give a try.
So, he went in 2012 and it was even televised by CBS. They aired it in 2013 just before the third round of the Masters. Chris got a lot of notoriety because of that. Anyway, he called us on a Sunday afternoon when he was out in Bandon and said, “I’m the speedgolf world champion.”
We all screamed and yelled, “How did he do that?! He played it one time before that and beat the guys that invented the sport!”
He got a trophy and $18,000 cash for the win. And because he was a pro at the time, that money didn’t really change his status; it just supported playing other tournaments.
My wife and I went back with Chris (here’s an interview with Chris) a year after he won and ran with him one day. I thought I was going to die and I didn’t have clubs. You’re up and down hills. It’s something to watch.
He doesn’t do it anymore. He’s got two small kids. He liked it, still loves golf, but didn’t care for the travel and being away from his wife and kids.
It’s not designed for a homebody. He wanted to be there while the kids are growing up. He made that decision very early.
But the fact that he won – especially over two great courses like Old Mac and Bandon Dunes – was a thrill for the whole family.
This is what CBS aired on that 2012 Speedgolf World Championship:
TCN: I’m sure that was an incredible thrill. What’s been your biggest thrill thus far as a professional caddie?
Walker: There’s been a lot of highlights. We (Walker and Andrew Landry) lost a playoff to Jon Rahm in Palm Springs early this year. Andrew played phenomenal that week, inclusive of the playoff. That was big for me – feeling what it was like and falling just one short.
It put the hunger in both of us. It wasn’t all that long after that we were able to win that April at the Valero Texas Open. There’s no better feeling than a win. The Valero was a very special event for both of us. He lives an hour from there, so a bunch of his family came down.
It was an incredibly special week. If I have one memory that’s most vivid, it was having his family all there for his first win on Tour. Does it get any better?
TCN: The first win with Andrew, in the Bahamas on the Web.com Tour in 2017, had to be up there too.
Walker: Oh, it was.
And that one was interesting. In the first Bahamas event a couple weeks before that, we shot 87-77 and missed the cut by a mile. We laughed. We played in 70-mph winds and he broke the head of his driver 30 minutes before teeing off. We had a non-spec driver. Everything about that week was comical.
But I could see he was swinging it well and I said, “these guys need to look out in two weeks when we come back to the Bahamas.”
I could see Andrew was confident. We came back, he put himself in position to win and we won by three. It was satisfying in the sense that we found out early on together – I started with him at Q-School in 2016 — what it’s like to be in that position and what we could do to be better to breakthrough.
We made small, minor adjustments that helped to get it done. He did that and had eight or nine top 10s on the Web.com that season.
It’s all very similar to what he’s done on the PGA Tour this season. With my confidence in his game and his confidence in my ability to caddie, we’ve been able to parlay that right into the PGA Tour once the Web.com was over.
Our first event out on the PGA Tour was in Napa. Andrew eagled the last hole to take eighth.
It’s satisfying because the hard work from both of us through the years paid off at the same time.
TCN: In your younger days, you were a tennis pro. Do those competitive juices come back today when you and Andrew are in the mix?
Walker: Let’s put it this way: I didn’t have the most illustrious professional career [laughing].
I never got to a point where I played high-level events. I did a lot of teaching to help support my cost of living. I really didn’t achieve greatness, per se on the court. I played Division I at Wichita State.
In doing that, when you compete at any level, I was pretty good at staying level. There’s this internal switch that goes on that gets the juices flowing. I never called it nervousness, but it was instead an excitement to be competing.
That certainly came back when I started caddying. I don’t show a lot of emotion, unless I see something amazing. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pressures and the surroundings, but I’m able to compartmentalize that a lot better now than the tennis days.
It might just be old age.
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TCN: What’s one thing about being a caddie at the highest level that most people probably wouldn’t know?
Walker: I love this question. They wouldn’t know the amount of work we do before a tournament even starts.
For me personally, I have a specific process I go through. I can’t even tell you the detail of everything – reading greens, green complexes, around the greens, looking at trouble on both sides of the fairways, it goes on and on. You’re looking for anything to increase your odds of winning.
For example, I leave Sunday to head to Akron for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. My player won’t arrive until Tuesday. I’ll have two days to walk the course, check all the directional arrows, shoot all the yardages. Sometimes there’s missing info on sprinkler heads, so I mark those.
I don’t think people realize that caddying is a 7-, sometimes 8-day a week job for one event.
And the work doesn’t stop when the player arrives. You then really get to work on what they want to do. There’s a lot more than carrying a bag, staying upbeat and positive. You need to be adamant sometimes. I have a player in Andrew Landry who loves the open communication. I’m not afraid to express my opinion. It doesn’t mean he’ll use it, but I can do that. That takes a special player to take advice and use it. I increase my value to him with the work I do beforehand. With that prep, I’m not guessing.
Yardage to the front edge of a bunker? Back edge of a bunker? I have it all there in one book so that I have it right in front of me whenever we need it.
It’s far more detailed than I’m describing. A typical day would be to go out, walk 18 holes, take all my notes, shoot yardages, then carry the bag for an 18-hole practice round. If not 18, we get nine in. Anything my player specifically asks for, you may need to go back out and get.
Notes from past events at the same course help, but you still need to do your homework. We’ve actually done well on courses we hadn’t previously seen. But the process speaks for itself. I’ve used the same process the last five years.
I ask myself what needs to be done to have the answers for all his questions. It’s my responsibility to have all that information. The primary job of a caddie is to keep the pace of play going. If you have the info ready, you can do just that.
But nobody has any idea how much work caddies do before the player even shows up. Unless you’ve done it, most people can’t believe it.
TCN: I read that you have a hobby in numismatics. How did you get into that?
Walker: I have a very consistent routine at home.
I go to Denny’s, get a coffee, make my reservations for upcoming trips.
I had a friend I’d see there, who was up there in years, and he was a coin collector. He’d show them to me. I took an interest. I started working with him and his coin collection that he wanted to sell. We ran into people selling and we’d buy them, and I’d put some away for my kids. Every now and then I stop at coin shops. If I see something I like, I buy it.
It’s only U.S. coins. Nothing in foreign currency.
My favorite is the Draped Bust dollar. It’s from the late 1700s, early 1800s. It’s really neat to see one or find one and wonder what story it would tell you. I really enjoy those and Morgan dollars – from the late 1800s and early 1900s – too.
TCN: There are a lot of great caddie nicknames. Do you have one?
Walker: Most of them call me “T” or “Papa T.” Papa T is the name my grandchildren call me. I think it’s a way for the other caddies to tell me I’m old.
As for “T,” you might think it’s because my name is Terry. But it has nothing to do with being Terry. I got the nickname “T” because I love and drink a lot of iced tea.
TCN: Lastly, what’s the family life like since you’re on the road so much?
Walker: It’s fantastic. My oldest son, Joe, lives out in Maryland now. He came out a few weeks ago to Quicken Loans to visit and watch Andrew play. He has two kids, as does Chris.
My wife, Sherri has been — to say the least — so incredibly supportive of my dream and what I wanted to do. She travels with me some. She’ll be at the PGA and probably East Lake. She never misses Hawaii, but usually misses Jackson, Mississippi.
She knows where the good spots are.