DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (December 11, 2012) – Nine-time LPGA Tour winner Colleen Walker passed away on Tuesday night at her home in Valrico, Fla. following a second battle with cancer. She was 56 years old.
Walker, who played on the LPGA Tour from 1982-2004, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2003. Her cancer subsequently went into remission and she returned to professional golf that September. But in late 2011, Walker’s cancer returned, this time resurfacing in her hips and pelvis while continuing to spread throughout her body.
Walker is survived by her husband, Ron Bakich, and their 16-year-old son, Tyler Walker Bakich.
“Colleen was not only a great ambassador for the LPGA and the game of golf, but more importantly was a true and faithful friend,” said five-time LPGA Tour winner Barb Mucha. “From her caring smile, unselfish ways and deep devotion to her family, her life touched all those she knew. She will be dearly missed, but her love will live on forever in our hearts. I am blessed to have called her friend.”
The Jacksonville, Fla. native started playing golf at the age of 14. Four years later, Walker was named the 1974 Palm Beach Post Athlete and Player of the Year. She went on to attend Florida State University where she earned a degree in marketing and earned Most Valuable Player honors on the women’s golf team in 1977 and 1978.
Walker joined the LPGA Tour 1982 after winning the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in December of 1981. She won the first of her nine titles on the LPGA Tour in 1987 at the Mayflower Classic. The following year, 1988, she captured the LPGA’s Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and finished a career-high fifth on the LPGA Official Money List, one of four times she finished in the top 10 in her 23-year career. Walker led the Tour in top-10 finishes (18), birdies (325), rounds under par (55) and rounds in the 60s (29) that same year and was also named the Most Improved Player by Golf Digest.
In 1992, Walker tallied a career-high three victories in a season and in 1997, she won her first major title at the du Maurier Classic – just 10 months after giving birth to her son, Tyler.
Known for her tenacious spirit, Walker surprised no one with her determination and strong will as she faced her battle with breast cancer in 2003. After all, it was that same fighting spirit that helped Walker to overcome various injuries throughout her career including tendinitis in both elbows and surgery to repair torn cartilage in her left wrist. She was also awarded with the LPGA’s Heather Farr Award in 2004, given to a player on the Tour who through her hard work, dedication and love of the game of golf, has demonstrated determination, perseverance and spirit.
Walker was inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. She joined the Legends Tour in 2001, winning her first tournament that year.
Walker’s son, Tyler, is carrying on his mother’s golfing legacy. He is a standout junior golfer who competed in the Florida Class 2A State Championship with the Newsome High School golf team in October. Tyler also won the Florida State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship in his age group this past July.
“I will always remember Colleen for her fight and determination on the golf course,” said three-time LPGA winner and close friend of Walker’s, Dawn Coe-Jones. “Off the golf course, I loved her sense of humor. I will miss walking the fairways with her as we watched our sons compete. Rest in peace, Colleen.”
Topics: Walker, Colleen