Publish date:

Baby Steps

I was a nervous wreck a year ago when I opened my season in
Orlando at the HealthSouth Inaugural. Not because I'd hardly
practiced over the holidays or because I hadn't played in a
tournament in more than six months, but because the '97
HealthSouth was my first tournament as a mom.

I had played the LPGA for 15 years before I had my baby, Tyler,
in October 1996. When I stopped playing to have Tyler, my
husband, Ron, and I decided that if being a mom and a golfer was
too difficult, I would quit the tour and stay home.

Believe me, it's almost a miracle that anyone can be a mother
and a tour player. It takes a lot of hard work to be a good
golfer and just as much to be a good mom. That's why there are
only 43 of us on the LPGA. Last year four of us won a total of
six tournaments, and one of my two victories, at the du Maurier,
was my first in a major.

The dads on the PGA Tour have it made. They don't have to feel
guilty because little children like Tyler are still Mommy's
babies, and it's easy for Dad to sneak away and leave the kids
with their mother. Last year Lee Janzen, who has a four-year-old
boy, told me, "I just can't understand how you can play and be a
parent. It's awesome."

My biggest concern at this time last year was day care. I knew
that the tour had a child-development center with a full-time
staff, but I couldn't fathom leaving Tyler with strangers for a
whole day. So on our first day at the HealthSouth, I sprinted to
the center as soon as I finished my practice round. Tyler was
playing and totally content. That eased my mind a bit, although
I missed the cut that week.

Fortunately Ron and I had solicited advice from other tour moms,
and we settled down quickly. We learned to prepare lots of
bottle fillers and diaper bags before hitting the road. Because
we drive our van to about half the tournaments, we had to learn
how to amuse Tyler during those 12-hour rides. The solution?
Drive at night. I thought I would have to give up putting in the
hotel room, but Tyler sleeps right through it.

Still, I'm only going to stay on tour until Tyler starts first
grade. I'm 41 and have had a wonderful career. Tyler has been a
trouper, but I owe it to him to be home when he's in school. I
wouldn't miss that for all the majors in the world.

Colleen Walker's stroke average fell from 74.14 to 72.31 in '97.

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Walker makes time for Tyler and the tour. [Tyler Walker and Colleen Walker]