Pro Golfer Andrew Walkley and his family relocated to Armidale to enjoy the country lifestyle and help locals improve their golf handicaps.
When did you first swing a golf club?
I began playing when I was around 8 years old. At that time, I was not allowed to be a junior member at my Dad’s club in Sydney until I was 14 years old. This led me to playing a lot of my early junior golf in Wangaratta during school holidays, where my grandparents lived. I fondly remember my first competition, having 52 Stableford points of my 32 handicap! A lot of the times in Wang I would play from sunup to sundown, with a lunch break in the middle, often playing up to 54 holes in a day!
What were the circumstances that led you to become a pro golfer?
I had always really enjoyed my sport and did well at some team sports from a young age, particularly soccer. I was drawn to golf because I did not have to rely on others and only had myself to blame. At the age of 14, I decided that it was going to be my career. My school work suffered a bit after that decision, but I certainly don’t regret it! I began working part-time at my home club Strathfield in Sydney from the age of 14 and have always really enjoyed the golf club environment.
Why have you chosen to move to Armidale?
At first it was for the opportunity to run my own business and put to practice all the skills I have learnt over the years. We, as a family, have also always been attracted to living a country lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, so it seemed like a perfect fit. After doing research on the weather, the golf course and general facilities, in particular schools for our 2 kids, my wife, Sam, and I decided it would be a great move for us.
What have been your greatest golfing moments?
There have been quite a few! Shooting a 10 under par 57 in a practice round in Sydney is right up there; I was 9 under after 13 holes and in a different world. I have also been lucky enough to have one hole in 1 and two albatrosses, which is in the hole for 2 on a par 5.
Having the chance to travel and play all around Australia and a little bit overseas has also been a fantastic life experience for me! Now though, I get as much, if not more, satisfaction from helping people play for the first time or improve their existing game; the smile of someone hitting their best ever shot is very infectious.
Which golfing pros do you aspire to and why?
Greg Norman has always been a favourite; he just used to strike the ball so well. I remember watching him from his warm up before a round until his warm down after a round not missing a shot for almost 6 hours many times. Coaching wise, I really enjoy a mixture of all of the world’s best, with David Leadbetter and Australia’s Steve Bann my two favourites.
Tell us about your pro shop?
The pro shop has come a long way in my first 6 months of operating. It is at a point now where I am happy with the stock levels and variety that I have. The most important thing with golf clubs it to get the ones that suit you, and for this I have a lot of fitting and demo clubs for people to try and be fitted with, by me, to get the best result. I always like to feel I can get anything; I don’t have to keep everyone happy!
Do you give golfing lessons?
I do; it has really built up well. At the moment I am lucky enough to be booked out almost 2 weeks in advance. Coaching is something that I really enjoy – just about my favourite thing to do with my business actually, and I hope it shows. I have had some good results so far and hope to keep that going; the junior clinics, both through the term in the holidays, have also been really well received.
Have you noticed any locals with high golfing potential?
At this stage there is one who stands out in regards to perhaps becoming a pro, but I am sure there will be many more soon! Callum Butler has reduced his handicap from 13 to almost 4 since I have been working with him. He has an aggressive approach to the game, which I like, and he is building a game to match his approach.
How do you hope to make a difference at Armidale Golf Club?
I hope to make a difference by providing all the services required by the club and its members and guests at the highest possible standards, always willing to go the extra yard when need be. I also see junior development as a huge responsibility, as without the kids coming through, the game cannot grow and prosper. It is also very important to me that everyone always feels welcome at the club and leaves having had a good day out playing golf!
This article was published in issue 70 of New England Focus