Lyme Disease Takes a Toll on Walker’s Career
Jimmy Walker, the golfer who dominated the sport from 2014 to 2016 with six wins, including the 2016 PGA Championship, found himself struggling with a multitude of health issues in 2017. Battling Lyme disease, mononucleosis, West Nile virus, and two types of bacterial pneumonia, Walker’s health deteriorated, and his golf game suffered. As his confidence crumbled, so did his professional career. From 2019 to 2022, Walker earned just $1,706,461, a far cry from his earlier earnings which had exceeded $2 million per year.
State of Health
Walker’s wife Erin describes his health issues during this time saying, “He suffered tremendously because he didn’t have the energy to practice. He was experiencing something we deemed as ‘brain-to-body disconnects’ where he would see the shot, and know how to execute it, but his body would fail to do so,” She went on to say, “His confidence in his profession crumbled and with that, he fell into a depression about not feeling well and not being able to perform at his job.”
Walking Away from Golf
A shell of himself, his golf game in tatters, Walker came to the conclusion that he was done at the 2022 Valero Texas Open, his hometown event. Missing the cut after shooting 78-70, Walker effectively walked away after discussing the decision with his family and agent.
Taking a Step Back
After missing the cut at the 2022 Valero Texas Open, Walker decided to step away from professional golf. He focused on being a father, enjoying recreational golf with friends, and just living life. Once Walker stepped down from professional golf, he tried to enjoy the recreational aspects of golf when his health permitted and he tried to focus on letting loose and practicing gratitude while treating Lyme disease.
As fate would have it, Walker received a call from his old caddie, Andrew Medley, informing him of a one-time exemption for anyone in the top-50 of career money who had lost their card. Due to the PGA Tour rewriting its record books and some stars leaving for LIV Golf, Walker found himself at the 50th spot, earning the golden ticket back to the Tour. His health had improved at this time after a rigorous treatment regimen, so Walker decided to step back into the game.
Leading the Pack at Heritage: A Testament to Resilience
At the RBC Heritage, Walker’s hard work and determination shone through as he took the lead with an impressive opening of 65-65 in the first two rounds. This marks the first time Walker has opened with two rounds in the 60s since the Shriners Children’s Open in October 2021. Walker leads the pack by three strokes over Scottie Scheffler and Justin Rose. As he prepares for the final two days in Hilton Head, the world watches in anticipation of a potential monumental victory akin to his 2016 PGA Championship win.
The Risks of Tick-Borne Illnesses for Golfers
Golfers like Walker face an increased risk of contracting tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. Ticks thrive in wooded areas and tall grasses, often found on golf courses. When playing golf, it’s crucial to be aware of these risks and take preventive measures, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and checking for ticks after playing.
The Future: Walker’s Fight and Awareness for Lyme Disease
With a fierce competitive spirit still burning within him, Walker is determined to prove that his comeback is more than just a flash in the pan. As he continues to battle Lyme disease, Walker’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of prevention and awareness regarding tick-borne illnesses, especially for golfers. In his own words, “I want it bad. So that’s the bottom line.”