16 years later, Walker and Sanders come out victorious
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) Baltusrol now holds more than one memory for Jimmy Walker and his caddie Andy Sanders.
Sixteen years ago, the pair met during a practice round at the 10th tee on the Upper Course at Baltusrol Golf Course at the 2000 U.S. Amateur Open.
Sunday night, the two were enjoying Walker's first major victory.
''We brought it up earlier in the week and we were hitting balls pretty much in the same spot, so we talked about it a little bit,'' Sanders said. ''Not a ton. We knew this is where it started, though. That we would end up winning a major at the first place we met is pretty crazy.''
Walker shot a bogey-free 3-under 67 to win the PGA Championship, becoming the fourth first-time major champion this year.
Finishing with a dramatic par on the 18th hole, Walker wound up one shot ahead of the No.1 player in the world, Jason Day, who make a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th one group earlier.
''I said, `You hit your shot and it doesn't matter,' " Sanders told Walker after seeing Day make the eagle.
After Walker secured victory on the 18th, he pumped his fist in the air, took off his hat and made a beeline to Sanders. There, the two embraced and shook hands on the course that now will be remembered for more than where two young golfers first crossed paths.
''I always knew his name, but never got to meet him until right there over there, over on the 10th tee on the Upper Course,'' Sanders said. ''But yeah, very impressed with him from the get-go and we spent a lot of time with each other from then on.''
At the 2000 U.S. Amateur Open, Walker didn't qualify for the 64-man match play, but Sanders did and lost in the first round. Bragging rights could surely have been on the table, but Sanders thinks otherwise.
''I think he is doing fine,'' Sanders said. ''I don't need to give him stuff about that. He's obviously a lot better player.''
Walker recalls the mutual admiration society the two men immediately had when they met.
''I could remember thinking when I met him, I was like, `Wow, that's Andy Sanders, he's from Houston. He's really good,' `' Walker said. ''He's really good and he tells me, `Wow, that's Jimmy Walker, he hits it really far.'
'' But this is where we met. We've been together a long time. And to win our sixth event, first major here where we met, that's just cool.''
Sanders was a top golfer himself in college, playing in the Palmer Cup in 1999. Following his graduation from the University of Houston on a golf scholarship, he joined the Nationwide Tour from 2002-04.
Walker and Sanders actually traveled together on small tours, but in January 2004, Sanders got into a head-on car accident that knocked him out of his first three tournaments. In April, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Sanders tried to go back to playing, but it was too taxing. Instead, Sanders decided to caddie for Jason Schultz in 2007.
It was at a Nationwide Tour event in West Virginia in 2007 when Sanders and Walker reconnected. Walker called Sanders to ask him for a putting lesson.
''He asked me to come look at it on Monday,'' Sanders said. ''He had been playing decent, he said, but the putts weren't going in and the balls weren't rolling in like he wanted it to. And I don't know, I gave him a couple things and he ended up winning that week.''
In 2008, Walker called and asked Sanders to join him as his caddie on the PGA Tour.
''I think it was a pretty natural fit when it came time to get back out on tour and play and stuff like that,'' Sanders said.
The two have made quite the duo over the past eight years on the PGA Tour, and Sanders said this could be just the start of an even brighter future for Walker.
''It's been fun,'' Sanders said. ''Who knew it would bring me right here, but it is pretty incredible. Really proud of him.''
After Sanders congratulated Walker by the hole on 18, Walker's oldest child, Mclain, gave Sanders an energetic high-5, and Walker's wife Erin, gave him a hug. Erin said she had to try keeping their two children quiet as their dad was finishing up his final putt.
When Walker knocked in the 3-footer, there were two winners.
''I think it's special for both of us,'' Walker said. ''I know it's special for both of us. It's pretty emotional. I mean, he grinded it out this week. He read putts great, didn't let me hit a shot until I was ready, made sure everything was good. I mean, I think we did a great job this week communicating and talking shots. Just we were in sync.''