MAJOR MOM WITH A NEW SON IN TOW, COLLEEN WALKER WON THE DU MAURIER, AN EVENT THAT MAY BE GOING UP IN SMOKE

August 10, 1997

Colleen Walker wouldn't let go of her little golden trophy. Not
now, not after all her prize had cost her. Walker had just
wrapped up the du Maurier Classic, this season's final LPGA
major championship, and it was a moment to cherish. One of the
tour's keynote players from 1987 to '92, when she won seven
times, Walker had almost vanished in the five years since, owing
to injuries, nerves and the birth of her first child. On Sunday
she flashed again, shooting a shiny 65 to outflank a crowded
leader board and win her first major. Now here she was,
exhausted but glowing in the twilight behind the 18th green of
Glen Abbey Golf Course in suburban Toronto, smiling down at the
trophy in her arms. Ten-month-old Tyler Walker Bakich, a blond
cutie for whom his mom had forsaken nearly two years of her
career, smiled right back. "Five years and one baby later, I
finally did it," Walker said, never breaking eye contact with
her cherub. "It was all worthwhile. I love him, but I love my
golf, too."

With that, Walker slid Tyler to her husband, Ron Bakich, and
skipped onto the green for the victor's ceremony, during which
she laid her hands on some serious crystal and the $180,000 that
came with it. Walker's victory was as much a story about the
uneasy marriage of motherhood and top-flight golf as it was
about her eight-birdie, no-bogey final round, which tied the
course record, made up four strokes on the third-round leader,
Kelly Robbins, and leapfrogged Walker over nine players. "It's
been a wild roller-coaster ride," her husband said while
slipping Cheerios to Tyler. He was talking about more than just
the events of Sunday.

Walker's triumph against the odds fit neatly into the
overarching theme of the week, for the 25th du Maurier was a
rousing success despite the fact that the tournament has a life
expectancy roughly as long as Joe Camel's. In March the House of
Commons of Canada passed Bill C-71, a piece of legislation that
seeks to curtail the tobacco industry's presence in the lives of
Canadians. To no one's surprise, Big Tobacco has fought back,
and the courts will sort things out in the fall. As it stands
now, C-71, which is also known as the Tobacco Act, will be
phased in starting on Oct. 1, 1998, and it threatens to divorce
the deep pockets of the tobacco companies (like du Maurier,
which is a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco) from professional
sports in Canada. Under the terms of C-71, tobacco conglomerates
"may display a tobacco product-related band element only within
the bottom ten per cent of the display surface of any
promotional material." That, says LPGA commissioner, Jim Ritts,
is "so restrictive that there is no incentive for companies to
continue their sponsorship. From a practical, economic
standpoint, this legislation severs all ties."

Losing du Maurier could well mean the end of the LPGA's fourth
major as we know it. According to Don Brown, chairman of
Imperial Tobacco Limited, his company commits "ballpark $4
million" to the tournament, including the $1.2 million purse,
which is exceeded on the LPGA tour only by that of the U.S.
Open. Many, if not most, of Canada's nonteam sporting events owe
their financial underpinning to tobacco money, and come the fall
of '98, who's going to pick up the slack is anyone's guess. "All
the people are going to be out on the street at the same time
looking for sponsorship money, and there's not a lot out there,"
says Brown. "Not at the level we play in."

Adds Ritts, "Without du Maurier's backing, it is highly, highly,
highly unlikely this tournament will remain in Canada." Should
the du Maurier fold, the LPGA will lose more than just a nation
of fans. The tour will also be stripped of precious credibility.
Can you imagine the Masters simply vanishing? Ritts knows how
high the stakes are. "Along with increasing TV coverage,
resolving the future of the du Maurier is the most important
issue facing the tour," he says.

Brown is confident that a compromise will be brokered,
especially as Canadians begin to see the extinction of their
tennis tournaments, motor sports races, jazz festivals, ballets,
fashion shows, fireworks displays and other events that du
Maurier and the rest of the tobacco companies sponsor. "There is
a consensus starting to build that simple title sponsorship is
not tobacco advertising per se," says Brown, who affirmed that
du Maurier is committed to next year's tournament, no matter
what happens with the legal challenges to C-71. "It's not like
we stick cigarettes in people's mouths as they walk through the
door."

All this hullabaloo about the du Maurier's future overshadowed
some superb play. Robbins grabbed a two-stroke lead at the
midway point on the strength of a course-record 65 in the second
round, during which she birdied all five par-5s on the par-73
layout. Robbins's shaky 73 on Saturday allowed the rest of the
field to catch up, and when the final group made the turn on
Sunday, the top nine players were separated by only two strokes.

It was about this time that Walker, who had quietly sneaked into
contention with rounds of 68, 72 and 73, took control. The teeth
of Glen Abbey are holes 11 through 15, a stretch known as the
Valley, describing both the golfers' emotional state while
playing them as well as the topography. All Walker did was stiff
a five-iron to 12 feet on the nasty, par-3 12th and make the
putt to take the lead, then bang in another 12-footer for birdie
on the par-5 13th to stretch her advantage to two strokes over
Juli Inkster and Liselotte Neumann, who were playing in the
group behind. Walker's cushion was down to one as she reached
the 72nd hole, but she ended the suspense with a curling
15-footer for birdie and a 14-under-par 278, celebrating with a
delirious boogie across the green.

Walker, 40, called the 65 one of the best rounds of her life,
and certainly it was the most meaningful. In 1992 she won three
tournaments with her languid swing and flintiness on the greens,
but the following season was compromised by tendinitis in both
elbows, and 1994 was interrupted when she had to take time off
to recover from surgery on her left knee. Though she didn't win
in '95, Walker went a long way toward regaining her form,
producing 17 top 20 finishes in 26 starts, including six top
10s. "I was this close to putting it all together," she says.

Walker had a big year in 1996, particularly in her midsection.
Pregnancy limited her to seven tournaments, halting her
comeback. "The timing wasn't ideal," she says, "but I wasn't
getting any younger. We had been trying for three years." Tyler
was born last October, and ever since Walker has struggled to
get her game back in shape and adjust to the life of a working
mom. In the 19 tournaments before the du Maurier she had
finished no better than 12th. She had already made peace with
the fact that she might not be able to juggle golf and
motherhood, and was ready to choose the latter if her play
didn't improve.

The du Maurier changed all that, and the fact that Walker even
stuck around long enough to play in it is in no small part due
to Bakich, a leathery retired club pro who declined to give his
age, saying with a grin, "I don't know how old I am." He's old
enough that one marshal mistook him for Walker's father, but no
matter. Bakich has settled nicely into the life of a tour
husband. "I do the packing," he says. "I take Tyler to the
nursery. I pick him up. I give him his bottle in the morning,
too. Basically, where there's a need, I try to fill it."

Bakich has been giving Walker a hand ever since she was a
freshman at Florida State and he the head pro at El Conquistador
Country Club in Bradenton, Fla., and an adviser to the team.
Bakich became Walker's swing instructor during her college
career, and upon her graduation he hired her to work in the bag
room at El Conquistador. They've been together ever since,
marrying in 1987, with Bakich still his wife's only swing coach.
"He's my backbone," she says.

The two are so simpatico that they travel the circuit in what
Walker calls "a beast of a van," a big ol' Ford that comes with
a queen-sized bed and a chocolate Lab named Hershey. After
winning the du Maurier, Walker begged out of a cocktail party in
her honor, saying, "Gotta get Tyler down and then get on the
road." Little wonder she was in a hurry. A brilliant future
beckons.

That's more than can be said of the tournament she left behind.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Walker birdied 18 for a closing 65, a career round, not to mention a career saver. [Colleen Walker golfing] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Bakich (right), a former club pro, takes care of Tyler's trips to the nursery as well as Walker's swing. [Colleen Walker, Tyler Walker Bakich, and Ron Bakich]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)