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'Fiery competitor' Colleen Walker remembered

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Mon. December 17, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

'Fiery competitor' Colleen Walker remembered

Colleen Walker's final gallery was roughly 300 supporters strong.

A standing-room-only audience shoehorned itself Sunday afternoon into the clubhouse of River Hills Golf & Country Club, where family members and fellow competitors celebrated the life of the nine-time LPGA Tour winner and inspirational Newsome boys golf team mom.

Ms. Walker, whose bout with cancer and her 16-year-old son's concurrent quest for a state title were chronicled in a Times story in October, passed away Dec. 10 at home while under hospice care. She was 56

"My mom was the greatest, strongest person I ever knew and will ever know," Ms. Walker's son, Newsome sophomore Tyler Bakich, told the gathering during his brief eulogy.

The event drew more than a dozen of Ms. Walker's most prominent competitors from her Tour days including Hollis Stacy, Dawn Coe-Jones, Michelle McGann, Deb Richard and Barb Mucha.

Standing at a podium in the front of the room, her brother, R.J. Walker, introduced heaven's foursome consisting of Ms. Walker, Christ, Moses and Karsten Solheim, the Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer.

"On the course she would take the shirt off your back," R.J. Walker said. "But off the course she would give you the shirt off her back as a friend and supporter."

To a person, all of Sunday's speakers echoed that sentiment, recalling a steely, straightforward player on the course who exuded generosity and gregariousness off it.

"Colleen was a direct person," Tour chaplain Cris Stevens said. "She didn't mince words. And she was direct in her fight against cancer."

Ms. Walker's husband, Ron Bakich, struggled to stay composed as he recalled an incident illustrating the resolve of his wife of 25 years.

Just before the final Tour event one year, Ms. Walker's caddie informed her he had decided to make the upcoming tournament his last on her bag. "Lo and behold, the last day, she's in the last group, and she birdies the last hole to win the tournament," Ron Bakich said.

When the caddie recanted moments after the win, Ms. Walker said, "You made a decision...good luck."

A breast cancer survivor the previous decade, Ms. Walker, an FSU Hall of Fame member, was diagnosed with bone cancer the summer of 2011. She was transferred to a Sun City Center hospice facility on Oct. 29, when doctors discovered it had spread to her brain.

Two days later, Tyler Bakich shot a 5-under 67 on Day Two of the 36-hole Class 2A state tournament in Tavares, finishing in a tie for fourth. It was the best round of the event.

"Tyler," Stevens said. "You've got a lot of your mom in you."

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Romeo

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