May 13, 2010
BY JOSH PATE
Justin Walker was meant to wear orange. Sure, the Tennessee sophomore golfer entertained recruiting pitches from other schools during his senior year of high school. But he was going to Tennessee.
Walker, who is from Greenbrier just north of Nashville, chose to play for the Vols 30 years after his father did exactly the same thing. But he wasn't just following footsteps. Walker plans to blaze his own trail on the course and in the classroom. He had a scorching fall season and has finally settled into his groove in the spring with a few changes to his game. One of the changes is a new putter. Now he tries it out on "The Front Nine."
No. 1 (Par 4, 452 yards) -- Why did you choose to play golf at Tennessee?
JW - I grew up in Tennessee and UT was always a place that I wanted to come. Both of my parents went to UT and also my grandfather went to UT. My dad played golf at UT from 1978-82, so I had that. I've always been a UT fan. When I was in high school I was recruited by some other schools, but I just liked everything about UT.
No. 2 (Par 4, 387 yards) -- What is it like knowing your father competed here and also was a Vol?
JW - It's pretty neat. I think there's only like three sets of father-sons who ever competed at UT, and one of them was James Brannen who just graduated. It's pretty neat to go somewhere your dad went. Actually, he won the SEC when he was here. It's pretty cool just to continue the legacy.
No. 3 (Par 3, 198 yards) -- Do you ever compare stories and laugh about how different things are now?
JW - I know a lot of the people who were on the team with him when they were in college. It's funny to hear them talk about going to the Strip and to OCI (Old College Inn) and places where everybody still goes today. So it's kind of funny to hear things like that.
No. 4 (Par 4, 483 yards) -- After a solid fall season, what has been your biggest improvement for your sophomore season?
JW - I didn't start playing golf competitively until the summer of when I was 15 years old so I'm kind of a long ways behind everybody I'm playing with. The reason why I got better in the fall was because I got more experience. The more experience I get, the better I get. Specifically, last summer, I worked on my swing and really worked on trying to get it closer to the hole with my irons. Last fall, I hit it really well. Then over the Christmas break with the weather and all, I didn't get to practice as much so I struggled a little bit in the spring. But I'm starting to get it back.
No. 5 (Par 4, 453 yards) -- What are your goals with two seasons remaining at Tennessee?
JW - One of my biggest goals that I've always had since I came to UT is I wanted to become an Academic All-America. I'd like to do that next year. I'm majoring in management and marketing. I'm not really sure what I want to do as a career yet. I am considering going to law school and see where it takes me. Golf-wise, I just want to do the best I can do - just practice and see what I can do. Like I said, the more experience I get, the better I get. I'd love to play in every tournament, play in the SECs and go on to play in the NCAAs.
No. 6 (Par 5, 560 yards) -- What has been your best experience at Tennessee so far?
JW - The best part for me is just being a UT student-athlete. It's a special thing at Tennessee. Most people in Tennessee are UT fans. Just going to UT is a big deal in Tennessee, so I've always thought that was pretty cool.
No. 7 (Par 4, 462 yards) -- Do you have a player you follow or model your game around?
JW - Before this year, it was Tiger Woods. But I've grown to like Fred Couples. I like the way he's really loose out on the course. You can tell he's having fun when he's out there. You can tell he's really relaxed out there, and I really like that.
No. 8 (Par 3, 176 yards) -- What is your favorite club right now in your bag?
JW - I just started using a belly putter recently so I'll go with that. I've kind of always struggled with my putting a little bit. Our assistant coach, Casey VanDamme, worked with me and we decided I should try a belly putter just to see how it works. I tried it and I really liked it. It's definitely a big change from conventional putting, but I really like it.
No. 9 (Par 5, 613 yards) -- If you never played golf, what would you rather be doing?
JW - I really like cars and stuff like that, so if I wasn't playing golf I would be restoring classic muscle cars. My favorite muscle car is a 1968 Camaro RS/SS. I like the new Camaros but I still like the old ones better. I don't drive it in Knoxville, but I've got a truck at home that I work on and mess with. Even with playing golf I still have time to work on cars some. I've got a 1999 Chevy Tahoe with a lift on it and big tires and big wheels and all that good stuff. I like messing with the engine some.