Mike Walker, coach of Masters champion Danny Willett, has been awarded the John Jacobs Award for Teaching & Coaching at the Confederation of Professional Golf’s Annual Congress Gala Awards supported by Rolex.
Walker was nominated by the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland and acknowledged with the accolade due to being seen as one of the world’s leading coaches having brought success to over 40 European Tour players over the past 10 years.
“I feel very humbled and very proud – especially with John Jacobs linked to my roots at Hallamshire and Lindrick Golf Clubs at different stages,” said Walker. “One of my players, Matt Fitzpatrick, originates from Hallamshire, and my first proper golf lesson was at Lindrick with Pete Cowen so it seems quite fitting.
“I am extremely honoured to be associated with such a household name, especially with his recent passing. My condolences go to his family and friends and I hope they know how much this means to me.”
The John Jacobs Award is the Confederation of Professional Golf’s highest coaching accolade and is presented to a PGA Professional who has excelled as a golf coach at all levels of the game, be it with elite or beginner players alike across a number of years.
Previous winners of the award have included Shane Lowry’s coach, Neil Manchip, along with Michael Bannon, coach of Rory McIlroy and Salvador Luna, coach of Sergio Garcia.
“I know it’s a cliché but everybody values being acknowledged by their peers,” added Walker. “Obviously you just try to go to work everyday and do your best…if things like this happen then it gives you a boost of confidence that you must be doing something right, and it’s really pleasing and satisfying.”
Having turned professional in 2003, Walker established himself as a coach at the Pete Cowen Golf Academy in Rotherham, England. There he has assisted Cowen with some of his top players, whilst also taking players on in his own right from 2010.
Walker currently coaches the likes of Danny Willett, US Amateur, British Masters, Nordea Masters and DP World Tour Championship winner, Mathew Fitzpatrick, and 2016 BMW PGA Championship Winner, Chris Wood, and spends the majority of his time travelling with his players on the European and PGA Tours.
“What has driven me forward in coaching is an obsession for golf technique – being brutally honest it’s for selfish reasons to begin with, but then when you don’t manage it yourself [as a player] the people you are actually teaching become the vehicle to do the same thing – it’s really just an obsession with the topic.”
His players have achieved over 20 tournament victories between them and he has worked with seven Ryder Cup players in total and in Willett, Fitzpatrick and Wood, coached 3 of the players on the European team in the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Along with his Ryder Cup team members, 2016 was particularly successful for Walker, most notably with Danny Willett winning his first major championship, becoming the first British player to win at Augusta National for 20 years.
Walker has worked with Mathew Fitzpatrick from an early age, during which time he has gone on to become World Amateur number one and graduated on to the Professional ranks where he continues to make waves.
Much of Walker’s success can be attributed to the mentorship and help of Pete Cowen, who began by coaching Walker during his playing career but latterly was the catalyst for sending him down a coaching path:
“I was extremely privileged to work with Pete – I had one of the best coaches in the world on tap. I wouldn’t be receiving this award if it wasn’t for Pete – it’s that simple, I owe him a lot.
“A lot of coaches keep their cards to their chest but Pete keeps renewing your interest. What I most enjoy is talking technique and hitting balls with him, comparing ideas, seeing what players do with him, and with me, what works, and what doesn’t – it’s constantly stimulating your interest and it’s a fortunate position to be in.”