The Renaissance Golfer: Kevin Walsh

Posted in Golf Writers Column, Molori Unplugged by on August 9th, 2012

The Most Interesting Man in the World has nothing on Kevin Walsh. The 42-year old Comcast SportsNet personality and scratch golfer began his broadcasting career in Guam and Hawaii. He is the author of two books, owns a psychic dog and is a life-saving bone marrow donor. Through it all, golf has been the constant.

“My dad was the first golfer in our family,” says Walsh who grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Wellesley in 2009 with wife Jean and daughters Samantha and Amanda. “I used to break the neighbors’ windows all the time but they were golfers so they understood. I was seriously competing by age 10, broke 80 for the first time when I was 13 and 70 when I was 14.”

Walsh’s family hails from Massachusetts and he holds a great reverence for some terrific local courses. “I’m on the waiting list at Nehoiden in Wellesley. It’s a 9-hole gem…the best kept secret in golf. Marion and Pine Valley are all about golf with no frills. I like that.” Recruited by Temple, Villanova, La Salle, Penn State and Florida International, Walsh played golf at Purdue on a partial scholarship. “Every player was an amateur champion, scratch or better. We played PGA courses but in March and April. It was freezing. We all had colds and could barely swing the club.” With the talent to pursue a pro career, Walsh was faced with a difficult decision. He explains, “You have to have a singular focus to be a professional golfer. I wanted to get an education, pursue a career and have a family. Like Robert Frost wrote, I’ve always taken the road less traveled. I’ve eaten some humble pie but feel very blessed.”

Great golf leads to great golf stories. In 2000, Walsh was playing with ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski at Pebble Beach Media Day. He relates, “Gene played probably the worst round of golf ever. He was so distraught that he didn’t even go to lunch with us. After lunch, a Lincoln Town Car pulled up and out comes none other than Arnold Palmer. At the time, I was working on a book about caddying. I knew that Palmer was a former caddy so I worked up the courage to ask for a brief interview.

“I was fumbling with my tape recorder, but Palmer could not have been more thoughtful or gracious. I sent Gene a note telling him that he should have come to lunch because Arnie showed up. As it turns out, the joke was on me. Gene had gone to the range to practice and a familiar voice asked if he was struggling. It was Palmer and he ended up giving Gene a private lesson.”

Walsh is a walking golf anecdote but his favorite story is more about life than links. He remarked, “I was working in Honolulu and was given the assignment to cover the story of Chris Pablo. Halfway through his basket at the driving range Chris found an odd, scuffed up ball among the bunch. On the side he saw the words BEAT LEUKEMIA. Here’s the kicker: Chris had been diagnosed with leukemia three weeks earlier. After the story aired, Chris found a lifesaving bone marrow match.

“The family of 2-year-old leukemia patient Alana Dung asked for similar media coverage to increase bone marrow donor registration. Of the 30,000 people who came out to help Alana, more than 86 went to transplant, including me. Four years later I got the call that I was the only match in the world for a 16- year-old boy with cancer.”

Walsh wrote a book about his transplant experience entitled “The Marrow in Me.” His other book, “Follow the Dog Home”, was written with his father Bob and daughter Samantha. This enlightening book celebrates his family’s generational links through family dogs. On one occasion, Walsh’s dog persistently led him to a house in Wellesley. As it turns out, Walsh’s father lived in the house as an infant. The ubiquitous Walsh is a multi-faceted golf everyman who plays, lives and works the game. He states, “being a caddy is the only other job I’ve ever had other than broadcasting. I still caddy at The Country Club in Brookline. It’s a great way for me to learn the course and it makes me feel young again. Golf is not just a game I play. It’s who I am. It scares me to think of my life without it.”

John Molori is the co-author of The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players to be released in the fall of 2013. Email John at molorimedia@aol.com.

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