Lee Ross: Mr. Walker, how are you doing these days?


Jimmy Walker: I'm pretty good. A few pains with my knees and hip. Other than that, I walk with a limp, so I need a walker to walk around. So other than that, the rest of my health is pretty good.


Lee Ross: What first brought you to California?


Jimmy Walker:  I was living in New York with a friend of mine and a sponsor wanted to send my friend James Black out here to California. How would you like to go to California? So we had Harold Donovan and James Black and Harold Donovan's wife -- we decided to come out to California in 1963. I came to L.A. to play in the Gardenia Open at what used to be Western Avenue but now is Chester Washington.


Lee Ross: Let me step back a minute. Where were you born and raised?


Jimmy Walker: I was born and raised in North Carolina. And in 1959 I went to New York and I played all my amateur golf anywhere from New York to Boston to all the way in the south as far as Miami. And then in '62 I decided to turn pro.


Lee Ross: What opportunities did you have in your amateur days or your professional days in the 60s when considering the rampant segregation that existed, certainly throughout the south, many parts of the country, but within golf? How did that reflect in your amateur career and your professional life?


Jimmy Walker: Well, when I went to New York in '59 I met some people that was a lot older than I. And I was playing the city courses around New York and a few people saw me play golf and they invited me to come out with them. And so I started traveling with them around different places and then they said 'How would you like to go to Florida with us?' The tournament was in 1960 in Miami. I just turned 21 and I was in love with golf so much and all I wanted to do was play golf. So I went along with them. And so that's where I first met Teddy Rhodes, Charlie Sifford, Pete Brown, all of the good Black golfers. That was the Black tour and that was my first tournament I ever played in 1960. As far as the South, I had no problems, you know, with segregation because I knew where I belonged. You know, I didn't go around looking for trouble. You know, so I stayed in my place. I played golf and everybody loved golf. No matter what color you are, you can play.  As far as having any problems or the Tour, the only time I had a problem or conflict with anyone I was playing in San Francisco at Harding Park. I decided to go in the clubhouse and see what they have in the clubhouse that I like, see something that I might want to buy. The security guard wouldn't let me in. He said, 'You can't go in -- you're a caddie.' I said, 'I'm a PGA pro.' And he didn't think so. So some of the other PGA players knew me and they went to this guy and try to tell him that I was one of the regulars on the tour. But by me being Black, he didn't think I was a professional PGA player.


Lee Ross: Tell me about some of your experiences with the L.A. Open.


Jimmy Walker: We came in November '63 to play in the L.A. Open to try to qualify for it, you know?  My friend James Black, he qualified for it. You know, we always stayed together. And since I missed it and he made it I caddied for him. And he finished in the top 25, I think. The first round the headlines were James Black shot 67 and Roger Ginsburg from New York he shot 67 -- the headline was a Black and a Jew were leading the L.A. Open. This was 1964. [In 1965] I got a card from the PGA saying I was good enough and I got my PGA card. I got a chance to play in the L.A. Open. I missed the cut. [I was playing with] Mike Souchak and Dutch Harrison. They didn't have grass on the greens -- they had just topdressed the greens, you know? And the greens were all sand. It was miserable. I think I must have three-putted about eight times. In '69 at the L.A. Open -- that's the year Charlie Sifford won -- in the first round I shoot 67. That 67 held up until Charlie Sifford came in with a 63!


Lee Ross: When you're struggling on tour, which most guys do, trying to get a paycheck here, trying to get a paycheck there. You lose your card, you get your card, you lose your card -- how else are you making money?


Jimmy Walker: During that time I was traveling wherever the sun was shining and play in a tournament and try to make a living that way. We had a Black tour. It wasn't much money. You get a job during the winter. You found something else to do to survive. You played golf whenever you could, you know? If you didn't make the tour, you get a job.

Lee Ross: Did you play money games?


Jimmy Walker: Yeah. Yeah, I played by money games. But not my money. I always played with someone else's money. I always had a backer.


Lee Ross: And how did that turn out for you?


Jimmy Walker: Pretty good. I survived. Most of the time I could beat the people that I was playing.


Lee Ross: How did you end up full-time at Rancho?


Jimmy Walker: I had been working in Dayton, Ohio as an assistant pro under Pete Brown for 13 years. A friend of mine called me and said, 'How would you like to come back to L.A.?' I was tired of those winters in Ohio. I came back out to L.A. in '94 and I got married and my wife worked for the insurance company. And so I had to take her to work every day and that was right near Rancho. After I dropped her off at work, I would come by Rancho and hit balls. And so I was there about a month or so, and [longtime pro] Ron Weiner said 'how would you like a job here?'


Lee Ross: How many lessons do you figure you've given?


Jimmy Walker: Oh boy, I can't count, but I know one year when people were buying a package of lessons. You know, they could buy six lessons for $125. I think I did about 3,000 lessons.


Lee Ross: Who are some of the students that you had that stick out in your memory?


Jimmy Walker: Well, I had quite a few. I had celebrities. For a while, I was teaching a lot of guys that worked at Young the Restless. And then I got to meet George Hamilton. I gave him quite a few, I'd say, about five or six.


Lee Ross: For the beginning players, how do you go about giving that lesson?


Jimmy Walker: First, I would check the grip out. The grip is the most important thing. If you can't hold the club right, you can't keep the face square when you swing the club back to impact. So the first thing you want to teach someone is how to hold the club. You have to teach the basic fundamentals like grip, stance and posture. And ball position. Once you get a person set up in the right position to make contact, you know, he’s going to hit some good shots to some bad shots, but it takes practice, practice, and practicing the right fundamentals to be able to, you know hit good golf shots.


Lee Ross: Do you remember one really crazy lesson you gave to someone who just frankly shouldn't have been there, but they were paying you anyway?


Jimmy Walker: Yeah, I had quite a few of those. A lot of them I wanted to give the money back. You know, some of them knew more than you knew. And some of them didn't want to change, you know, and they had no chance. And some of them wanted an instant -- be like a pro after you teach them.


Lee Ross: Rancho Park is a public golf course. It's a municipal golf course. How important is having public access to golf? How Important is it to the game, to the community, especially for minorities and minority kids?


Jimmy Walker:  It's very important because if you're a minority you can't go to a private course and play. That's the only place you can play -- a public course. And playing a public golf course is a lot different than playing a private course.


Lee Ross: What would you say to people who think that Rancho Park Golf Course shouldn't exist, there are better uses for that land, whether for housing or for anything else?


Jimmy Walker: They're crazy. I think it should always be a golf course. Because the golf course has a lot of history.


Lee Ross: The last thing I want to ask you is the Golf Channel did a documentary a couple of years ago on the Black Tour and the golf tournament in Asheville, North Carolina -- your home state -- The Skyview. And if you are eagle-eyed enough on that documentary, you saw Jimmy Walker's name in there.


Jimmy Walker: Yeah, I'm in there about five or six times.


Lee Ross: Tell me about that event. Tell me about the Black Tour.


Jimmy Walker: It would start off in Miami, Florida at the first of the year and then they wouldn't play anymore until around May, mostly around New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. And then the middle of the summer they'd be in the Carolinas, like Ashville, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro. During the Summer there was a tournament just about every other week. I was fortunate enough to win my share. I won the Negro Nationals in New Haven, Connecticut and I won the Black Masters in Grand Blanc, Michigan. I think that was one of the biggest Black tournaments. But the PGA stopped them from having it because it said “Masters”.


***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.