Mickey Walker: Golf's Only 4-Time Solheim Cup Captain

Mickey Walker is an English golfer who was one of the most prominent members of the Ladies European Tour in the years immediately after that tour's founding in the late 1970s. Before that, Walker had a brief but spectacular amateur career, including reaching the championship match three years running in the British Women's Amateur and winning two of them. After her LET success, Walker was selected as the captain for Team Europe in each of the first four Solheim Cups.

Full name: Carol Michelle Walker

Date of birth: December 17, 1952

Place of birth: Leeds, Yorkshire, England

Also known as: Mickey is the nickname by which she was known, but early in her career she was often called Michelle Walker in news articles and is still listed that way in some older publications.

Her Biggest Wins

Walker's amateur career included two victories in the British Women's Amateur Championship:
  • 1971 French International Lady Juniors Amateur Championship
  • 1971 British Women's Amateur
  • 1972 British Women's Amateur
  • 1972 Women's Trans-Mississippi
  • 1972 Portuguese International Ladies Amateur Championship
  • 1973 English Women's Amateur Championship
As a pro, Walker won six Ladies European Tour titles:
  • 1979 Carlsberg Championship
  • 1980 Lambert & Butler Matchplay
  • 1981 Carlsberg Championship
  • 1983 Sands International
  • 1984 Baume & Mercier International
  • 1984 Lorne Stewart Matchplay Championship
She also won the 1982 Sunningdale Foursomes off the tour.

In the Solheim Cup

The Solheim Cup was first played in 1990, with the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour both using the occasion to name as team captains one of their most prominent and respected members. For Team USA, that was the legend Kathy Whitworth. The LET, a much younger tour than the LPGA, chose Mickey Walker. And the LET chose Walker again in 1992, 1994 and 1996 — a measure of the elevated place that Walker held in the arena of women's golf in Europe.

Many years later Walker said this: "Having been captain for the first four editions of the Solheim Cup from 1990, and involved with the matches since then, it would be true to say that The Solheim Cup is part of my DNA."

Team USA won that inaugural 1990 Solheim Cup, 11.5 to 4.5, in Orlando, Florida. It was a sparsely attended competition that wasn't even broadcast on television.

The tournament's importance in golf began to increase, though, when Captain Walker led Team Europe to its first victory in the 1992 Solheim Cup. That was an 11.5 to 6.5 win for the Europeans. Walker captained the European side again in the 1994 Solheim Cup and 1996 Solheim Cup, but her squad was the losing team in both.

Walker remains the only person to serve as a Solheim Cup team captain four times. Team USA's Juli Inkster, with three captaincies, is the only other person to serve in the role more than twice.

More About Mickey Walker

Mickey Walker's amateur golf career was brief, essentially three-and-a-half years from 1970-73, but she pulled off multiple significant feats during that time.

She first came to prominence by reaching the finals of the 1970 British Girls Amateur, a match that she lost. But a year later she won a different junior title, the French International Lady Juniors.

Then Walker took a huge step up when she won the 1971 British Women's Amateur. At 18 years old, she was the youngest British Women's Amateur champ to that point in the 20th century.

At age 19 in 1972, she repeated as British Women's Amateur champ. In her first trip to America, Walker became the first foreign winner of the Women's Trans-Mississippi Amateur, beating Jane Bastanchury Booth in championship match. She also won the Portuguese International Ladies Amateur Championship and a prominent English amateur event, the Hovis Ladies, as well as finising runner-up in the Ladies' British Open Amateur Stroke Play and representing England at the Espirito Santo Trophy. She was named the British Golf Writers' Golfer of the Year for 1972.

In 1973, Walker won the English Women's Amateur and, in France, the Avia Foursomes. She also reached the championship match of the British Women's Amateur again, but this time lost. Still, Walker became the first golfer since Pamela Barton in 1934-36 to make the championship match three years running (and outdid Barton, who won only one of those years).

Along the way, Walker lead English or British teams to victory in multiple international team competitions. She played on Team England in the 1971 and 1973 European Ladies' Team Championships, leading her side to victory in both. She was on the winning British teams for both the 1971 Commonwealth Trophy and 1971 Vagliano Trophy.

But her best team performance actually came in a losing effort. In the 1972 Curtis Cup, a few weeks before her 1972 British Women's Amateur victory, Walker won 3.5 of a possible four points for Team Great Britain & Ireland against Team USA. Walker was the only undefeated player on either side in what was a 10-8 victory for the Americans. In foursomes, Walker partnered Mary McKenna to a win over Hollis Stacy/Beth Barry, and Walker/McKenna also defeated Laura Baugh/Martha Wilkinson Kirouac. In singles, Walker halved with Baugh on the first day, then defeated Jane Bastanchury Booth on the second day. It was the closest GB&I came to winning any Curtis Cup from 1960 through 1982.

Walker turned pro later in 1973 at a time when many top British women golfers remained amateurs their entire careers because, at that time, there was no professional women's golf tour in Britain or Europe. But expectations for Walker as a pro were big, as evidenced by the fact that she was signed by super-agent Mark McCormack, agent for Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

In a rare move for European golfers at the time, Walker went to America and finished sixth in LPGA Q-School (Pat Bradley and Jan Stephenson were 1-2). She barely won any money in her LPGA rookie year of 1974 and had to return to Q-School, but won it this time by nine strokes.

Walker's time on the LPGA didn't live up to the expectations many had for her (Peter Alliss went so far to write that Walker "lost her game" in the mid-1970s). Her best money-list finish was 42nd in 1976. That year she came closest to recording an LPGA win, posting her only second-place finish at the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Classic. (That was the first playing of what was later known as the Rail Charity Classic and State Farm Classic.) Walker finished the 54 holes of regulation play in a four-way tie with Sandra Palmer, JoAnne Carner and Mary Lou Crocker. But Palmer won the playoff.

Walker had her two best finishes in women's majors in 1977, tying for 26th in the LPGA Championship and 28th in the U.S. Women's Open. In 1978, her last year playing the LPGA full-time, she was 82nd on money list.

By 1979, Europe was ready for its first women's pro tour, and Walker was one of the founding members and biggest stars when the Ladies European Tour (LET) debuted that year. (It was initially called the Women's PGA Tour, or WPGA Tour.)

And Walker had much success in the early years of the LET, with all her victories and runner-up finishes happening in the years from 1979 through 1984. In 1979, Walker won once on the LET and had two runner-up finishes. One of those seconds was in the Women's British Open, but the WBO was still decades away from being called a major championship.

In 1980, Walker won the last tournament of the LET season after posting three second-place finishes earlier. That win was in what was then called the Lambert & Butler Matchplay, the first of her two victories in what is better-remembered today as the British Women's Matchplay.

In 1981 — a year in which she also served as chairman of the tour — Walker won the season-opener. In 1982, she had no victories but was runner-up to LPGA player Rosie Jones in the United Friendly Worthing Open, and, for the second year in a row, finished seventh on the Order of Merit.

Following a down year on tour in 1982, Walker came back in 1983 with two second-place finishes and another win in the LET season-ender. She finished a career-best second on the Order of Merit.

In 1984, Walker recorded the last of her six career LET victories, the final one being her second win in the British Women's Matchplay.

Walker's years playing a full tour schedule ended when she was appointed as head professional at The Warren Golf Club in Essex, England, in 1987, a position she held through 2001. She went on to become become one of the first three women to earn Masters Professional status — a designation that was rare for male professionals, too — from the British PGA.

Walker was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993, so in Britain is always referred to as Mickey Walker, OBE.

After leaving The Warren Club, Walker continued as a teaching professional and started the Mickey Walker Golf Schools. She made a couple instructional films along the way, too, with The Beginner's Guide to Women's Golf released on VHS and Better Golf for Women released on DVD.

Walker was a commentator on golf broadcasts in Britain from 1992 through 2020. She also wrote golf articles and commentaries for many years for the U.K.'s Lady Golfer Magazine. And she became a popular after-dinner speaker.

In 2019, she returned in an official capacity to the Solheim Cup, serving as captain for the European Junior Solheim Cup team. In 2022, was named a Life Member of the British PGA, the PGA's highest honor and the first woman so-honored.

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