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Big Break Ireland competitor gets Northern Trust Open exemption

January 23, 2012 | 10:56 am

Fans of the Golf Channel reality show Big Break Ireland will recognize the newest member to the field of the Northern Trust Open which will be held at Riviera Country Club Feb. 14-19.

Andy Walker, who became a major character on the show for his outspoken honesty, will make his first career PGA Tour start at Riviera. Walker is a Pepperdine graduate and played for the Waves' 1997 NCAA champion team.

With the 2012 Northern Trust Open less than a month away, Walker, a 36-year old who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., was chosen from a pool of applicants to receive the exemption, created and sponsored by Northern Trust (Nasdaq: NTRS). The annual exemption provides an opportunity for a top golfer who represents the advancement of diversity in golf and wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to compete in the event.

Walker is the fourth recipient of the Northern Trust Open Exemption, following Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010) and Joseph Bramlett (2011).

“Playing the PGA Tour has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I look forward to competing against the game’s best next month at the Northern Trust Open,” Walker said. “For years, I’ve strived to represent myself, my family, my community and my heritage in golf the best way I know how.  A goal of mine is to use my knowledge of the game to improve the quality of instruction and caliber of facilities for those who otherwise could not afford them. I want to produce or inspire future TOURplayers from my community, and I’m hopeful that playing in the Northern Trust Open will help me do that.  I’m extremely grateful to Northern Trust, not only for affording me this opportunity, but also for instituting an exemption that helps promote and encourage diversity in golf.”

Heavily recruited following high school and junior golf, Walker began his collegiate career at Scottsdale Community College, but transferred to Pepperdine University after competing with Jason Gore at the Pacific Coast Amateur the summer after his freshman year. Walker and Gore helped Pepperdine capture the 1997 NCAA Championship. Both are now in the field at the Northern Trust Open after Gore received a sponsor’s exemption earlier this month, in part because Gore and his friends encouraged a Twitter campaign to get the local a spot in the field.

Over a 12-year professional career, Walker has won tournaments all over the world and has spent the last three years competing on various mini tours, including the Gateway Tour and the Canadian Tour. In 2007, Walker and longtime friend and former NFL player Seth Joyner created the Joyner-Walker Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing life skill programs for high school and college students. The foundation organizes celebrity golf tournaments to benefit local charities.

-- Diane Pucin