By Nicole Graf
Professional golfer Jimmy Walker may be well known in the golf world for his putts and long shots on the fairway, but Jimmy isn’t the only “ace” in the family. His wife, Erin, is a dynamo herself as a competitive equestrian athlete, business owner and mother of two young boys. These phrases are foundational components of what makes her who she is and she’s combining all facets of her life very successfully.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and having a former world champion freestyle skier as a father, Erin’s competitive drive was instilled at an early age. She grew up on the ski slopes and competed in Alpine racing. After sustaining an injury, she turned her focus back to her main passion — horses. Erin had started riding when she was in kindergarten, growing her skills in the saddle aboard an inexpensive pony and an $8,000 Thoroughbred that she competed in the children’s hunter, junior, and amateur-owner divisions.
Focusing on a law degree in college, Erin changed course after meeting Jimmy while he was competing on the Nationwide Tour in 2004. Since marrying in 2005, the Walkers have welcomed two boys to their family who are often found with their parents at the golf course or a horse show. A superstar on the greens, Jimmy is the 2016 PGA Champion.
A Busy Team
The fundamental skills instilled in her as a young rider have carried Erin on through adulthood, keeping her at the top of her game personally and professionally. In addition to her roles as wife and mother, Erin keeps “Team Walker” running smoothly, organizing all travel arrangements and event appearances, reviewing contracts and acting as chief motivator. She maintains an active competition schedule herself of about 15 shows a year, something she openly describes as defining her. Erin is also rewriting the playbook on what it means to be a PGA TOUR wife.
“Tour wives had lives before our husbands defined us and I’m lucky enough that Jimmy is so supportive of my equestrian passion,” Erin said. “I love to watch him play and sometimes that means running onto the golf course while I’m still in my horse show clothes!”
Jimmy admits he is much more comfortable swinging irons than putting his feet in them. “I’ve never even sat on a horse and I have no intention to start a new hobby!” he said with a laugh. “However, I really enjoy watching Erin ride and compete, and I really admire her and other top riders because I know what it takes to become a pro at any level. I know how hard you have to work and I can appreciate what’s happening.
“I get a tiny bit nervous watching Erin ride,” Jimmy continued. “I’m not worried about her getting hurt, just her being satisfied and enjoying what she’s doing. I want her to smile and have a good time doing it. I know she’s competitive and wants to win, but it’s harder for her because her time to practice is more sporadic than other riders. I’m very proud of her.”
Erin returned to the competitive equestrian arena after college when she purchased a pair of 3-year-olds from Iron Spring Farm and turned them into hunters. Under trainer Will Roberts, she continued to ride hunters until 2011 when she acquired her first jumper, Cinco, a horse that had been imported by Eric Lamaze, from top rider Hunt Tosh.
Under the watchful eye of new trainer Conor O’Regan of Ireland, they made their first competitive appearance at the 2014 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, a monumental moment for Erin, whose goal is to compete at grand prix someday when time permits focus and practice for that level.
Since then, Erin has made several acquisitions of horses including the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding Barlando, whom Conor competed at the FEI Grand Prix level, but will compete with Erin at WEF this season. Other horses include Umbra 34, a 14-year-old bay Holsteiner mare who was shown internationally at grand prix by Paris Sellon followed by Zazau Hoffman on the West Coast, and Playboy, a 12-year-old bay Belgian Warmblood gelding who was previously competed at grand prix by Charlie Jayne and whom Erin now competes regularly herself in the amateur jumper division.
In 2017, Erin created Dynomite Ranch with the goal of buying and breeding talented horses competitive for the international or amateur rings. In addition, Erin, Jimmy and their Dynomite Ranch are committed to growing the equestrian industry and sport beyond what they are today. With a vision of cross-sport collaboration, they want to integrate golf into the sport by hosting PGA golfers at shows like WEF, WIHS, Upperville and others.
“There are many similarities between the golf and horse show scenes,” Erin stated. “At Dynomite Ranch, we are working to bring more notoriety to show jumping by getting golfers interested in our sport. In addition, it’s our intention to highlight cross-sport sponsorship opportunities that show that golf and horses can go hand-in-hand.”
“It’s still very much its infancy,” Jimmy commented. “We’re working on getting our golf friends to come to check out the horse shows in Florida, have some fun and see what a great sport it is.”
“Once these guys see how much fun it is, then I think they may want to get involved — even as owners of horses — which is another vision of mine,” Erin said with a smile. “I’d like to bring a new element to it.”
Erin’s vision will become more of a reality during WEF Week 7, February 21–25. The CSI5* week coincides with The Honda Classic, a major PGA event that takes place right around the corner from WEF in Palm Beach Gardens, and Jimmy will be competing. In a unique and exciting twist, Erin will be taking over the WEF Instagram account and provide coverage from both world-class events.
“It’s a great way to bring a different angle to their social media streams,” Erin said. “We’re also going to bring golfers over to watch the top equestrian athletes compete, and we’ll bring riders over to watch the top golfers compete. It’s a great way to show what we do!”
Dynomite Ranch is already on a path to its goals. Umbra (by For Pleasure) is Dynomite Ranch’s foundation mare, bred to Emerald this year and expecting a foal via surrogate in March 2018.
“Our shopping trips to Europe have already begun, which is very exciting,” Erin remarked. “We want to buy horses to bring on and sell, but also to build our own breeding program, which is why we are mostly interested in buying mares. It just makes more sense for the goals of Dynomite Ranch. Another one of our goals in the next couple of years is to find a top horse for Conor [O’Regan] to ride in the five-star grand prix and Nations Cup competitions.”
Although the ranch may eventually be based on home turf in Texas, all of Dynomite Ranch’s horses are currently based with Conor in Upperville, Virginia, as the Walkers are on the road so much.
“Upperville is almost like home for us,” Erin said. “There’s no doubt that we enjoy the northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., areas. I’m proud to play a role in continuing to grow the sport in the region.”
Support for the Future
In April 2017, Jimmy announced that he had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Since the diagnosis, Erin has been an outspoken supporter of her husband and has joined in the fight against the debilitating disease.
“Lyme disease has been a huge challenge for us this year, but thankfully Jimmy’s doing much better,” Erin said. “The Global Lyme Alliance has been a huge help to us. Their research is based on science and they do an incredible job in raising awareness about this terrible disease. We’re also exploring ideas that we can work on together with them.”
“It has been really frustrating this year, not being able to play in as many tournaments as I usually do,” Jimmy said. “But I’m working hard and feeling better.”
Balancing one component of Erin’s daily life would be difficult for anyone, let alone all of them at once. Erin is open about sharing her life in an authentic, personal way via Instagram and Twitter (@TourWifeTravels). As a prolific writer, Erin openly discusses the ups and downs of managing her family, her equestrian career and being a partner in her husband’s PGA journey in editorial pieces for several media outlets.
With their children now in school and “slightly” more time on her hands, Erin recently revamped her blog, tourwifetravels.com, and is planning weekly updates that include a broader range of topics than she did previously. A section devoted to Dynomite Ranch with business updates, their horses and competition results has also been added.
“We should define ourselves not on what we do for a living, but rather who we are as individuals,” Erin summarized. “I define myself by being a wife, mother and a competitive equestrian. While it’s difficult at times to balance all facets, I couldn’t do it without knowing I have a partner in Jimmy.
“My equestrian ventures are more than just a hobby; they’re foundational to who I am,” she continued. “Each day, the Dynomite Ranch team is working to breed, acquire, train and compete with the best horses in the world. I’m really excited about our future, both for golf and horses.”