EDMOND — “Now on No. 1 … playing out of Oklahoma City … Rocky Walcher.”
A former pro golfer who has worked in the public sector the past decade, Walcher will be the first player to tee off Thursday morning at the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National.
“It’s kind of neat that they’re doing that for me,” Walcher said. “It’s something you’ll always remember. I just hope I don’t think about it all night the night before we tee it up.”
Born in Carnegie, Walcher attended high school in Woodward and was an All-American at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. When he stopped playing professionally around age 40, he first sold cellular phones. For the past nine years, he’s been a financial advisor for Edward Jones.
“I’ve been aiming for this tournament almost since the day they announced it was coming to Oak Tree,” Walcher said. “This is such an awesome experience. I was a member here at Oak Tree from 1991 until 2004. I’ve probably played this course at least a thousand times.”
Walcher, 52, had additional motivation besides playing on his former home course. Rod Moody, a longtime friend dating back to when they were college teammates, died of a heart attack in early January.
“When they played the U.S. amateur here in 1984 Rod caddied for me,” Walcher said. “When it looked like I might have a chance to qualify, I started thinking about how great it would be to go back and play at home and also memorialize my good friend. Once I knew I had gotten in I got a little emotional.”
Oak Tree National co-owner Everett Dobson was part of the Southwestern gang that played golf together more than 30 years ago.
“I had a lot of friends who tried to qualify for this, but if I was forced to choose just one to get in it would have been Rocky,” Dobson said. “We’ve played literally thousands of rounds together, a lot of them here at Oak Tree. Rod was our dear friend. We both spoke at his funeral. He died way too soon, way too young.”
Walcher qualified by shooting a 68 two weeks ago at Split Rail Golf Club in Aledo, Texas. He was six-under through 10 holes, in prime position to earn one of the four spots from a field of 140 entries. He finished 4-under, one shot ahead of three other players.
“I had a really good round going, but I almost ran out of gas,” Walcher said. “I drove the ball well. I putted well. I had been building up to that (qualifier) and I liked the course. I knew I was in good shape if I didn’t screw it up. Fortunately, I held on.”
In his 20s and 30s, Walcher played in 55 PGA Tour events, the majority seven years apart in 1994 and 2001. He earned only $100,000 but also pocketed nearly $400,000 in 210 events on the Web.com tour. Walcher also earned money playing two years on the Canadian Tour and mini-tour spots.