OTTUMWA — No matter the deficit, Matthew Walker has a flair for the dramatic on the golf course.
From an eagle-birdie finish to clinch a second Class 4A state golf championship as a senior at Ottumwa High School to a six-shot comeback this past summer that clinched his first professional win, Walker has been at his best in clutch moments.
Another late comeback led to another thrilling professional win this past Wednesday. Walker erased a three-shot deficit on the final hole of regulation in the Wigwam Championship, a Golden State Tour event in Arizona. The two-time OHS state champion birdied four of the last five holes, earning a spot in a three-way playoff before posting the only birdie on the first hole of sudden death to secure the $11,000 winner’s prize.
“It was an unexpected win to say the least,” Walker said. “I was four down heading into the 14th hole.”
It was at the 14th that Walker started his comeback, recording birdies on each of the next three holes. Still tournament leader Matt Picanso maintained a three-shot lead by matching Walker with a birdie on both the 15th and 16th holes.
Picanso maintained a three-shot lead with one hole remaining. The native of Vista, California hit the ball out of bounds on the 18th, leading to a double bogey that allowed both Walker and Andrew Yun a chance to force a playoff with birdies on the final hole.
Walker did his part, sinking a 35-foot putt to match Picanso at 16-under for the three-round tournament. Yun joined the playoff with a birdie of his own on 18, but Walker would secure the championship with a 15-foot birdie as the trio played the 18th hole for the fourth time in three days at the Wigwam Resort.
This past summer, Walker earned his first career professional victory in a playoff at the 86th Iowa Open, held at Blue Top Ridge in Riverside. Walker edged Gavin Hall, who sank and eagle from the fairway on the final hole of regulation to match Walker at 13-under-par, with a par on the first playoff hole becoming the third Ottumwa native to win the tournament and first from the City of Bridges since Bob Moreland in 1981.
“It was a lot more nerve wracking than I wanted but I guess I didn’t know what to expect going into my third Professional start,” Walker said of the Iowa Open championship. “It’s really good to get the win.”
Walker started the final round of the Iowa Open trailing defending champion Dan Woltman by six shots. Walker made the quality shots late to clinch his first professional win, driving the ball down the middle of the fairway and an approach shot on to the backside of the green while Hall his his first shot into a fairway bunker and advanced his second shot only 100 yards, ultimately leading to a bogey.
Walker’s next shot at a professional title could be a PGA Tour victory. The Ottumwa native will be playing in the Waste Management Phoenix Open qualifier on Thursday trying to earn a place in the tournament that will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona starting on Jan. 30.