Jimmy Walker has turned the corner in his ongoing battle against Lyme. Unfortunately, his wife’s health has taken a turn for the worse.
Walker, a member of the USA Ryder Cup teams in 2014 and 2016 and a winner of the PGA Championship in 2016, is making his first start since the first week of August in this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
This is a special place for Walker. At the Waialae Country Club on Oahu, he won two of his six Tour titles, in 2014 and 2015. But for the first time in many years, his family is not with him on the island paradise. In a cruel twist, Walker’s wife, Erin, was diagnosed in December with Lyme disease, a bacterial illness with symptoms that include fever, headaches and fatigue. The disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Neither knows where they contracted Lyme, though Jimmy Walker thinks he got it on a hunting trip in November 2016.
“She’s doing the exact same meds I was doing this summer,” Walker said. “She’s struggling right now. She’s having a hard time. She’s felt worse since she’s been on the medication. That is the case for a lot of people, which I think is a good thing because that means it’s probably working.”
Last year at this time, Walker “didn’t know what was going on.” He was getting sick frequently, losing energy and his concentration was basically shot. At one point, he said, his blood panels showed six different ailments, including Lyme, mononucleosis and the West Nile virus.
It wasn’t until April that he was told he had Lyme, however. Then there were adverse reactions to his medications, including making his skin sensitive to the sun, so much so that during The Players Championship in May, he got sun blisters on his ears, hands and forearms.
Once the 15th best player in the world, Walker, who eventually had no energy to practice and saw his game suffer, is currently ranked No. 70.
But the worst part, he said, “was just not being able to play with the kids and just be like a normal person. I’ve always been full of life and energy and running around, and I just didn’t have any of that. You just kind of lose yourself in the disease a little bit because it just sucks the life out of you.”
Slowly, he’s battled back. He’s gained 10 pounds and has been working out, practicing and playing golf on a regular basis since September.
“There’s a mental and physical part to go along with Lyme. I physically feel a lot better,” said Walker, who turned 39 on Jan. 16. “ … I just know I’m getting better. I still have some of the forgetfulness and just things slip out of your head. Throughout the day, I feel really good. Every now and then I’ll kind of get a little feeling, and then it just goes away. So I know it’s getting better, where before it would last weeks on end.
“ It’s nice to get back out here. It’s a good place to start. I’ve got a lot of really, really good memories here. I’ve played some phenomenal golf here. So it’s all right out there.”