We chat golf with Dan Walker - including the day he nearly won $1m for a hole-in-one


When Dan Walker's mother cut short his first golf lesson, a group session being taught by a drunken instructor, he could never have guessed the huge part the sport would play in his life. 

The 38-year-old has been a key part of the BBC's golf team for over a decade, and it was during the 2009 Open at Turnberry that Walker was offered his role as presenter of Football Focus

Since then, the Hallamshire Golf Club member's star has risen rapidly. He's revamped the show, has a weekly show on 5Live, holds cult status with his 400,000 Twitter followers and is one of the best (and longest) golfers on the celebrity circuit. 

I work in football, but I prefer golf. 

Certainly when it comes to playing. Your best golf shot can be as good as Rory McIlroy's. Of course your worst shot is far worse and far more regular, but the good memories drive you back. And it's unique because you can play the same courses the world's best players play – that's not true in other sports. 

As much as I love golf, I fear for its future. 

Five million people have stopped playing in America in the last decade. Viewing figures are dramatically lower without Tiger Woods. The game's at a massive junction. If it gets it right, it can flourish. But if it gets it wrong, I fear for its future. 

Anything that gets people playing is good

Biggers holes, shorter rounds, speed golf, relaxed dress codes – golf has to embrace these things. There's so much opportunity for youngsters to go and play other sports that if they think "golf is expensive, it's hard work, I get told off for my choice of shorts", they'll go elsewhere. 

The Open is my favourite week of the year. 

I used to watch it from start to finish, so working on it is a privilege. 

I started at Hoylake in 2006 and shoved a microphone in anyone and everyone's face!

I watched Tiger for the first two days – he was hitting a 2-iron and the noise was incredible. Even fellow players were lining up to watch him on the range. The only other time I've seen that was at Rory McIlroy's first Open in 2007. 


Turnberry and Birkdale are my favourite Open venues.

I intentionally snap-hooked one onto the beach at Turnberry's 10th hole – you can't play there and not hit a shot from the beach!

I interviewed Tom Watson during his practice round at Turnberry in 2009.

I'd asked him two questions and as I started to ask him a third he tapped me on the shoulder and said, "two is enough; I've got golf to play". That's dedication. 

The way that week developed was fascinating. 

A man of Watson's age winning a golf tournament for young men would have been one of the top three sports stories of all time. Hollywood scriptwriters would call it far-fetched. 

Being offered Football Focus was like my childhood dream coming true. 

My Saturday used to revolve around Football Focus and Grandstand. Des Lynam was my hero. I used to finish it off with The A-Team and a bath!

The show needed changing. 

So we introduced around the grounds, going out of the studio, longer form interviews. We get two million viewers on Saturday lunchtime, which shows how strong it is. Football Focus on BBC World is watched by up to 32 million people. 

I won't do the show forever. 

I'd love to do a quiz, factual entertainment or history show. I always wanted to teach history and P.E. I still hope to do that when the media world is bored of me!

I'm a Christian and I won't work on a Sunday. 

I had a line on my CV explaining it, but people used to think it was a joke. I must have been told 30 to 40 times that I had no chance in this industry because of that. Let's face it, though: no one wants to see my face on the final day of The Open!

I'm ridiculously competitive. 

But my commitmets limit my golf to charity days and pro-ams. I wouldn't be much better even if I played every day, but I'd love to be a scratch golfer. 

I played with Paul McGinley and played really well. 

Maybe it's my job, but I love a crowd and play better with 200 people around a tee box! We got to the 12th at Wentworth, the longest drive hole, and he said to me, "you've got this in the bag". I annihilated one 332 yards and won it. I turned to McGinley and said "Any chance of a Ryder Cup pick?" but he replied, "don't be ridiculous – I've seen you putt!"

I nearly won $1m for a hole-in-one.

I'd never even been close to one until a charity event at Close House called the Have A Heart Million Dollar Challenge. There was a $1m prize for acing the 9th at Westwood's Colt Course. I had 192 yards into the wind with about 10-feet between the lake and the pin. Only seven of the 240 players made the green at all. I was the final shot of the day. I hit a 4-iron, it never left the pin and there were wild shrieks of excitement as it landed on line about five feet from the hole and jumped forward... but refused to roll further. Thankfully I holed the birdie putt. 


I holed a 120ft putt. 

It was on David Gold's monster three-tiered green in his back garden. There is video evidence. My other biggest golfing achievement was shooting 75 around Wentworth's West Course off the back tees. 

I love getting dressed up for golf. 

I love that the course allows me to wear clothing I'd never wear in any other walk of life – I've got some ludicrous pairs of trousers! I draw the line at long socks though. 

Tim Henman is the best amateur golfer I've ever seen. 

Even though he has a bizarre split-handed grip! Kenny Dalglish is the biggest seven-handicap bandit! He's brilliant – anywhere from 220 yards in and he's on the green. Alan Shearer's up there, too. 

I don't get starstruck. 

Sports starts are fortunate to earn big salaries, but they're just people. The only person I've asked for an autograph is Pele because... well, he's Pele. He signed a shirt, but I had this nice NY Cosmos bag from the sponsors that I was keeping for the gym. As I turned to put the shirt in my other bag he started signing the NY bag. I said "Pele, don't sign the bag!" I now have a bag with half a 'Pele' on it as a permanent reminder of being an idiot!

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