"I had the same kind of break the year before, and I remember it breaking a little more," he said. "I put it out there, and it just didn't break as much last year. I think I hit a good putt last year; it just didn't go in."
That one stroke could have meant so much - a chance at $850,000 more and a two-year exemption, for starters. But his career illustrates how much sway a single stroke can have over a career.
In 2004, Walker became the second-youngest player to win the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year, doing so at age 25. A neck injury interrupted his PGA Tour rookie season, and he fell off the tour after 2006.
In 2007, one stroke helped him "regraduate" from the Nationwide (renamed the Web.com Tour on Wednesday), and that came in West Virginia. At the Pete Dye Classic in Bridgeport, Walker shot a 5-under 67 to rally from seven shots back to beat Justin Hicks and Matthew Jones by one.
How big was that stroke? As it turned out, Walker finished 25th on the Nationwide money list, grabbing the last golden ticket to the PGA Tour.
He struggled again in 2008, but stayed on the tour through "Q School" late that year. In 2009, he grabbed the 125th spot on the money list - the last to guarantee full membership in 2010 - on the 72nd hole of the final tournament. That wasn't routine, as he chipped within 5 feet and sank the par putt. He double-bogeyed the previous hole.
From there, Walker's play has improved. He rose to 103rd on the 2010 money list, 67th in 2011 and is currently 61st. After this weekend, he and wife Erin will drive from Bethesda, Md., to White Sulphur Springs, with 2-year-old Mclain James making his resort debut.
Bringing the family along for a luxurious weekend is the one of the Classic's classic pitches to the pros. You could say the resort fit Walker's eye.
"It's like a throwback to an era we're just not accustomed to anymore," Walker said. "Put the coat on to go to dinner - you just don't see that anywhere anymore, except maybe in a major city. It's got an old-school atmosphere, all the rooms are quirky with different wallpaper in every room, big, long corridors, lots of old paintings and lots of history.
"It's a cool spot."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.