Tatum Walsh’s first memories of picking up a golf club begin with clinics at The First Tee of Greater Richmond and competing with a team in the PGA Junior League.
Her recollection is she was 7 or 8 years old.
“First Tee on the range with my tiny clubs, and my dad standing next to me. That was really cool,” Walsh said.
Her interest sparked by the drive to get better every day and the enjoyment of playing with her father and his friends and her friends, she set aside all the other sports in which she participated – basketball, swimming, tennis, soccer, gymnastics -- and focused on golf in the eighth grade.
“I focused on golf because I realized I just wanted to spend all my time practicing and putting my effort in that,” she said.
The practice and the effort were the foundation for a sparkling career on the St. Catherine’s golf team and has led to Walsh, 18, being named the 2020-21 Times-Dispatch All-Metro golfer of the year.
She is the third female to earn the title. Jackie Beers of Monacan was the first in 2000 and 2001. Lyberty Anderson of Meadowbrook was honored in 2012.
“She is the real deal. She practices and works hard. She puts in the time,” said Janet Phillips, Walsh’s St. Catherine’s coach.
Said Salisbury Country Club director of golf Mike Hott, Walsh’s swing coach: “She has a lot of God-given talent. She’s fast, naturally strong, works all the right ways. She will work on her body, her strength, her balance. We made some swing changes a couple of years ago. She just absorbed it, worked at it, got through it. The ultimate student.”
Walsh won a tournament on the Peggy Kirk Bell Golf Tour, a girls-only national tour based in North Carolina, when she was an eighth-grader. She was runner-up in the Richmond Women’s Golf Association Amateur as a 14-year-old to 15-year-old friend Caroline Curtis.
Walsh, 17 at the time, claimed her most significant victory last summer in the Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur at Roanoke Country Club. She was the No. 2 seed based on qualifying scores, won three matches to advance to the final and defeated No. 1 seed Julie Shin 5 and 3.
“That was really fun. I love that course. I’m honored to have my name on that trophy,” said the personable Walsh, whose victory came a year after former St. Catherine’s teammate Rory Weinfurther won the tournament in 2019.
“She’s been one of my best friends in golf since forever,” Walsh said. “She texted me after my win last year, and I was like, ‘I’ve got your trophy protected; I’ve got it covered.'"
Hott says Walsh is “starting to realize what she is going to become. There is a lot of work still to be done. The mental part. I have to remind her a lot about how good she really is.”
After a summer of playing tournaments, including trying to defend the VSGA Women’s Amateur title, and getting ready for college, Walsh will join the James Madison golf team in the fall.
The eight-birdie, two-bogey 66 that netted Walsh co-medalist and co-player of the year in the VISAA Division I tournament “was a great way to close out my high school career,” she said.
Meet player of the year Tatum Walsh
School: St. Catherine’s
The skinny: Walsh is the third female to be named All-Metro player of the year following Jackie Beers of Monacan (2000-2001) and Lyberty Anderson (2012). Walsh concluded her high school career as co-champion and co-player of the year in the VISAA Division I tournament. Her 6-under 66 included birdies on the first four holes and eight overall. She set a school record with 58 career birdies and one eagle. Walsh holds the school record for lowest 9-hole score (5-under 31).