It’s been a month of reflection for Menomonie native Ben Walter.
The former Menomonie High School golfer was inducted into Wisconsin State Golf Association Hall of Fame at an induction ceremony this past weekend at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa.
It was a surprise for Walter, 48, when contacted about being nominated for the hall of fame by Randy Warobick, a hall of fame committee member.
“It was very emotional. It was an out-of-the-blue phone call,” Walter said. “I’m out here living in Arizona and haven’t been playing a lot of golf, hadn’t even played a state open in seven years. It was very emotional. I really have been reflecting on how lucky I was and all the great things I did on the course and all the people that helped me along the way.”
Saturday’s induction was the second hall of fame ceremony of the year for the 1989 Menomonie graduate. In early September, Walter was part of a 12-person class inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Walter played three seasons for the Badgers and was all-Big Ten in 1993 and 1994, when he led the team to conference titles.
His final year for the Badgers was also the first year he won the first of his three Wisconsin State Opens. Walter remembers birdieing the final hole to win the open championship at Eau Claire Country Club in 1994.
Three years later, Walter added another highlight to his stellar career, dueling with Steve Stricker for an open title. It was the first state open for Stricker since joining the PGA Tour and Walter battled with the highly-ranked golfer over the final 36 holes, coming out on top for his second state open championship.
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Walter’s final state open win came in 2005, after he had been away from golf after years of playing on the Canadian Tour.
When Walter reflects on his successes in the game. he instantly goes back to his early years playing in Menomonie.
Not only was Walter impacted by those in golf but said he learned a lot from his youth hockey coaches Ed Roethke and Terry Watkins. His father played a big part throughout his career and group of golf people in Menomonie played vital role in his development, which includes current UW-Stout golf coach Howie Samb.
He played with members of the UW-Stout golf team in his youth and learned from Blue Devils coach Sten Pierce. He grew his golf game playing with UW-Stout athletes Eric Pierce, Craig Anderson, Steve Dahlby and Jim Maguire as the older golfers both taught and challenged him.
“I was lucky to be at an age where they were 5-7 years older than me and I could emulate them,” Walter said.
Walter was introduced Saturday by fellow Menomonie native Brad White.
When Walter took the stage he reflected on getting the call from Warobick and the emotions he felt being recognized and how fortunate he felt to have so many great people help him along the way. Walter lives in Arizona now and he didn’t expect these recognitions from his playing career would happen.
“They’re both very special honors and neither one of them is something that I expected, and to come at this point in my life and to come sort of back-to-back, it’s been very gratifying,” Walter said. “It’s been very validating of my efforts over the years. I’m just very proud and appreciative.”