Brynn Walker writes her way through a fifth year at UNC, pulling back the curtain on a COVID detour

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. – Brynn Walker has never liked the “highlight reel” aspect of social media. She wants to pull back the curtain more than that, and a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill recently helped her figure out how.

Walker enrolled in a class called “Branding of Me” last spring. The bulk of the grade was assigned according to how successfully she created a blog to brand herself. It took about three weeks to figure out how she’d structure the project. Learn to brand yourself, her professor explained, and you can brand anything. That’s key for a broadcast journalism major like Walker.

“He would have individual meetings with us and he was like, you need to think hard about what you stand for, what you want your blog to be about,” she said.

Walker loves penning messages in birthday cards, especially to her three older siblings. She calls herself an “inspiration junkie,” and that itself gave her a bit of inspiration.

“If I could somehow through my journey in golf, inspire other people by writing and documenting, I think it would be pretty cool,” she said. “That’s kind of the main basis of it. I picked different experiences, different people and then bring it all together with some kind of lesson.”

Even after Walker, who is sticking around for a fifth year at UNC, ceased to be graded for her entries, she kept writing. When she decided she’d be taking that victory lap, she blogged about it. She couched it on the team van she fell in love with on her first recruiting trip to Chapel Hill. The entry is called “One more lap in the big blue van.”

She kept going, even though inspiration amid quarantine was hard to find. But the experiences eventually came back. When she learned she’d get to play the U.S. Women’s Amateur for an unexpected fifth time in August, she blogged. And she blogged about the significance of a sponsor exemption she has received for the ShopRite LPGA Classic in October.

Her followers now know her connection to tournament venue Seaview Resort in Galloway, New Jersey, where the Walker family has long vacationed. Brynn had annually tried qualifying for the ShopRite, which always fell around her birthday. When she was 18, tournament officials granted her a pass through the amateur qualifier and into the Monday qualifier. She played her way into the tournament for the first time that year.

The best part of watching sports, Walker believes, is connecting with athletes as people. She has provided a way for her followers to know her that way.

“I love that stuff, I feed off of it,” she said. “So I try to put some more out there.”

A blog about the hard days in golf centered around this question, posed to her by instructor John Dunigan: “How do you handle the inconsistencies of golf?”

Walker jokingly answered ice cream, but then she dug deeper. Encourage others and get back up, she wrote, setting that apart in bold green type. And finally, Our value doesn’t come from what we do; it comes from who we are.

Walker loves it when younger girls read her entries and message her that they feel the same emotions. She has succeeded in revealing a side of this journey we don’t often see.

“I want mine to be authentic,” she said of communicating in a more long-form way than Twitter or Instagram. “In my blog, that’s why I talk about the ups and downs. Hopefully, people can relate.”

Walker’s story has been decidedly shaped by COVID, mostly in the form of timing. After her spring season was canceled, she faced difficult decisions about how to spend the next year of her life. She never dreamed “how crazy it would become.” When LPGA Q-School canceled Q-School for 2020, Walker made the decision to return to Chapel Hill.

Walker was among the senior student-athletes to benefit from a generous move by UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, who donated more than $600,000 in May to fund scholarships for spring sports seniors. Walker found Williams on the range at UNC Finley Golf Course one day to say thank you.

When she tees it up at the Shoprite, it will be for the third time. It would have been her professional debut, but that transition will have to wait. She’ll still put Dunigan on the bag and use it as a look at a professional career that remains on the horizon, albeit the distant horizon.

“Everything happens for a reason, you gotta believe so,” Walker said. “I think that this year, maybe I just need one more year to prepare.”

And to write.


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