Walter Burkemo won the national 1953 PGA Championship to highlight his brilliant golf career, and he did it after being awarded two Purple Hearts by the U.S. Army for serious wounds suffered in World War II. The second came when the Sergeant was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.
The Detroit native was the youngest of 13 children born to Norwegian immigrants and started his golf career as a caddie at Lochmoor Club. He was 21 and a professional golfer when World War II started and recovery from his war wounds delayed his return to professional golf.
In the 1950s he became one of the world’s top players, winning two PGA Tour events, including the ‘53 PGA played in Michigan at Birmingham Country Club, and twice was runner-up in the major championship (’51 to Sam Snead and ’54 to Chick Harbert). He played in 20 PGA Championships with a 27-6 match play record before the PGA adopted a stroke play format in 1958. Burkemo also played in 14 U.S. Opens and 12 Masters Tournaments and was a member of the 1953 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
He worked at Edgewood Country Club, and was a head professional at Franklin Hills, and an assistant at Oakland Hills during his career, and with his brother Vic opened a popular driving range in St. Clair Shores.
In Michigan he was a dominant player winning the Michigan Open four times, including three in the 1950s and one in 1970 at age 52. He also won the 1955 Michigan PGA Professional Championship. He spent several winters in Palm Springs, Calif., and regularly played golf with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and several Hollywood stars, including Bob Hope. He died Oct. 8, 1986 in Fenton, just one day before his birthday. He was 67.