Steve Alker and daughter Skye each running their own race at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship
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Written by Jim McCabe @PGATOUR
Bernhard Langer dials in approach to set up birdie at Charles Schwab
PHOENIX – With birdie opportunities being converted at a feverish pace by their leader, those buoyant members of Team Alker had much to cheer about in Friday’s second round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club.
But if the calm demeanor of Steve Alker inside the ropes could be compared to anything on the outside, it would have to be the gentle nature of his daughter, Skye. She certainly appreciates what her father is in line to accomplish this week, but there is a deeper fondness for how he has made her sporting challenge the focal point at home.
Skye Alker, you see, will compete Saturday with her teammates from Fountain Hills High School in the Arizona State High School Cross-Country Championships. That competition will be held at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix, pretty much at about the same time that Steve Alker commences with his third-round at Phoenix CC.
But according to Skye, “he’s been talking all week about my race; it’s all he’s been talking about.”
If Skye’s prowess as a runner this fall is a source of great pride with Steve Alker and his wife, Tanya, it’s for good reason. “She really committed herself to it once she made her mind up,” said Tanya. “Her improvement has been incredible.”
Sort of sounds like Steve Alker’s incomparable career turn-around, eh? The only difference is, Steve Alker was 100 percent invested in this PGA TOUR Champions journey, whereas Skye concedes with a laugh she almost waited till the last minute to go out for the team this year.
As Skye walked along in the gallery and kept tabs of her father’s progress – there were four birdies going out, three more coming in and this head-to-head tussle with Padraig Harrington was maintained – she seemed to enjoy the vocal and colorful support of Team Alker members.
They have been adorned in tidy black pullover vests for two days and Skye assessed that “I like them better than last year.” In 2021, when Steve Alker finished second in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, colorful tie-dye t-shirts were worn by Team Alker members.
This year, Steve Alker’s inclusion in this elite field perhaps isn’t as shocking as it was in ’21. But Fountain Hills being just 32 miles from Phoenix CC, his fan club is ever present and totally dedicated. Skye Alker loves that part of this Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
But back on November 3rd, the championship spotlight within the Alker home belonged to her. Running the 5K distance in a personal-best 21:16.9, Skye Alker finished eighth in the state sectionals. Her time was good enough to qualify her for the state finals, but sweet became even sweeter when her entire team qualified.
“I know the course. I’ve run it before, so I’m really excited,” said Skye.
Her father is from New Zealand, her mother from England, but for reasons that are unexplained but make the family laugh, both Skye and her older brother, Ben, speak with their mother’s British accent.
Don’t credit that to the years the children lived in England, laughed Tanya. “She (pointing to Skye) lived there from the time she was 9 months to 4 years old. She’s lived her most of her life.”
Asked why she didn’t gravitate to her father’s New Zealand accent and Skye broke into a big laugh. “Because no one would understand us.”
Ben, who will be out to watch Saturday’s third round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship “has an even more proper British accent,” said Skye.
By day’s end, another bogey-free afternoon had pushed Alker to 13-under, leading by one over Harrington. Winning the tournament and prevailing in the season-long competition were still within Alker’s control, but there was another sporting competition at the forefront of his thoughts.
“That’s more important,” he said, in reference to Skye’s race. “I can’t check my phone on the course, but maybe someone (in the gallery) can tell me what’s going on.”
Jim McCabe has covered golf since 1995, writing for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and PGATOUR.COM. Follow Jim McCabe on Twitter.