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Mentor behind Collins' success

Even after 12 years, Walters still has senior's ear

Twelve years ago, a 10-year-old child with blond hair and blue eyes walked in to the Arrowhead Country Club in Rapid City, S.D., looking for someone in particular.

"Is Mr. Walters here?" he asked.

"I am Mr. Walters," replied the much-taller figure on the other side of the counter.

"I'm Wil Collins," the future UNM golf team member said with confidence. "Will you teach me how to play golf?"

Dave Walters was the resident professional at Arrowhead. Taken aback by the child, they made their way outside to the driving range.

"He just had this great little golf swing," Walters said.

He agreed to teach Collins with the understanding that he would do whatever he was told.

"He was the first person who really taught me how to play," Collins said. "He has been just a big influence on my game, my attitude, my life. He is kind of like a mentor more than anything."

Collins, 22, began his golf career at the age of 5 but was never properly coached until he met Walters.

He and Walters continued to cross paths throughout Collins' career, first in South Dakota and then in New Mexico.

Collins came to New Mexico to play golf for the Lobos in 1997 and spent his first year as a redshirt freshman after a high school career that included three state championships.

Collins began his freshman year with great success, being named Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and earning third-team honors from the Golf Coaches Association of America. He was the first freshman in UNM history to receive all-American honors.

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Collins continues to be one of the top golfers on the team.

He finished tied for sixth place at the Cleveland Golf Classic March 5-6, shooting a 68 in the second round to finish with a two-day total of 146. He followed that with a five-over-par 221 at the Las Vegas Intercollegiate event March 9-11 to finish 28th.

In the first round of this week's Morris Williams Intercollegiate event in Austin, Texas, Collins was in 14th place - UNM's highest individual finish - before rain ended the tournament. Earlier this season, he finished in the top-three twice in a row before embarking on his recent semi-skid.

"It's mental stuff," he said of his up-and-down season. "It's been a battle, but it's been nice because my team is playing so well."

With the NCAA Championships coming up in May, Collins said he feels this is UNM's best chance to win a national championship since he's arrived.

Collins has a 4.0 GPA with three majors - human resources, general management and travel and tourist management.

With one year remaining, his goals are to keep his GPA high and improve his golf game.

Josh Cariveau, a childhood friend of Collins and a UNM student, grew up playing golf with Collins.

"He's hard-working and committed," said Cariveau. "He's always succeeded in everything he does."

As for the future, professional tours seem to a be a viable option for Collins, who proclaims he is not much of a worker.

"To be stuck in a pro shop would drive me insane," he said. "I'd rather be on the grounds crew."

At UNM Championship Course's driving range, he pauses periodically to listen to advice from a man watching over him. It's Walters, who smokes an old-fashioned pipe while he critiques the matured swing of the same 10-year-old child who came to him for golf lessons 12 years ago.

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