John H. Walker, 79, a retired Air France executive and an avid amateur golfer who once played three golf courses in three countries on the same day, died June 28 of pancreatic cancer at his home in McLean.
Mr. Walker was with Air France for more than 40 years. He began as a sales representative in New York, became district sales manager in Philadelphia and then moved to the Washington area in 1967 to become regional vice president for the eastern United States. Among other things, he was responsible for the successful introduction of Air France's Concorde service into the Washington area in May 1976.
The French government recognized his accomplishments with Air France by awarding him the Legion of Honor.
Mr. Walker's passion was golf. A longtime member of the Burning Tree Club, he had a 2 handicap. He won the club championship in 1987 and served as club president from 1992 to 1994.
The idea for his one-day golf odyssey came to him in 1967, after he had played six golf courses in Scotland, three of them on the same day. To make his challenge as difficult as possible, he made no prior arrangements for flights, lodging, car rental or anything else.
On July 25, 1967, at 3:55 a.m., he teed off on the first hole of the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. He finished at 5:45 a.m., shooting a 79 after eagling the famous Road Hole, at that time a par 5. His second shot actually hit the pin but bounced back, putting him two inches from a double eagle. He later wrote that he was thankful the ball didn't go in because no one would have believed him.
He then flew to London, drove to Sunningdale Golf Club and teed off at 11 a.m. He shot an 82.
After a quick flight to Paris and a taxi ride to St. Cloud Golf Club, he and two French friends teed off at 4:35 p.m. He finished the last hole at 8:15 p.m. in near darkness, posting a final-round score of 84.
His multi-nation golfing feat took 16 hours and 20 minutes; both The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated took note.
Mr. Walker was born in Scranton, Pa., and grew up in Concord, Mass. He attended Bowdoin College for a year before World War II and returned to graduate in 1948.
During the war, he served aboard a minesweeper in the U.S. Navy. Afterward, he attended the University of Grenoble, in France, where he became fluent in French. He lived in Paris from 1950 to 1954 and in Lisbon in 1955, as an employee of the Economic Cooperation Administration, the U.S. agency that administered the Marshall Plan.
He joined Air France in 1956. He combined his airline career with his passion for golf by organizing golfing trips to European destinations served by the airline. Originally the trips were designed to promote the airline's transatlantic service, but over time their popularity among golfers grew to the point that he was conducting as many as three a year. Destinations included world-renowned golf courses in France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia and Morocco.
He retired in 1996 but remained a contract consultant through 1998. He also continued arranging the golf trips until shortly before his death.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Colette Hall Walker of McLean; a son, William Walker of McLean; a sister; a brother; and two grandchildren.