by Matt Hombach
Bobby Wadkins has always been an admirer of Cal Ripken Jr. It’s ironic then, that he could almost be considered the “Billy Ripken” of professional golf in the ’70s and ’80s. While he was an outstanding golfer in his own right, he toiled in the large shadow of his more successful older brother, Lanny, just as Billy played in the shadow of Cal.
The 2006 Senior Players Champion, Bobby Wadkins, tied for 27th in the 2006 Constellation Energy Classic at Hayfield Country Club in Hunt Valley. (Sabina Moran/PressBox)
Growing up, Bobby Wadkins always played second fiddle to his big bro. The brothers combined for an amazing six straight Richmond City Amateur titles. The younger scored two wins, but the older bested him by winning twice as many.
Lanny Wadkins was also one of the top stars on the PGA Tour, winning 21 times during his career including a major championship at the 1977 PGA Championship. Bobby Wadkins never had a victory on the PGA Tour. He lost two playoffs and tied for second on several occasions, but never took it to the next level with a tournament win.
That has all changed since his debut on the Champions Tour. Bobby Wadkins took a big step out of the shadows and into the spotlight last year when he grabbed a major championship win at the 2006 Ford Senior Players Championship in Michigan. The win came just 10 days after his 50th birthday (golfers aren’t eligible for the Champions Tour until they reach the half century mark).
Wadkins will be put in the unique position of defending his title for a tournament that will have a new location and a new name at the 2007 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, running Oct. 4-7 at Baltimore Country Club Five Farms in Timonium.
“Any time you get a chance to defend, it's pretty neat,” Wadkins said. “But to win a major … that is something -- something beside your name that wasn't there before. And with Lanny having won a major on the regular tour, now we are tied. He has one, and I have one. It's really big.”
While some golfers would be a little tense coming to a new course to defend a major title, Wadkins tries to keep it in perspective.
“Well, I think you hate to leave any place, but obviously me being from the East Coast, I was very pleased with it,” he said. “I’ll try not to get caught up in what I did last year, and it might be easier this year. Coming [to Baltimore] and being from Richmond three hours down the road, hopefully I'll have some friends up here yelling for me and stuff. So it should be fun.”
Wadkins had his best year as a professional in 2006. The Richmond native captured two titles, finished with $1,193,173 in earnings (ninth on the Champions Tour) and surpassed the seven-figure mark in single-season earnings for the first time since 2002.
He won the Champions Tour's ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla. earlier this season and has amassed more than $620,000 in winnings, putting him in the top 25 on the money list.
Being a relative rookie on the Champions Tour, Wadkins feels fortunate to have experienced success early on, which has boosted his confidence and helped him play very well the past few years.
“By winning my very first tournament out here, it got me over the hump and I have played well since then,” he said. “And basically I can play golf the rest of my life out here if I would like to. I did a lot of preparation to get ready last year. I talked to Lanny about what was going on out here, how the guys were playing, what I had to do to get better, and I worked very hard.”
Like many professional athletes, Wadkins possesses a competitive streak and is dedicated to the game and practicing. Combine that with a wealth of natural talent and it’s obvious he will be a force to be reckoned with on the Champions Tour for years to come.
“I just want to play golf,” he said. “I love to practice. I think that's why I've been able to be as competitive so far as I have. I just love to play golf. I love to win any golf tournament."
Issue 2.39: September 27, 2007