By Chris Lang
MIDLOTHIAN — A major champion, a senior major winner, a renowned Rules of Golf official and one of the most accomplished women in VSGA championship history will comprise the third class of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, which will be inducted May 15, 2018 at Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot.
The Virginia Golf Hall of Fame selection committee convened earlier this fall to make the selections. The members of the 2018 class are Dr. Lew Blakey, Robbye Unger, Bobby Wadkins and Lew Worsham.
The 2018 class joins the previous two induction classes in the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame. In 2017, Donna Andrews, Keith Decker, Wallace McDowell and J.C. Snead were inducted. The inaugural class, inducted in 2016, featured Vinny Giles, Chandler Harper, Clyde Luther, Sam Snead, Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins.
Blakey joins another Rules of Golf aficionado — Luther — in the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame. Blakey, 80, who lives in Alexandria, has worked as a Rules official for all four professional majors, including 14 U.S. Opens and eight Masters, along with numerous USGA sectional qualifiers and national championships, as well as two Walker Cups.
Blakey is a past president of the Middle Atlantic Golf Association. In 2001, he became an instructor at PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshops and has helped conduct more than two dozen such workshops over the past decade.
Blakey retired from federal service in 1989 and immediately volunteered with the VSGA as a Rules official. In 1995, he produced a comprehensive book of photographs taken from previous State Opens of Virginia with instructions for proper procedures for relief from temporary immovable obstructions, specifically for officials in charge at the State Open. Also in 1995, he was appointed by the USGA as the qualifying official in charge of sites in Northern Virginia for the USGA Senior Amateur Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. For several years, he spoke at the annual meeting of VSGA Rules of Golf officials to explain changes to the USGA Rules of Golf effective for the championship season.
Blakey served for several years as the referee for the final match of the VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship, and for many years, he served on the board of directors of the Bobby Bowers Junior Golf Foundation at Springfield Golf & Country Club, assisted in the conduction of the annual championship, and created its first website.
A longtime player, Blakey attended his first Rules of Golf workshop in 1993. At the time, he taught graduate-level mathematics and engineering courses as an adjunct professor at several universities, including Northwestern, North Carolina State and George Washington. According to the USGA, he scored a 92 on a Rules test after attending his first workshop, giving him all the motivation he needed to improve.
He logged a perfect 100 score on the Rules test the next year, and soon Blakey joined the ranks of USGA volunteers. He served on the Senior Amateur Championship Committee from 1992-2011. In December 1999, Blakey began serving on the USGA Rules of Golf committee as a consulting member.
Blakey joined the USGA Executive Committee in 2001 and served for the next six years, as well as being a full member of the Rules of Golf Committee. He was one of the USGA representatives who worked with the R&A at the quadrennial Joint Rules Conference in 2003, which approved changes to the Rules and Decisions for 2004.
Unger — who is in the VSGA record books as Robbye King Youel — is one of the most decorated female competitors in VSGA history, having won six VSGA Women’s Amateur championships while appearing in four other title matches. Only Lily Harper Martin has won more Women’s Amateurs, taking home seven titles between 1934-41.
Unger, 74, won her first VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship in 1963 and won five more between 1966-72. Forty years after her first VSGA championship, she claimed her final one, winning the 2003 VSGA Senior Women’s Stroke Play title.
Unger graduated from Wake Forest University before earning her Master’s degree at the University of Virginia. Outside of VSGA competitions, she had an illustrious amateur career. She was semifinalist at the 1963 U.S. Women’s Amateur and was an alternate for the 1964 Curtis Cup squad. In 1963, she won the VSGA Women’s Amateur along with claiming titles in the Maryland, District of Columbia and Middle Atlantic Women’s Amateurs.
Unger was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. In addition to her on-course play, Unger served the VSGA as president of the association’s Women’s Division from 1974-75.
Wadkins, 66, gives the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame its first set of brothers, as he joins Lanny, a member of the inaugural class, in the Hall. A four-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions and a four-time VSGA champion, Wadkins’ career highlight came in 2006 when he finished a stroke clear of Jim Thorpe to win the Ford Senior Players Championship.
Born in Richmond, Wadkins and his brother dominated the Richmond junior golf scene. At one point, one of the brothers won the Richmond city junior title six years in a row. Bobby attended the University of Houston for one year before transferring to East Tennessee State, where he earned All-American honors in 1972-73.
Bobby turned professional in 1973, competed in 715 PGA Tour events and racked up six runner-up finishes. He won on the European Tour and Japan Golf Tour before joining the PGA Tour Champions. During his career, Wadkins made five starts at the Masters, highlighted by a 21st-place finish in 1987. He also qualified for five U.S. Opens and competed in 15 PGA Championships.
His best finish in a major, a tie for fourth, came at the 1987 U.S. Open. He also tied for seventh at the PGA Championship that year. In addition to his Senior Players victory, Wadkins had three other top-five finishes in senior majors.
Wadkins won the 1971 VSGA Amateur and collected three titles at the Virginia PGA Open.
Worsham, who died in 1990 two weeks after turning 73, was the first Virginian to win the U.S. Open. He defeated fellow Virginia Golf Hall of Famer Sam Snead in a playoff at St. Louis Country Club to claim the title. Worsham seemed to like the spotlight. That U.S. Open was the first to be televised locally. Six years later, he won the first golf tournament to broadcast nationally when he holed out for eagle from 104 yards out on 18 to defeat Chandler Harper, another Virginia Golf Hall of Famer, at the Tam O’Shanter World Championship of Golf.
Worsham was born in Altavista and began his career in golf as a caddy at Bannockburn Golf Club in Glen Echo, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., in 1929. He turned professional in 1938 when he took a job at Chevy Chase Club and moved to Burning Tree Club in 1939. Worsham served in the Navy in World War II.
Worsham won six times on the PGA Tour, with his first victory coming in 1946 at the Atlanta Invitational. He won the U.S. Open and Denver Open in 1947; the Phoenix Open in 1951; and the Jacksonville Open and World Championship of Golf in 1953. He competed 16 times in the Masters and recorded three top-10 finishes, including a T3 finish in 1951. He also had three top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open, including his victory in 1947.
During his professional playing career, Worsham was also the head professional at both Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh and Coral Ridge Country Club in Florida. Worsham was a member of the 1947 Ryder Cup team, where he went 2-0. Worsham is a member of several Halls of Fame, including the Middle Atlantic PGA, the PGA of America, and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
The virtual Virginia Golf Hall of Fame website can be found at VirginiaGolfHallofFame.com.
Chris Lang is the Editor of Virginia Golfer Magazine and Manager, Digital Media for the VSGA.