About Lanny Wadkins
Asked to sum up Lanny Wadkins’ style, Hall of Fame selection committee member and longtime Richmond newspaperman Bill Millsaps said, “If they put the pin on a lily pad, he’d be shooting at it. If he had a choice between a 3-to-5 horse and a 35-to-1 horse, he’d take the long shot. If he had a pair of 3s in no-limit hold ‘em, he’d be going all in. With Lanny, golf was never boring.”
That’s to say that Wadkins was a fearless and intensely competitive player, and it showed in his match-play record. Let’s go back to the 1983 Ryder Cup, where essentially, the fate of the trophy rested on Wadkins’ wedge. Down one to Jose Maria Canizaries, the U.S. desperately needed Wadkins to win the 18th hole to salvage a half point. Wadkins was 70 yards out at PGA National Golf Club, and the pin was tucked behind a large bunker. There was no safe play, so Wadkins just went after it.
And he left the shot a foot from the cup for a tap-in birdie. At the same time, Tom Watson closed out his match, and the U.S. had slipped away with a one-point victory to defeat Europe. Later, Wadkins told captain Jack Nicklaus, “It was only the most important shot of my life, Jack. There’s nobody I’d rather have hit it for.”
That Wadkins would display steel nerves in the toughest of pressure situations should surprise no one. He played on eight Ryder Cup teams, a record he shares with Billy Casper and Raymond Floyd. He went 20-11-3 in Cup matches. Only Arnold Palmer and Casper were better.
Strangely enough, Wadkins’ career got a jump start thanks to his stroke play prowess. For an eight-year stretch, the U.S. Amateur Championship was a stroke-play event, and Wadkins set the 72-hole record with a 279 to finish a stroke clear of Tom Kite in 1970. He joined the PGA Tour in 1972 and earned Tour rookie of the year honors that year. He rallied from a six-shot deficit to win the 1977 PGA Championship in a playoff, his lone major championship.
That rally? It fit the mold of who Wadkins, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was as a player. As selection committee member David Partridge put it, Wadkins was “indomitable.”
He Said It…
“To be in the inaugural class is very, very special…The cool thing about the class going in is we all had interaction with each other. I played on the Tour with Sam and Curtis. I grew up playing with Vinny. The only one I didn’t play a lot with or knew really well was Chandler, but Curtis, Sam and Vinny did. It’s pretty cool the way everyone is aware of the others and the history of what they have done in the state and game…Then having Clyde Luther go in, who I have the utmost respect for as an official…Clyde’s just a terrific man”
Career PGA Tour Starts
Victories (21 runner-up)
Career Earnings (PGA & Champions Tours)
Year Turning Pro
Achievements & Media
Special thanks to the USGA, PGA Tour, VSGA, MAPGA, WVGA and inductee family members for contributing photos and videos to this project.
692 career PGA Tour starts, 21 victories, 21 runner-up, 139 top-10 finishes, $6,351,491 career earnings. 139 career Champions Tour starts, 1 victory, 7 top-10 finishes, $1,406,196 Champions earnings.
Date of birth: Dec. 5, 1949 (Richmond, Va.)
Notable junior achievements: Won back-to-back VSGA Junior Amateur Championships in 1964 and 1965 and finishes as the runner-up in 1966.
College entry/graduation: Wake Forest
Amateur achievements: Won the 1970 U.S. Amateur, defeating Tom Kite by one stroke. … Defeated brother Bobby Wadkins to win the 1970 VSGA Amateur Championship. Also was the stroke-play medalist in the event. … Lost to fellow Hall of Famer Vinny Giles in the 1971 VSGA Amateur Championship.
Year turning pro: 1971
1971 (VSGA Open)
1972 (PGA: Sahara Invitational)
1973 (PGA: Byron Nelson Golf Classic, USI Classic)
1977 (PGA: PGA Championship, World Series of Golf)
1978 (Other: Victorian PGA Championship, Canadian PGA Championship)
1979 (PGA: Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open, Tournament Players Championship)
1980 (Other: PGA Grand Slam of Golf)
1981 (Other: Caribbean Open)
1982 (PGA: Phoenix Open, MONY Tournament of Champions, Buick Open)
1983 (PGA: Greater Greensboro Open, MONY Tournament of Champions)
1984 (Other: World Nissan Championship)
1985 (PGA: Bob Hope Classic, Los Angeles Open, Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic)
1987 (PGA: Doral-Ryder Open)
1988 (PGA: Hawaiian Open, Colonial National Invitation)
1990 (PGA: Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic. Other: Fred Meyer Challenge (w/Bobby Wadkins))
1991 (PGA: United Hawaiian Open. Other: Shark Shootout Benefiting RMCC (w/Tom Purtzer))
1992 (PGA: Canon Greater Hartford Open)
2000 (Champions: ACE Group Classic)
2015 (Other: PNC Father Son Challenge (w/son Tucker)