New inductee Lanny Wadkins had the 'stuff' of greatness

Lanny Wadkins donated several of his golf clubs to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Greg Nelson

In August, Mark Cubbedge, the chief artifact finder for the World Golf Hall of Fame, invaded the Dallas home of new inductee Lanny Wadkins to gather items to exhibit at the Hall. As Cubbedge followed Wadkins through his 12-foot front door to a paneled office full of trophies, plaques, medals and framed photos, he looked like Oliver Twist at Whole Foods. "Lanny, this is incredible," Cubbedge said.

"It's just my stuff," said the 59-year-old Wadkins, who had 21 Tour victories, including the 1977 PGA Championship.

And what stuff it was. Cubbedge pointed to a star-spangled Ryder Cup bag from 1983. "You hit a wedge to a foot on the last hole," he said. That Cup-clinching shot led U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus to kiss Lanny's grass — he picked up the divot and smooched it. Wadkins's wedge was long gone, to Cubbedge's chagrin. But here was the driver he used to win the PGA, a persimmon MacGregor M-85.

"Funny," said Wadkins, "this clubhead used to look huge." Not anymore; it was the size of a modern five-metal.

Each item triggered a memory. Here was a $4 check from Ben Hogan dated June 12, 1981, with a note: Enclosed is my check for $4.00 for your skins yesterday. "He was in his 60s and still as long off the tee as I was," Wadkins said.

Wadkins fetched a ladder so Cubbedge could reach the 1988 Hawaiian Open trophy on a top shelf. The trophy was a bronzed pineapple. "The tee markers at Hawaii were real pineapples," said Wadkins. "Doug Sanders would slice them open and snack on 'em."

Cubbedge gave the trophy the white-glove treatment, donning museum gloves to bubble-wrap and pack it along with 100 other items. Each was cataloged and photographed. Only once did the inductee get melty. Holding a photo of his father, Jerry, a truck driver who paid $250 to join a small country club in Virginia in the 1950s, Wadkins said, "I started out pulling his cart on weekends. Played the game so I could be near him." This Hall thing was cool to Wadkins mainly as a son and a father, he said. His sons, Travis and Tucker, were too young to see him in his prime. "I told them their pop was good," Watkins said. "Maybe this'll help convince them some people could play before Tiger came along."

Cubbedge and three colleagues packed the goods into a pair of SUVs. Unwilling to trust the artifacts to anyone else, they would drive them to St. Augustine, Fla., where they will be put on display when Wadkins is inducted on Nov. 2. Wadkins stood on his porch, waving. "Take care of my stuff!"

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