NEW ORLEANS, La. — The good news is, Lanny Wadkins is finally going to get into the World Golf Hall of Fame. The results were announced Thursday morning from the Champions tour event in Savannah, Ga.
The other good news is, Lanny’s middle finger still works. It’s not what you think. Well, maybe it is. Wadkins was on his way to play the Champions event in the Dominican Republic in late March and was walking out of his Dallas-area house at 4:30 in the morning. His automatic sprinkler system came on, and he was halfway down the steps when he slipped and landed on his rear end.
“I’m lying there in the water and something hurt,” he said on a teleconference from Savannah. “I looked down and the middle finger on my right hand was pointing sideways. I thought, well, I guess I’m not going to Cap Cana.”
Since he couldn’t play golf that week, he visited the site in southwest Texas where he is designing a golf course. That’s when he got a call from PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem informing him about the Hall of Fame. “I was standing outside the Thirsty Goat Saloon,” Wadkins said, “which was only appropriate.”
I’ve been touting Wadkins as a Hall of Famer for a number of years. He was one of the most feared players of his era when he was near the lead, and he did it all. He won a U.S. Amateur, played in two Walker Cups and was an elite tour player for two decades. He played on eight Ryder Cup teams; won a PGA Championship, a Players Championship and 21 tour events; he had nine top-3 finishes in majors. Earlier this year, I wrote about the 10 biggest shots of his career, a list that starts with his incredibly clutch wedge shot to a foot on the final hole that won the 1983 Ryder Cup for the U.S.
Due to back trouble that was finally resolved by surgery last August, Wadkins hasn’t played much golf the last two years. Mainly, he’s been following his golfing sons, Tucker and Travis. He told Travis, who plays golf for Wake Forest, about the Hall of Fame but asked him to keep the news quiet. “The next day, I had three text messages form his teammates,” Wadkins said, “so he didn’t keep it quiet very well.”
His youngest son, Tucker, didn’t tell his high school golf teammates until Monday night, when they went to dinner together on the eve of the final round of the Texas state high school golf championship. They had the lead, and in fact went on to defend their title. “That was kind of cool,” Wadkins said. “My daughter wanted to post it on her Facebook, but I told her no.”
Wadkins will be inducted into the Hall in St. Augustine, Fla., on Nov. 2. Doug Ford was second in the balloting, Mark O’Meara was third, but neither had enough votes to be inducted. Wadkins and his brother, Bobby, are teaming up to play in this week’s Champions event, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.
“It’s been fun,” Wadkins said of the honor, adding that he’s enjoyed seeing how excited friends and relatives have been. “As usual, I am becoming the excuse for them to have a party.”