I'm trying to look like Lanny," Bobby Wadkins said last week on
the eve of the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., puffing out his
cheeks like a blowfish. Lanny Wadkins, feigning boredom, held up
his wedge like a giant middle finger. A minute later, watching
his younger brother struggle to adjust the strap on a new visor,
Lanny murmured, "Fathead."
This is an article from the Feb. 18, 2002 issue
Bobby straightened to his full height of 6'1". "You can't fight
standing atop your money," he taunted.
"Cute," said Lanny, who's four inches shorter. Turning to a
bystander, he added, "I don't have to fight him. I talk for a
living now." Without warning, he jabbed Bobby with the butt of
his club, making Bobby double over with laughter. "Are you still
ticklish?" The gleam in Lanny's eye suggested that he had
remembered an endgame tactic, something that had worked 40 years
ago on the family sofa and might work again in the hot Florida
Second childhoods aren't for everyone, but the Wadkins brothers
are now together on the Senior tour, where gray-haired men
pretend they are starting over. Lanny, 52, won his first
tournament as a Senior, the 2000 ACE Group Classic. Bobby matched
his brother's accomplishment last August by winning the Lightpath
Long Island Classic only 10 days after his 50th birthday. They're
not the first pair of brothers to win on the Senior tour--Dave and
Mike Hill won six and 18 tournaments, respectively, between 1987
and '96--but they must be the first brothers to win before
learning what AARP stands for. "I hope Bobby keeps winning,"
Lanny says, "so he'll pick up some dinner checks. I've been
paying for 26 years."
Bobby's response: "Well, that's bull----! For the first 15 years,
yeah, he had a couple of million dollars and I had the coins in
my pocket, but now when we go to a nice place, he picks out a
good wine and next thing you know the bill is two hundred bucks.
I say, 'I'll get the check,' and he says, 'You sure will!'"
Beneath the stream of comic abuse, the Wadkins share a deep well
of affection. They grew up in Richmond, sons of a truck-driver
father and schoolteacher mother, and learned to play golf on long
summer days at Meadowbrook Golf Club, where their dad serviced
the carts. "With most brothers there's a little rivalry, but not
with those two," says veteran pro Bruce Lietzke. "I've never
heard a cross word between them." These days the brothers have
good reason to be happy for each other. Lanny has begun a career
in television and will replace the retiring Ken Venturi this
summer as lead analyst on CBS golf telecasts. Bobby, meanwhile,
is using his quick success on the Senior tour to shed an
undeserved reputation as a loser. "I've known those two guys
forever," says Ben Crenshaw, who made his own Senior debut last
week in Naples, "and I couldn't be happier for them."
Lanny is getting more attention. He's used to it. He was a U.S.
Amateur champion and a two-time Walker Cupper by age 21. As a pro
he won the 1977 PGA Championship and 20 other Tour events, played
on eight Ryder Cup teams and captained the losing U.S. side in
'95. Those experiences, plus his reputation for bluntness,
recommended Wadkins to executives at CBS when they started
looking for someone to sit next to Jim Nantz. "Lanny is serious,
and he's confident to the point of arrogance," says CBS producer
Lance Barrow, who put Wadkins in a tower for the first time with
live wires David Feherty and Gary McCord at last year's Colonial.
Feherty says, "Lanny will be terrific. I adore him because he
won't kiss ass. He doesn't care what the players think."
Wadkins pondered Feherty's comments last week while hitting balls
on the windblown range at the Club at Twin Eagles, site of the
ACE. "I'm going to make some players mad," he said, "but I'm up
there to do a job, not be somebody's buddy." Asked to define that
job, Wadkins launched an iron shot toward a distant green and
answered while the ball was still in the air. "To supply the why.
The analyst explains why something happened."
A week earlier, sitting across a desk from Barrow before a stint
in the 16th-hole tower at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Wadkins had
given the same answer and then added, "It's also my job when a
player hits a bad shot to say whether his decision was bad or if
it was just poor execution." Did that sort of second-guessing
annoy Wadkins when he was playing? "Sometimes," he said. "I
didn't have a problem if Kenny or Johnny Miller or Curtis Strange
said I made a wrong choice, but I didn't want to hear it from
someone like Ben Wright, who had never been in that position."
Wadkins laughed. "I mean, I've seen Ben Wright hit the ball."
Lanny still plans to play 20 Senior tour events in 2002, but
Bobby may prove to be the Wadkins with the most Senior stick. He
averaged 287 yards off the tee last year and had four top 10
finishes in 10 starts. The consensus among his peers is that
he'll outperform Lanny, who doesn't argue the point--as long as
Bobby is out of earshot. "Bobby is swinging as well as I've ever
seen him," Lanny says. "He's hammering it off the tee. I'll be
surprised if he doesn't win a couple of times this year."
Others will be surprised if Bobby does win again--but only because
he's famous for playing in 777 PGA Tour and Buy.com tour events
over 27 years without a victory. He finished second six times on
the PGA Tour, including two playoff losses, and the public knew
him as "the Wadkins who never wins." That was unfair, because
Bobby did win. In 1978 he won the European Open at England's
Walton Heath, hitting a three-iron out of a divot to three feet
to beat Gil Morgan and Bernard Gallacher in a playoff. (A few
years later, when the Ryder Cup was played at Walton Heath, the
U.S. team was startled to find an oil painting of Bobby hanging
in its team room.) Bobby also won Japan's Dunlop Phoenix
tournament twice, against strong international fields.
On his native soil, though, he seemed jinxed. "It probably
started in Philadelphia in 1979," he says, "when I lost that
playoff to Lou Graham." That would be the IVB-Philadelphia
Classic, which Bobby had led all day on Sunday. On the 18th hole,
while ahead of Graham by a stroke, Wadkins drilled his drive down
the fairway and watched in disbelief as his ball ricocheted off a
sprinkler head and landed behind the 150-yard bush. Other mishaps
at other tournaments kept Bobby from collecting one of those big
cardboard checks, but he says the no-win label didn't get him
down. "I walked off the course every Sunday knowing I did my
best," he says.
Most weeks your best isn't good enough in golf, and that was the
case for the brothers in Naples. Bobby shot 70-70-68 and finished
12th, eight strokes behind winner Hale Irwin. Lanny shot 75-68-76
to come in 62nd. Neither looked particularly upset, however.
Lanny--who became a first-time grandfather in January when
28-year-old daughter Jessica gave birth--is always eager to get
back home to Dallas to watch sons Travis, 14, and Tucker, 9, play
school sports. Bobby, who still lives in Richmond, is similarly
obsessed with the four-sport feats of his son, Casey, 12, who
plays second base on an AAU all-star team that has been to the
nationals three years in a row.
Sneak up on either Wadkins, in fact, and you might catch him
smiling. Lanny enjoys the camaraderie of the CBS crew--the
headphone banter during commercials, the boisterous restaurant
meals, even the staff meetings, which remind him of the
fellowship he enjoyed on the Wake Forest and Ryder Cup teams.
"It's lonely when it's you against the world," he says of tour
life. "I've eaten more room service meals than the law should
He also seems invigorated by the challenge of television. Hunched
in front of a monitor with a silent statistician passing him
notes and a gravel-voiced Barrow shouting instructions from his
left earphone, Lanny has to be ready to jump in with a pithy
comment at a moment's notice. "It requires intense
concentration," he says. "Let up for even a second, and Lance
will hand you your head on a platter."
Bobby's contentment comes from knowing he can continue to do what
he likes best. Last Wednesday afternoon he was camped out on the
Twin Eagles practice range, all the necessities at his feet: cell
phone, bottle of Pepsi, pack of Marlboros, lighter and a pile of
bright new Titleists. "I love this," he said, swinging smoothly
and rifling a tight draw into the wind, "especially when I hit a
little three-iron that nips the flag like that." Lietzke,
watching from a safe distance--safe from flying sweat,
anyway--nodded his approval. "Bobby will be a dominant force on
this tour," he said. "I bet he's among the top five money winners
for the next three years."
"Hey, Leaky!" Bobby yelled to Lietzke. "Go away! Lanny and I are
going to get our pictures taken."
Lietzke snorted. "The photographer better have a wide lens! You
and Lanny both look like you swallowed air hoses!"
Bobby grinned. He was tickled.
he won't kiss ass. He doesn't care what the players think."