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November 2, 2009

Lanny Wadkins


LANNY WADKINS: Thank you. I guess I'll just open by saying it's great to be here, it's great to be a part of this wonderful facility, and myself, my family and my friends have had the weekend of a lifetime, and I want to thank Jack Peter and Buddy Waters and the staff here at the Hall of Fame. They've just been spectacular and fantastic in taking care of all the needs of everyone that's accompanied me here.
We're having a blast. So it's been a very exciting -- and I think if anything it's just going to be over too quick. It's just great to be here and experience all this. It's something that I never dreamed of. You start out playing golf, you don't think about playing for a Hall of Fame. You think about trying to win tournaments and support your family and maybe accomplishing some wins and stuff, you never think it will culminate in something like this. It's just very exciting.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Well, yeah, I mean obviously it puts you in a very elite category of players. I've come through here and I feel a little unworthy sometimes. I feel like I did a lot, especially compared to a lot of players, but I start looking at people that are my heroes and how much they've done here, it's almost like there ought to be a special Hall of Fame for the Hogans and Sneads and Nicklauses and Trevinos and Palmers and Watsons. What they've done, it's mindboggling. Fortunately for me, I got to compete against a lot of those people. One of those things that golf allows you to do is compete against your heroes and the people you grew up watching.
20 years apart from someone is not a lot of age difference in golf. You come out as a 22-year-old, you're playing guys 42 years old; that happens frequently. We did a lot of that.
It's neat to be involved in a Hall of Fame with guys that I played a lot of golf with.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Curtis and I had the same coach, and Jesse Haddock was actually in school with Arnold and played baseball, I believe, at Wake at the time.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Well, actually, I mean, Arnold was at the old campus. Wake Forest was moved to Winston-Salem I think 1954, '55, something like that. So Curtis and I -- the similarities are a lot closer between Curtis and myself. Arnold was at the old campus over in Wake Forest, North Carolina which is near Raleigh. He came to Wake Forest. Actually the guy they wanted was Buddy Worsham and Arnold was a tagalong to Wake Forest, Buddy Worsham's best friend and Buddy was killed in an automobile accident when they were in school together, and the scholarship is actually the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship which Arnold started. That's what I was on, Jack Lewis was on, Jay Sigel was on. So we were the first three recipients of that scholarship.

Q. Personality?
LANNY WADKINS: Maybe personality and the way we played the game might have been similar. But I'm not sure from Wake Forest -- it just happens you had three people that went to Wake Forest that had similar combative personalities. I think there would be a lot of similarities between me and Curtis and even the way Arnold played the game would have been similar to what we did, no question.
A lot of good ribbing, a lot of good toughness, and refusing to lose, that type of thing. I mean, Arnold was great at that, Curtis was, and I think I held my own in that category, as well.
We all played a lot of golf together, kind of -- which was a nice common thread.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: I think, yeah, of course. Hindsight is 20/20. I try and stay healthier than I was. I would work a lot harder on my putting. I think putting cost me several major championships, and had I been a better putter -- I felt like I worked on it.
But when I grew up, the quality of the greens was not what we have today. It was hard to go spend hours on there on a bumpy green, so we didn't. We hit balls and we played. So the playing part and the ball-striking was always pretty good and the putting was sporadic. Today the kids can go on a putting green and it's like velvet. It's easy to do something when you have success at it. We didn't make as many putts as we did years ago as they do today. So I think that's one thing I would definitely do is work harder on my putting, my conditioning, take a little better care of myself. Maybe I wouldn't have had as many late hours as bars as I did here and there. We did things differently back then. We weren't the milk and cookie generation. We were all about single malts and vodkas. It was a little different deal back then.
We had a lot of fun. We did have a good time.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: We've probably got at least 50 here. We've got about seven, eight groups of guys playing golf today, right now, including my sons who are out there. And I've got more people flying in today. We've got a nice crowd here tonight. Wake Forest will be well represented. Coach Haddock will be here tonight as well as the athletic director at Wake Forest, Ron Wellman, so they're here, and friends from --
One of the things that golf has allowed me to do as you get up in years, and maybe -- I've made so many wonderful friends through playing golf that now I'm -- we're playing golf. We get together. My social golf calendar is a lot more full than it ever has been. I go with my buddies and go weekends and play golf and have fun, and we really enjoy ourselves. It's not unusual for me to play Pine Valley and Augusta National and get to Seminole, and this year I've even throw in Cypress Point for a couple points. I'm playing some nice places.
I mean, I took my youngest son, I ruined him last spring, he had spring break. I brought him down here to Florida and we started off at Pine Tree, then we went to The Floridian, then we went to The Bear's Club and then we played Seminole and then we went to Augusta National for two days. 16 years old, he's screwed, he's done. What's he got left to look forward to? That's it, game over.
That part in itself is one of the things that I'm really enjoying in my life and my golf, is playing with my boys and my friends, and that's really a lot of fun.

Q. As you've gotten here and the ceremony is tonight, initially you said that it might have meant a little bit more to you had it not taken so long. Have you changed that thought?
LANNY WADKINS: It means a lot to me, and it always has and it always will. That was a little contrived, but -- no, I don't have any regrets at all about being here now. It's very exciting. I'm enjoying it immensely. I don't know that I could enjoy it any more. I think a lot that I alluded to, what I said earlier, is that it's interesting to look at a Hall of Fame -- I know what I've done, and I know that when I look at guys like Palmer and Snead and Nelson and Hogan and Watson, I can keep going on and on, but the guys that have really had huge careers, won six, seven, eight, nine majors and more, to see what they've done, no question they're head and shoulders above everybody else. I think there is a group of us that are all very similar, wins, majors, the whole deal. Anything would be very difficult to do. So I think that it's almost like if one or two of us belonged in here, then all of us from that group belong in here, and I think it's about complete.

Q. Is there something you did or didn't do?
LANNY WADKINS: I have no idea.

Q. You've talked about guys with all the majors --
LANNY WADKINS: And U.S. Amateur, too. A lot of people count U.S. Amateurs pretty high, and I still count mine.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Well, it is. It wasn't real easy back when. If you look at the peer group that I was in from when I came on TOUR, Hale got to 20, I think Johnny Miller got to 23 or 24, Raymond got to 22, I was at 21, and then Crenshaw and Curtis didn't get there. I mean, Curtis or Kite, none of them got there. Yeah, I think that's one of the -- it's a tough number. It's been a tough number for a long time. It takes some longevity.
The amazing thing for me, I think, is I got there with the number of injuries and stuff I had. I lost probably three or four years of quality time just because of injuries. So to me -- it never felt like I was injury prone, but I still had my share. Now I've had four back surgeries in the last three years, things like that. But maybe we just -- here again, I think that's one of the things I alluded to earlier. Had we known the toll it was going to take on our bodies, we'd have done more Pilates, would have been fitter and done more stretching. My idea of stretching was, okay, I'm ready. That was it. We didn't get on the floor and do all the stuff that I do now just to function every day. It's just a different ballgame.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: It's an unbelievable story. I mean, that's one of the reasons it's there. I've told the story, it's been out before, but I played a lot of golf with Ben around the early '80s, '81, '82, actually -- really, I think, a lot of what I did in 1982 when I had a very good year and won three times was as a result of some of the playing I did with Hogan in '80 and '81. We played a lot of money games together. I'd go to Shady Oaks and I'm starting to play equipment from the Ben Hogan Company. We hit it off and played round and it was always a money game. I asked him about my game, and he said, "I don't know why the hell you're not winning more tournaments." That was in late '81, and I said, well, let's get after it here, and I won three times in '82.
But that was -- we usually had a foursome, pretty set foursome that played all the time, all good players, no strokes involved, everybody was playing pretty much heads up, skins game or money game against each other. Never a lot of money, just a couple dollar skins game. This day we had a threesome and one of the guys didn't show, so the three of us were out there playing.
We got on about the 14th, 15th hole at Shady Oaks, and a guy rides up in a cart, and he's got shorts on and he's got a beard. That's probably two of Hogan's least favorite things on a golf course. The guy doesn't ask anything, he says, "I'm going to join you guys the rest of the way in." Didn't even ask. Now, would you ride up to Ben Hogan and say, "Hey, I'm playing with you today"? That didn't fly with Ben. He looked at me and said, "Are you ready to go?" I said, "I'm with you, Ben." We drove off and left him sitting there. The frustration, he was so embarrassed because this happened at his club, Shady Oaks, where he was a member, and thus the letter apologizing for the intruder, and I was two skins up at the time. So I got the check for $4, and of course his secretary's name was Clara Bell, she called me every month for the next six months wanting me to cash Mr. Hogan's check so she could balance his account. I said, "Clara Bell, there's no chance I'm cashing that check ever." So there you go.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: I asked him. I mean, he's a dear friend, and we got to be great friends when I was working at CBS. I spoke to my brother about it, and Bobby felt like it would be -- he wanted to be able to be here and enjoy the evening. He felt like that was a lot going on, and he said, you know -- so we started talking among family members, and the consensus was all along was Jim Nantz. He's a great friend of not only me and my wife and knows everybody, knows my boys and knows me and my history, and I think that he's just -- it's his job. He loves it.
The thing that has tickled me the most about it is how excited Jim is to be here and do this. That's one of the things I guess I've always enjoyed about being around Jim Nantz is his enthusiasm for everything he does, and he's very enthusiastic about being here and doing this. He kept saying, "Don't worry, we've got an early Jets-Dolphins game yesterday, I'll be on a plane Sunday to Orlando and be over here," and he was. We just got through lunch together. He's the best. He's a great friend.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: I think several, if I can think back. Best shot under pressure probably has to be the shot at the 18th hole at the Ryder Cup in 1983, Palm Beach Gardens. In fact I've actually looked back at that shot over the years because of what it meant and the quality of shot I hit at that time. It was only 72 yards, it wasn't like it was any major golf swing, but it was struck with precision because it had to be the type of shot I played to get back close to the hole. I've always used that shot as a reference point to me that no matter how tough things got or how much pressure is involved, if I can hit that shot at that time, then I can handle anything else. It's been a good focal point for me throughout my career.
It meant so much because it wasn't just for me, it was for the other 12 guys, the other 11 guys on the team and the captain. So it was a very big shot.
In essence it didn't win the Ryder Cup because we still had Tom Watson on the course, but Tom was 2-up and two to play against Bernie Gallagher, and in 1983 Tom Watson didn't lose 2-up leads. We weren't exactly worried about Tom. So it was down to that.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Really Jimmy and I, both the same thing, we don't do Teleprompter work. He is actually using a Teleprompter with his deal tonight. Like most of us golfers, we speak off-the-cuff, so I've got on outline of who I want to thank and what I want to hit and do. I wake up pretty much every night at 3:00 o'clock and I'm awake and thinking about it, so that's where I've done all my work. I will finally get a good night's sleep when this thing is done. It's probably the only thing that's taken away from this weekend is that hanging over your head.
I don't mind getting up and talking, I've never been at a loss for words, but this is a different animal than what we usually do. It's a lot easier to get up and talk about yourself and your stories and your golf and what you've done, but wanting to get through this thing, I mean, good God, Jim was just in there at the luncheon we just had, and he got up, they asked him to speak last. He had half the room bawling before he got through. It's never been easy following Jim. I may have done myself in having him here, but he's the best.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Do I have a do-over? Oh, no question, yeah. There are a couple decisions. Boy, there was a decision at Augusta in '91. We were just referring to it in there at lunch. José Maria and I were playing in the next to last group in '91 behind Watson and Woosnam, and Woosnam won, and I lost by two and I could give you about four shots -- I missed a three-footer for birdie at 13, a two-footer for birdie at 14 and hit it in the water at 15.
Well, 15 I'm in the middle of the fairway and it was the only place on the golf course you couldn't see a scoreboard, and I thought I was three back, and in reality I was only one back. Woosnam had bogeyed 13 and I didn't know it. I would have played a different shot to 15. That would have been one I'd take back. Even though I hit my second shot in the water I made a good par. But I think if I would have had made birdie, I would have been sitting there looking at being tied for the lead with three to play. Also the putt at 14, I know I could have made that two-footer if I had a do-over.
And then probably another putt would have been at the U.S. Open in 1987 that I think Andy North won '87 at Oakland Hills. I just birdied 13, the par-3, and I think I was tied or one back, but I hit a shot that lipped the hole, an approach shot on the next hole, and then I actually hit the hole two more times. Three-putted from like 12 feet. I would love to have that first putt over again. I three-putted there on 17 lost by two at that Open. Those are probably two that stand out and jump out at me. With putting there's always a little thing here and there.
But as far as that, maybe a club selection or two here and there. The club at 15, I would have changed 15 at Augusta that day because that's when they used to have those little moguls in the middle of the fairway. I hit a driver right down the middle and I thought it was perfect, and I get there and my ball had stopped on the downslope of a mogul and I hit 2-iron. Not the easiest shot in the world trying to hit it up over there. I thought I needed an eagle at the time. Had I known birdie would have been a great score, I would have taken 4-wood and hit a little high cut and put just over the back of the green and gotten 4. I certainly didn't want to go in the water then.
But things like that, you'd like do-overs a few times here and there.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Oh, yeah. We remember the bad ones sometimes more than the good ones.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Should have won more majors, no question. I was there. I had nine top-3s. It's not a lot compared to some people, but I was there a lot. I was runner-up in three PGAs, I mean, lost one in a playoff to Larry Nelson. Wouldn't mind having the second shot in the first playoff hole over again there. I hit where I was looking, but the first playoff hole, Larry already missed the green and I've got a little 8-iron and the wind is coming out of the right, so I aim it about 10 feet right of the hole and that's where I hit it and the wind never touched it. The ball hit on the edge and kicked in the rough, and the rough at PGA National was awful. And I got out about four feet and missed the putt and he made a 12-footer for par to win. There again, maybe if I put that shot on the green, he doesn't get his up-and-down for par and I win another PGA in 1987.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Yeah, for a while. I mean, there's no question, when you have a chance at a major championship and you don't win, obviously I didn't win as many as I won, so I had a lot more sleepless nights, but no question. And the one that probably gets me the most is probably Augusta in '91. I can go back from -- the last round alone, I had a double bogey at No. 5 where I hit it over the green in two and chunked it, and it was in some mud back there and made double there.
Then missed a little putt at 13, a little putt at 14, hit it in the water at 15. And I think I even bogeyed 17, hit it just off the right edge at 17, was trying to hold a chip, and all that, and I still only lost by two. That's the one that -- when you think of one in your mind that got away, that one probably -- I'm playing with José María who bogeyed 18 and missed the playoff by a shot. He drove it in the bunker, bunker to bunker and bogeyed 18.
It was interesting this year when I took my 16-year-old to Augusta, a friend of mine who's a member that we were there with, Toby Wilt. We came back from dinner one night at the clubhouse, and he said, "I've got something for you here," and as they do, he flipped on the TV and there was the '91 Masters. "I'm going to show you how your dad lost The Masters." Thanks a lot, Toby. Can we go back and drink some more? (Laughter.)
I'm not sure I really want to watch this. But anyway, that was pretty cool.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: He's just a great player. I mean, just a true competitor. He's got a lot of the fire and imagination that Seve had, no question. He's a great champion. I told a story in there that we went head-to-head in Ryder Cups a few times, not too many times, played each other not as many times as I've played against Seve or some other guys just on the luck of the draw, but we were paired together in Augusta in '91 next-to-last group and some other times. One of the stories I related is I set the tournament record at Firestone in 1977, and it stood for 14 years all the way to 1991. And we were talking that week how tough Firestone was going to play that week. I said the rough was really up, and somebody said "What's it going to take to win it?" And I said, "6-under would be a hell of a score this week." I shot 6-under, finished two or three shots ahead of third place and 12 behind José María. So he blew my tournament record away. So that was -- when he got going, he was tough.
I always thought in competition two of the hardest guys -- I'll throw Seve in there because the toughest guys to play in a match play situation are guys that are never out of a hole. Their bunker game is fantastic, their chipping is good, their putting is good. That was Olazábal, that was Langer and that was Ballesteros. Those three, they weren't going to beat themselves, and in most cases when you thought they had, they came back and bit you in the butt because they just were always there. They just never went away.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: Just watching him. Just watching him play. I mean, just the way he played shots. I think that one of the things that I learned from watching I call them the older guys, Arnolds and stuff and Hogans and Sneads, you don't necessarily see it in one round of golf. If you play with them a number of days, then you'll start seeing the different shots. You may play with them one time, they never miss a shot, hit every fairway, every green, well, that's not exciting. Weiskopf related a story to me one time, he was telling his wife Jeannie, "You have got to go watch Hogan play. You're not going to believe the way this guy plays." After the round he went and found his wife, "Well, what did you think?" Tom was so excited to hear about what Jeannie said about Hogan, and said, "He hit every fairway and every green. He's nowhere near as exciting as you are, you hit it everywhere." That can be Ben.
But again if he misses a shot and you see how he handles a situation -- I saw him play a couple of shots off hard pan chipping at Shady Oaks, and he hit these shots, and he hit them so hard and they spun in there, just incredible hands and ability. He hit every shot. Whatever shot he needed he had. You didn't see it all the time because he hit it so doggone well, but if he needed to hit a bunker shot he would. Every hole with the irons was always hole high. That was impressive. It may not have sounded really crisp and wonderful in the fairway, but you go up there and he's pin high. There he was, every hole.
And we played -- when we were playing then, he had to be well in his 60s, around the early '80s, I think, and I was almost in my prime. He was hitting almost as far as I was. He was hammering it out there. He had plenty of speed. It was really something.
I played with Arnold in the team championship at Disney in 1974. I played a lot of golf with Arnold, practice rounds and money games and things like that, but all of a sudden now Arnold has now parred it and I'm paying attention to everything I'm doing. I've got him as my partner for seven straight days. We played practice rounds and pro-ams together because that's what you did at that time, and I saw shots I didn't know Arnold had or was capable of hitting until that week because I was paying attention to all the situations he was in instead of worrying about where I was. Since we were a team I wanted to know what he was doing because it might affect the way I play or whatever.
So it was interesting. Like I said, you need to play with a great player sometimes more than once to really see what it is that makes them great. And I've been fortunate enough to do that with the Palmers and Nicklauses and Trevinos and Hogans. It's been really cool.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: No, I think that was amazing. I think somebody asked me, "What do you think some of your best performances are?" And I rank that in my Top 5. I still think the performance at Riviera in '85 where I shot 20-under, which is still a tournament record to this day, from 1985 until now nobody has broken that tournament record at Riviera, I don't think they've got within three shots of it actually since '85, and that was with wooden clubs and gutta-percha balls. Not hickory shafts, but I feel like it sometimes. (Laughter.)
That was a great performance, and I think the one at Sawgrass, no question. I played really well the first two days and the wind was kind of calm, and then the third day it just blew. My God, it blew. I went out and shot 76, and when it was all done I still had my three-shot lead shooting 76. Then shot 72 the next day and increased my lead and won by five. I think I was the first person to ever break par at Sawgrass, and Watson finished even par for the week, and I won by five.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: No, hell, are you kidding? When I walked out and saw him leading by three, I was like, holy smokes. A lot more camaraderie maybe back then. I walked out the last day, I'm going to play, and I'm leaving where we're staying, and Penny and I are coming out, and Weiskopf is there. He made a comment to me because I told him how tough to win it was. He said, "You've got the best thing going for you today, you play fast and decisive." He said, "Decide exactly where you're going to hit your shot and don't have any second thoughts about it, do it." And I did that that day and I hit some of the greatest irons I've ever hit in my life before because of that little piece of advice I got from Tom before I teed off.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: I was hitting it so solid, the wind wasn't bothering it. I really was. I hit a couple irons that were just absolutely incredible. I think one of the advantages I had, I was playing with Trevino, and Lee would get on the tee and the wind was right to left. He would hit a cut to hold it in the wind straight. I put my ball on the ground and was hitting driver off the ground, and all I did was aim on the right side and just hit a bb and I was outdriving Lee 50 yards. Because he was trying to work the wind to hold it straight and I was hitting it so solid and below the wind that I wasn't worried about it. I think that was a big advantage for me that day.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LANNY WADKINS: I'd love to see really the change -- I like the idea of trying to get back to V grooves. I just wish they had gone to a straight, old, traditional V groove because what they're doing with going to an area, the amount of area that's in the groove, which is basically going to shallower U grooves if you will, the manufacturers are going to figure out a way around it. They're going to figure out a way to keep as much spin as possible in the ball. I would love to see it back in the V grooves we played in the early '70s. No reason they couldn't do that in my mind and just be very straight forward about it, and I think it would require more imagination in today's game. I think it would involve ball changes for a lot of the guys on TOUR. With the changes they're making today that probably won't happen as readily as we thought it was going to. It would involve driver changes.
I mean, my generation has changed all the way along the line. We've changed from shafts that weren't frequency matched, then we went to frequently matched shafts. Then we went to wooden clubs that were heavy, 14 and a half ounces for a driver, a shaft that weighed 135 grams, which is probably what mine weighed early '70s, mid '80s at that point in time. We've changed to small-headed metal clubs to big-headed metal grooves to U grooves to balls that don't spin. My generation has changed all the way up. This generation like where my boys are, my boys have always played the same stuff. They've never hit a wooden club. They're 21 and 17, all they've known is big-headed metal stuff.
I think it's about time. This generation has to change something. Let's see if they've got some imagination.
And the thing about it is, guess who's been playing V grooves all along? Tiger Woods. All he's got to change is two clubs in his bag. He's got to change his 56 and his 60. He doesn't have to change balls, driver, nothing. Let's just give Tiger a bigger advantage. Just what he needs, right?

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