Monday, December 14, 2015


Lanny and Tucker Wadkins grab unlikely Father/Son win with eagle in play-off

Lanny and Tucker Wadkins celebrate after making an eagle in the playoff during the PNC Father/Son Challenge at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club.
Lanny and Tucker Wadkins celebrate after making an eagle in the playoff during the PNC Father/Son Challenge at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club. ( Tracy Wilcox )
ORLANDO, Fla. – During his Hall of Fame career, Lanny Wadkins always wore his heart on his sleeve. So it was no surprise to see him break into spontaneous celebration when his son, Tucker, buried a 40-foot eagle putt on the first play-off hole to win the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
"My stuff is never choreographed," Lanny said. "It was rolling so pure, I didn’t see how it could possibly miss."
Four feet from the hole, Wadkins hugged his son. At best, it could be described as a bear hug. In wrestling, they’d call it a sleeper hold. In football, it would've been a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. Except this holding was done with love.
Team Wadkins followed up 61 on Saturday by shooting 9-under 63 for a 36-hole total of 20-under 124, and defeated Davis and Dru Love, Larry and Drew Nelson, and Fred and Taylor Funk in a sudden-death playoff at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club to capture the Willie Park belts and the $200,000 first prize.
The scramble format lends itself to a close finish, but there had never been one this close. It marked the first playoff since 2002, and the largest playoff in tournament history
It was the ninth appearance for Wadkins, 63, who has played five times with older son, Travis, and four times with Tucker, and never finished better than a share of ninth place in the two-man, team event.
Lanny's lack of prior Father/Son success is understandable, in part, because he has spent more than a decade in the television booth, first as an analyst for CBS and now for Golf Channel. Back issues derailed his career as a senior.  
He has undergone six back surgeries – mostly between 2007 and 2009 – and wife, Penny, said she didn't think she'd ever see her husband win again.
"I'm double-fused L-4/5 and 5-S1. I've had a microdisectomy,” said Wadkins, whose only event on the schedule in both 2014 and 2015 was the Father/Son Challenge. "I'm pretty stiff these days. If I stay on balance while hitting a shot it's probably a mistake."
Yet with the tournament on the line, Lanny attempted to squat down and read the 12-foot birdie putt at the final hole to join the playoff until his knee locked. So he didn't bother bending any farther and trusted his instincts. It had been a long time, he said, since he felt the heat on a putt.
One of the fiercest competitors in his day, Wadkins rolled it in the heart of the cup. "It would've gone in a thimble," Tucker said.
And how did Lanny feel about coming through in the clutch? "Dad’s still got a little bit left, so that’s kind of cool," Lanny said.
Tucker, who graduated last year from Arizona University where he played on the golf team, is a regular working stiff these days at a Dallas-based investor relations firm. 
He said he only finds time to play once every two weeks. Not that he showed any rust. His father said he shot 65 or 66 on his own ball in the final round. Team Wadkins started slowly, failing to birdie either of the first two holes. Lanny jumpstarted the team when he drilled a 70-footer at the fourth. "That's the longest putt I've made in 20 years," he said.
Tucker's confidence rose after canning a 20-foot birdie putt from off the green at No. 12. Travis, who caddied for his dad, kept telling his brother that sooner or later he was going to make one, and he did in the playoff – when it mattered most.
 "I had a similar putt last year so I knew the line was outside left and I felt calm when I hit it," Tucker said of the winning putt.
The eagle eliminated Team Nelson and Team Funk, but Team Love still had a crack at eagle from 35 feet. Lanny draped his left arm around Travis and his right arm around Tucker as he watched Dru Love's putt hang on the lip and Davis's kiss the right edge.
“We never really made a lot of putts all week,” said Davis. “Tucker and Lanny made a lot of putts. We watched them all week. That’s what you have to do to win.”
Lanny hadn't known that winning feeling in a long time. His last US PGA Tour victory dates to the 1992 Greater Hartford Open when Penny was at home pregnant with Tucker. He was 10 when Lanny captured the Champions Tour's 2001 Ace Classic in his over-50 debut. But he never won again.
"It was a long time since I made a putt that meant anything," Lanny said. "To do so at this point in my life, it's going to rank at the top."



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