Lanny Finally Gets Credit He Deserves

Written by Charlie Epps on 01 June 2009.

I couldn't wait to write this column. I don't just mean this month or this year. This is something I've been waiting on for too long.

I know my great pal in heaven, Dick Harmon, feels the same.

Lanny Wadkins has been elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Finally.

The story of how Dick and Lanny came to work together is interesting. Billy Harmon, Dick's brother and Claude's son, was a tour caddie with Jay Haas. But he also was good friends with Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins. Lanny was looking for someone he could go to when he thought he needed some help. He was looking for a teacher.

So Billy recommended Dick to Lanny.

Mind you, Lanny had just won the Bob Hope Classic, took 11th at Phoenix and won the L.A. Open with an aggregate of 54-under for the three events, including 27-under at the Hope. The most impressive feat to me, though, was the L.A. Open. He won at Riviera with a 20-under 264.

And Lanny wanted a teacher.

Here is the lesson learned: Lanny wanted Dick to see him when he was playing his best, so when things went bad, they'd know what to go back to. Pretty smart.

So Lanny calls Dick and says, "I want to come see you and have you help me with my game." Dick was very flattered and excited.

Lanny came into town and they met out at Houston's Lochinvar Golf Club. At that time, Claude Harmon, the 1948 Masters champion and former head pro at famed Winged Foot in New York, was the pro-emeritus at Lochinvar.

So the first thing they did—Claude, Dick and Lanny—was immediately go out and play golf. Lanny was hitting these laser shots, one after another. Claude looked at Dick and said, "The only thing you have to teach this guy is how to go to the bank a different way each time."

And so the relationship began.

It didn't take long for it to run deep. Anyone who ever met Dick knows he was unlike anyone else, and Lanny took to Dick quickly. They really enjoyed their relationship. To give you an idea how close they were, when Lanny won the 1985 PGA Player of the Year award, he was unable to attend the ceremony. So Lanny asked Dick to go instead. Dick told me that was quite an honor.

As an interesting aside, I did a little research. During Lanny's stretch in 1985, when he won two events and took 11th in a third, he won $172,350. To show you how things have changed, this year, Phil Mickelson won $1,134,000 for winning the L.A. Open. At the Hope, Pat Perez won $918,000. Jeff Maggert took home $156,000 for his 10th-place finish at Phoenix this year.

In today's dollars, Lanny would have won $2,208,000 for the stretch in 1985, or roughly $2 million more than he did then.

What a difference a Tiger makes.

But the bottom line here is I don't know how the HOF voters work, but this was an honor far, far overdue for someone with his record—not only as a professional, but as an amateur. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1970. He was a two-time Walker Cupper, an eight-time Ryder Cupper and a former Ryder Cup captain.

What else does a guy have to do?

Dick would agree that Lanny was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in our eyes and in his eyes. We were all miffed that it took Lanny this long to get in.

Personally, I'm so proud of Lanny. He and I used to kid each other all the time, but there's a not a better person in the world. He's had the biggest heart and would help anyone in any way that he can.

Congratulations, Lanny.