THE PLAYERS Championship, held May 3-9, 2010 in northeast Florida, is a well-known and much-loved tournament within golf. The famed 17th island green, designed by World Golf Hall of Fame member Pete Dye, can not be scoffed and generates gasps from both golfers and spectators alike. Over the years, the tournament has presented both overwhelming disappointments and triumphant victories, defining the careers of many golfers.
The 1979 PLAYERS Championship was contested in the most difficult weather the tournament has witnessed to date, including gale-force conditions that saw scores soar with the wind.
Lanny Wadkins simply used those conditions to further his reputation as one of the most fiercely competitive players of his generation. Wadkins had a three-stroke lead going into Saturday, fought his way to a 76 and maintained the lead.
He then fired a 72 on Sunday to become the first player to ever break par at the tournament at the Sawgrass Country Club en route to a 5-shot win.
“I basically shot 148 on the weekend and increased my lead,” Wadkins said. “So it was pretty nasty conditions…it was a very, very satisfying win.”
The Toney Penna driver Wadkins used that week has returned to the area just down the road from where that very victory was attained and is on display at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla. as part of Wadkins’ new inductee exhibit.
Wadkins, who was enshrined as part of the Class of 2009 alongside Spaniard José María Olazábal, Irishman Christy O’Connor and the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, has provided roughly 100 artifacts from his career – ranging from his Ryder Cup bags between the late 1970s and the early 1990s to his many medals and trophies from his 21-win PGA TOUR career – for display in the museum.
Wadkins’ stories also are told in the Member Locker Room exhibit, where alongside the other 129 Hall of Fame members, his locker features tournament-used equipment and PGA Championship items including his cowboy boots decked out with PGA Champion patches, the hat and gloves used in the 2009 U.S. Senior Open and more. Each locker gives guests a closer look at the Hall’s members—on and off the course—telling true-to-life, meaningful stories that bring to light the heart, soul and achievements of each individual within its walls.
The World Golf Hall of Fame’s new audio tour also includes THE PLAYERS winner, Wadkins himself, talking about his start in golf, his take on playing under pressure and his victory at THE PLAYERS one windy day in 1979.
“I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” Wadkins said of his PLAYERS trophy. “That was an amazing win.”