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Bros With Mo
John Garrity
February 18, 2002
Whether on the Senior tour (Bobby) or on the TV tower (Lanny), the Wadkins brothers are coming on strong
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February 18, 2002

Bros With Mo

Whether on the Senior tour (Bobby) or on the TV tower (Lanny), the Wadkins brothers are coming on strong

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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."

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 mat had worked 40 years ago on the family sofa and might work again in the hot Florida sun.

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."

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