What they said: Lanny WadkinsApril 23, 2009
PGA TOUR staff
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this special announcement today. Quick reminder that the transcript will be available on ASAP Sports, and those of you in the room, if you could -- when you have a question, just wait for the microphone, please. Without further adieu, I'd like to turn it over to the President of the Champions Tour, Mike Stevens.
MIKE STEVENS: Thanks, Phil. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here this morning, and I'd like to welcome all the media here in attendance in the Media Center as well as all the media who are joining us on the phone this morning.
Like I said, it's always good to be back in Savannah at the event that launched the Champions Tour, that being the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf which started in 1978, which ultimately moved to the creation of the Champions Tour in 1980 and has been really the backbone of the Champions Tour since the inception back then.
I'd like to thank Ted Kelly and everyone at Liberty Mutual for all their support over all these years. It's been absolutely phenomenal, and they've done so much to not only promote this event and make it the huge event that it has become, but they've been a huge supporter of the Champions Tour over the years and the PGA TOUR, and we really appreciate everything they've done.
As for the Champions Tour, just a quick update, the 2009 season is off to a great start. As many of you have seen, we've had very exciting finishes, which is all about actually now resulting in another close tight race for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship that will be culminated out in Sonoma, California at the end of the year and Bernhard Langer is currently the leader in the Charles Schwab Cup race.
Through our first seven events we've had seven different champions which includes last week's winner Hall of Fame member Nick Price who brought it home at the Outback Steakhouse Pro Am last week in Tampa, and we congratulate Nick for his fine play and great win on the Champions Tour which actually was his first win on the Champions Tour.
We have a great field competing this week, as usual. Of the 118 players who are assembled representing the three divisions, the most astounding statistic is that relative to their tournament wins, we have a combined 146 major championships represented in the field, and a combined 1,334 wins between the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour playing this week in Savannah, so quite an amazing statistic, and truly the greatest players to ever play the game of golf.
But the most important statistic is that there are 14 World Golf Hall of Fame members competing in the field this week, which actually takes us to the ceremonies today.
It's only fitting that this announcement take place here, again, at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, and I'd like to thank Jack Peter, and the World Golf Hall of Fame for continuing to do the announcement this week.
So without any further adieu, it's my pleasure to introduce Jack Peter, the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame who is about to give us some very, very exciting news.
JACK PETER: Thank you, Mike. And thank you to everyone in attendance here in Savannah and on the phone. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day. I do also want to extend our thanks on behalf of all the Hall of Fame members and our staff and volunteers to Ted Kelly and the Liberty Mutual group. They have been a big supporter of ours allowing us the platform here to talk about our announcements over the last few years, and it is truly a pleasure to be back.
I want to thank Tim Iley and his staff and congratulate them on a terrific tournament so far, and I want to get my plug in for Team for Hall of Fame, Gary Player and Bob Charles earlier in the week in the Demaret Division. It's very exciting for us.
Just to refresh and recap, there are five avenues into the World Golf Hall of Fame. There are two elected tracts, the PGA TOUR ballot and an international ballot. There is an LPGA point system. There are two discretionary categories, called Lifetime Achievement and Veterans Categories.
We're here today to announce the results of the PGA TOUR ballot. 94 percent of the ballots were returned, which is a very healthy return. We're very pleased about that.
The inductee that we're going to announce in a few minutes was named on 61 percent of the returned ballots, and the balance of the results are noted on a press release that is currently being issued and distributed.
He'll become part of the class of 2009 and will be inducted Monday, November 2 at the World Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida.
We will be having additional announcements for the 2009 class over the next month, so stay tuned for the media advisories.
Now on to the announcement at hand. This gentleman has won 21 PGA TOUR titles, including the 1977 PGA Championship and the 1979 Players Championship. He was a stalwart on the U. S. Ryder Cup teams. He played on eight of them, eight U. S. Ryder Cup teams, which is a record he shares with Ray Floyd and Billy Casper, and he holds an impressive 20-11 and 3 record which is among the best in history. Captain of the '95 U. S. Ryder Cup team and winner of the 1970 U. S. Amateur Championship. He's become a great friend of the Hall of Fame, great friend of mine personally. At this time I'd like to recognize and welcome Lanny Wadkins to the World Golf Hall of Fame. (Applause).
LANNY WADKINS: Thank you.
JACK PETER: Lanny, congratulations. I would like to invite you to make a couple of opening remarks, and then we'll take a couple of questions from the floor here in Savannah and then open up the teleconference for questions. So welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
LANNY WADKINS: Thank you, Jack. Thank you very much.
It's a huge honor, and you know, I think that when you start playing the game when I did and all I did was play for fun and play for a long time. I really enjoyed playing. Even starting on Tour, I don't think I ever envisioned this day happening. I came out playing not so much trying to make money, but just to win golf tournaments and do what I really enjoy doing, and that's playing golf, and this is kind of the culmination of all of that, I think, for me. It's a very special day for me, but not only for me but for my family.
You know, you don't get anywhere in this world and in this game without people behind you that have helped you, and you know, I think back to what my parents sacrificed for my brother and I to be able to play and spend the time on the golf course that we did, and then even today to see the joy on my boys' face knowing that I'm a part of this. So it's very, very special. It really is.
I think that, you know, now that this is happening, I think maybe my boys will figure out that I could play at one time. (Laughs). So that's pretty cool.
I mean you gotta understand, last year my 16- year-old, Tucker, told me that I was now the fourth best Wadkins. He said, "Dad, there's Uncle Bobby, Travis, me and now you." So I've gotta claw my way back up the ladder.
And Tucker, I'm starting with you. (Laughs).
So anyway, it's been fun, and I think that with all the -- it's pretty well documented the problems I've had physically with my back. I've had four back surgeries in the last two years, and just now I'm healthy. I'm able to start playing again.
This is actually an inaugural week for me to kind of get back out. I played in Naples, but intend on playing a pretty full schedule from here on out, and to be back playing doing something I love is something I'm really looking forward to, and I have found out that retirement sucks. (Laughs). I've been home long enough.
And the only thing that saved me was actually getting to watch my boys play all last summer. I went with Travis. My wife, Penny, went with Tucker on their tournaments. So that's really kept me going, kept me in the game and really kind of fueled my desire to get back and play. So for me, that's a good thing.
We had a marvelous dinner last night with guys that are already in the Hall of Fame, Jack was kind enough to host. And we did a lot of reminiscing, and you know, these are guys that I've grown up with that I was having dinner with last night with Kite and Nelson and Watson and Jacklin and Crenshaw. I mean we had just a terrific group, and you know, guys that I've shared a lot with, especially on Ryder Cup teams, partners, and you know, guys that I've battled against; they've beaten me, I've beaten them, and it's been a fun ride.
I mean I was just reminiscing that Tom Kite and I go back to being 16 years old together playing in the USGA Juniors. We were the losing semifinalists in the '66 USGA Juniors. So that's how far some of us go back.
And when I won the Amateur, I beat Tom by a shot, and he's gotten me a few times since. Same thing with Watson and with Crenshaw. And obviously Ryder Cup memories with Tony Jacklin, and Larry Nelson and I reminisce about we're the only team in the last 50 years that's won all four of our matches the first two days in a Ryder Cup.
So these are guys that I'm proud to have been associated with, and I'm delighted that they're in the Hall of Fame, and it's just neat to have been a part of last evening, and I'm looking forward to many more.
JACK PETER: Great. Thank you, Lanny. At this time we'll entertain questions from the floor here in Savannah.
Q. Lanny, you mentioned you talked about your family. Are your family members here??
LANNY WADKINS: No, they're not, and they would be except they've been playing golf tournaments. So I actually spent last week up in North Carolina watching my oldest boy play in the ACC Championship. He was playing in the third position for Wake Forest, and I was up there all last week watching him.
My wife was going to come this week, except that my youngest son was playing in the state high school tournament in Texas in Houston Monday and Tuesday, and they got back home about 1:30 in the morning after successfully defending their crown, I might add, early in the morning Wednesday. So she did not have a chance to get here with Tucker. So you know, their golf seems to take precedence these days. What can I tell you? (Laughs).
LANNY WADKINS: Thank you.
Q. Could you go over your children's ages and where they are in school, and you mentioned their golf accomplishments.
LANNY WADKINS: Yeah.
Q. I want to see how you figure fourth right now.
LANNY WADKINS: Well, my oldest boy is 21, Travis. And he's a junior at Wake Forest, playing for them, playing in the third position. He's had a very good spring. He just finished 13 individually in the ACC Championship and has had a Top 10 and a couple other finishes right around 10th this year. He's played very solid for Wake this spring. I think Jerry Haas, his coach, has been very pleased. And they've won one tournament as a team and had some other good finishes. Their next deal will be the regionals to hopefully qualify for the NCAA.
My youngest son, Tucker, is 16. He's a very good player, a former Southern Junior champion. He is a sophomore at Trinity Christian Academy in Dallas, and like I said, he and his team just won the state high school for the second year in a row. So they're doing very well, and Tucker has got a world of potential, and once he figures it out, we'll see some good things from him.
I do have an older daughter, 35, Jessica, that's married, and I have three grandkids, 7, 5 and 2.
Q. And he had you fourth behind the two sons and Bob??
LANNY WADKINS: Uncle Bobby, my brother who plays out here. I was surprised he actually put Uncle Bobby at the top, but he did. (Laughs). So anyway, I got a ladder to climb.
Q. Sometimes when people are inducted into the Hall of Fame, they're a little skittish because it somehow means the end. Do you feel at all that there's an end marking here??
LANNY WADKINS: No, not really. I feel like I've already seen the end and I didn't like it, and I'm kind of ready to get going again. (Laughs).
So I've spent the last two years not really playing because of what I've been through. I had double fusion back surgery August 20th. For three months I could do no bending, lifting, twisting. I've got rods and screws and all kinds of stuff in me now, and Watson and I were comparing notes last night. He said he sets off airport security alarms. I don't, so I'm ahead of him there.
So I'm ready to come back and play as much as I possibly can. I mean I know that the clock's ticking on me, but I've tried to stay in pretty decent shape, and the thing I've been impressed with for me I've still got some speed in my swing. I still get it out there. Even my brother was kind of surprised the other day when we played a practice round that I was getting it out there pretty decent.
I'm rusty, obviously, but with a little bit of work, it'll get there.
Q. Of all your accomplishments, does this rank in the top or where does this rank compared to what you have accomplished in your career??
LANNY WADKINS: Well, yeah. No question. I think this is the result of maybe having a very solid career. I mean if I had to look back, I would think I should have done some more things than I did and I would have done some things differently as far as working on certain parts of my game.
I think that's one of the things I try to stress to my boys, don't overlook something because it's a weakness. We all tend to practice what we like to practice, and sometimes I should have spent more time on the putting green instead of just hitting balls, because I didn't like to be on the putting green, but I liked to hit balls.
I won a lot of tournaments, came close a number of times. I think I had like nine top threes in majors and a lot of opportunities that I thought I could have won more; didn't, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
Probably the greatest experience in my life has been the Ryder Cup teams. I wouldn't trade anything for those as far as my golfing goes. When you're out here traveling on Tour, you're kind of a lone wolf. You're by yourself. You do your own thing and eat more room service than the law should allow.
To be part of a Ryder Cup team and have these guys that you've been trying to beat your whole life as teammates for a week and really get to know them. That's when I really got to know people out here is really in that situation. So I think that's probably been one of the things I've enjoyed the most. And I got to play for some great men as captains, from Nicklaus and Trevino and Casper and Dow Finsterwald and Stockton and Floyd, and even Tom Watson, so it was a real neat ride.
Q. What's your single greatest moment on the golf course, if you had to pick one??
LANNY WADKINS: Oh, wow. You know, individually, I did some stuff, the coolest thing I ever did, I thought, and the thing that probably choked me up on a golf course was a shot at the '83 Ryder Cup that I hit on the last hole.
We were in a position that I was playing Jose Maria Canizares, and I was in the next-to-the-last match that was left on the course. Watson was in the final match playing Bernard Gallacher, and he was two up and two to play, and at that point in time Watson's two up and two to play he doesn't lose. So we weren't worried about him.
And I was one down and one to play and needed to win this whole for us to win the match outright. And I hit about I think the yardage was 72 yards, I remember to this day, on the 18th hole. I had a wedge about a foot from the hole for birdie, won the hole, tied the match.
Curtis Strange was standing there. I remember walking on the green and Tom Kite slapped me on the back and said great shot, great shot. And I turned to say something and nothing came out. First time in my life I couldn't talk.
That was probably the one that as I've looked back and not only excited me the most, but the fact that I've drawn off that shot, I've used that if I could hit that shot with that much pressure and that much going on that I knew I could handle whatever else was out there.
JACK PETER: All right. We'll open up to the media that's on the telephone.
Q. Lanny, among the list of people that have helped you so much, Jesse Haddock, where does he stand in that regard, and do you feel any particular affection??
LANNY WADKINS: Oh, I have a lot of affection for Jesse. Actually, we had breakfast about a week ago yesterday. I went to Winston Salem, my oldest son was struggling with his game a little bit before the ACC, so I went up there and did some video work with him and passed it on to our teacher and got him playing well. And in the process I had breakfast with Coach Haddock Monday or Tuesday of last week. And he looks great. He's in his 80s. He's been through some physical problems, but he's great.
He was like a second father to me when I was at Wake Forest, and you know, as far as swing coaching, he didn't do much of that, but life coach, he was terrific. He kept us in line, and he had a rowdy group to keep in line when I was there. We had certain protocols we had to follow at Wake Forest, and once we left there, it all kind of carried over, and it was -- I mean if you think about the guy, he had to take care of Curtis and me and a few others, so he had his hands full over the years.
Yeah, we were not the angels, that you know, he would like for us to have been, but here again, and I told somebody if I had three years of my life to do over, those were far and away the years I look back on that probably, you know, I made the most friends, still stay in touch with those people, and it was a big, big part of my life, one I wouldn't trade for anything.
Q. And are you thinking about who you're going to have come down to the induction ceremony and would he be one of them??
LANNY WADKINS: If he's able and wants to come, I'd love for him too, obviously. I've already had a lot of friends that have indicated they're going to be there. So yeah, we'll have a very good, rowdy group. It'll make for a nice party. I'm not worried about that at all. So we'll have a lot of fun, yeah.
JACK PETER: Okay. I think our communications satellite has come around from the dark side of the moon now. For those of you that have been patient listening on the phone, we'll open up the questions to the audience on the phone.
Q. I was taking note of the fact that there are a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame who have never won a U. S. Amateur and there are a lot of guys who have never won on the Champions Tour and there are a lot of international players from Australia or South Africa, for example, who have never played on the Ryder Cup. You've got a taste of all of that. Can you talk about the gratification of a golf career that's kind of amateur, pro, international, match play, Champions Tour. You've kind of run the gamut, so to speak.
LANNY WADKINS: Well, I have. I hadn't thought about it that way, but I've really been fortunate to have played all over the world.
I think the thing that happened to me, I was fortunate enough to play very well as a youngster, and you know, I was a very good junior player. Like I mentioned earlier, Kite and I were semifinalists in USGA Junior, played well in college, won the Amateur. I've won in Australia, won in Japan, won in South America, won in Canada. Only place I really didn't win was Europe, and I lost two playoffs there.
So I have played all over the world, probably represented the United States on as many teams as anyone between eight Ryder Cups, two Walker Cups, a World Amateur team, three World Cup teams, I think six U. S. Japan, four Tour matches, so I've played on a lot of international teams, and like I said, those were probably some of the neatest experiences that I did.
You know, I've gotten to see the world and do things that I would never have done. My dad was a truck driver. My mom taught school. I didn't come from a silver spoon family. It was a lot of work and effort for my parents to give my brother and I a chance to play golf, and I think their work ethic carried over to us. And you know, neither one of us has ever been shy about practicing, and I think that just trying to do what we did and do it well has enabled me to see places and do things that I've never dreamed of.
I've been very fortunate, and golf's been very rewarding.
Q. And as a little bit of a nod to my local readership, the 1979 Players Championship, for you to win under the conditions that year, which are still considered the worst conditions of any Players Championship. I know it wasn't a major, but how does that stack up to you in your career??
LANNY WADKINS: I wouldn't trade that for anything. That was an amazing win.
I think I was the first person to ever break par at Sawgrass. I shot 5-under.
You're right. The conditions were such, I would love to -- you know, having worked in the tower at CBS, I would love to see what they would be saying if that tournament was happening today, because I had a three-shot lead going into Saturday and shot 76 the third round and maintained a three-shot lead.
So it was a rather tough day and shot 72 on Sunday and won by five. So I basically shot 148 on the weekend and increased my lead. So it was pretty nasty conditions. So yeah, it was a very, very satisfying win.
You know, the one thing that comes back to me is the help you always get from your competitors and friends out here, and I remember leaving for the golf course on Sunday with a three-shot lead and I ran into Tom Weiskopf, and we were great friends and played a lot of golf. And he said, the wind's blowing so hard, you've gotta make up your mind, commit to it and hit the shot.
When the wind's blowing that hard you can't have indecision, and one of the good things for me my whole life is I've played so fast there wasn't time for anything, much less indecision. (Laughs). But I was very positive about what I was going to do that day, and I hit some amazing shots. And here again, it was a little bit of advice from a fellow competitor and it was very much appreciated.
Q. And Lanny, you mentioned something about your swing. I wondered, you were very much kind of a self-taught homemade swing there, and it was distinctive. Was there any gratification being in the last group in Augusta ending up with Kenny Perry where there's still a place in this world for high level on swings that don't quite look like they're manufactured in an academy or simulator??
LANNY WADKINS: I don't think there's any question. I think first and foremost it's about getting the club on the ball solid, being able to control the ball and your ball trajectory and playing golf.
The whole thing is to write numbers on the scorecard, not look pretty on the film. And I mean I watched a lot of college golf last year with my son when I couldn't play, and I thought the two best players I saw were Web Sims- Wake Forest and Ricky Fowler - Oklahoma State, and I don't think either one has a swing you'd want to copy, but they both know how to play golf and get their club on the ball solid, and I think that's what you're looking to do.
So many times we see kids more caught up in their swing and their swing plane instead of really getting the job done. And I fuss at my boys all the time that they stand on the range and beat these piles of golf balls, you know, just hour after hour, and they oughta be out there playing.
And when my brother and I grew up, we didn't have a range that had golf balls like that. If we hit golf balls, we had to pick them up. So you know, the hell with that. We went and played. I hit balls once a week, and that was enough, and we'd play 36, 54 holes a day, and that's really where you learn how to play golf is on the golf course.
Q. Lanny, congratulations. Long overdue. Glad you made it.
LANNY WADKINS: Thank you, Gary. Appreciate it.
Q. I just wanted to ask, and I apologize if this was asked during the blackout we had there, but when did you find out you were going to make the Hall, and how hard was it to keep a secret and when did you tell your kids and what was their reaction when they first heard about it??
LANNY WADKINS: Well, it's been very hard to keep it a secret. I've told some friends, and obviously family knew.
But it's an interesting story. I actually fell. I was supposed to be leaving to go to play Cap Cana that week, and I came out of the front door at 4:30 in the morning. I had a car picking me up to take me to the airport for a 6:00 flight.
My sprinklers came on halfway down the steps. I slipped, fell, landed on my butt, dislocated the middle finger of my right hand. As I'm laying there on my back in a pool of water, I said, something hurts. I looked at my right hand and my middle finger was going sideways. I said, well, I guess I'm not going to the Dominican Republic today.
Ended up not going. Went back inside, told me wife. She kind of freaked when she saw it. Had to settle her down. Told her I would drive her to the emergency room (laughs).
But anyway, since I didn't go play that week, I actually went and worked on the golf course I'm doing out in Southwest Texas at Lajitas, which is way Southwest Texas on the Rio Grande. I got the call from Tim Finchem. I was standing outside of the Thirsty Goat Saloon at Lajitas, which is only appropriate.
Q. When were you able to tell your kids and what was their reaction??
LANNY WADKINS: I called my wife and told her. Then I got ahold of the boys that night or the next day, and they've been very, very excited. You know, just beside themselves.
I told Travis he couldn't tell anybody. Travis plays at Wake Forest, as you know, and a lot of you don't know, Gary's son's a very, very good player, one of the top amateurs in the country. So we've seen each other at a lot of tournaments last year. Anyway, Travis was very excited. Told him he couldn't tell anyone, and the next day I had like three text messages from teammates of his. So he didn't do a very good job of keeping it quiet.
My youngest son kept it quiet until this Monday night when they were leading going to the last round of the state high school and they had a team dinner, and he announced it to his team, which I thought was pretty cool. Penny gave him permission, so that's the only thing about that. Said it's okay. And they've been very excited.
My daughter wanted to post it on her Facebook. I told her no. (Laughs). So there have been some things like that, but it's been a lot of fun. A lot of my friends are extremely excited, and as usual, I am becoming the excuse for them to have a party, so that's what this will be about.
Q. More importantly, what's the medical update? Is your middle finger still able to perform all the functions that it needs to?
LANNY WADKINS: (Laughs). Yes, it does. When it was bandaged, it was very effective. It worked real well. I had it actually taped to my index finger for about two weeks because it went the other direction.
But yeah, it's okay. I've been hitting balls for about two weeks now, and started off slowly, but I don't grip the club real tight in my right hand, so I can get it around there. I'm okay. Doesn't seem to bother me. Advil, and I'm going forward.
Q. I talked to Coach Haddock yesterday, and he mentioned that he sent you a letter when you were 12 years old. He got kind of scared maybe the NCAA might come on top of him, but you don't happen to still have that letter? Do you remember getting that letter from him?
LANNY WADKINS: I do. I remember getting one from Coach Haddock when I was 12 or 13, and they didn't have the strict guidelines that they have today.
So I had some letters at that time. Don't know if I still have it. I actually have a file at home of very interesting letters I have received from different people over the years, from some presidents and some other people. Probably should have some of them framed. Ben Hogan wrote me a letter once after the PGA and some others, so I've got some very special things there.
But yeah, I was in touch with Coach Haddock from day one. I always loved the history and tradition of Wake Forest, and it was a tough choice, but I don't regret anything about my decision and my involvement with Wake Forest.
Q. And what was Coach Haddock, I know he wasn't obviously really a teacher of the game, but more kind of the got in your head, kind of got you playing. What do you think you learned the most from him??
LANNY WADKINS: Well, no question, he was a disciplinarian. He kept us straight. He had a pretty rowdy group to keep straight.
When I arrived as a freshman, Jack Lewis, Leonard Thompson, Joe Inman were seniors, and they had already worn him down pretty good, so we had a great time, a lot of great teammates. I played with Jim Simons, Eddie Pierce, and the guys I just mentioned, Steve Walker, Logan Jackson, people that have been friends of mine for years, you know, ever since.
We had a great time. But I would say, you know, the one thing he did for me early on was I got the shakes putting when I was a freshman, and he said, Lanny, you drink enough coffee to float a battleship. And I never knew that coffee would give you the shakes, so I quit drinking coffee, and all of a sudden my putting got better. So probably as a sideline to what happened with anything else, he got me off coffee, which was good. But mostly just managing and really being a father when you needed a father away from home, he was always there.
JACK PETER: Anybody else on the phone?
Q. Lanny, congratulations.
LANNY WADKINS: Thank you.
Q. I have a couple of questions, but I would have to ask, if you got the call from Finchem standing outside the Thirsty Goat Saloon, what then did you go order from the Thirsty Goat Saloon??
LANNY WADKINS: (Laughs). I was right in the middle of a very cold beer, because I had a long, dusty day on the course out there working on the project. And yeah, we had a few more as the evening went on.
Q. I wanted to ask you, Lanny, about the PGA Championship. I think you were the first guy to win a major in a sudden-death playoff.
LANNY WADKINS: That's correct.
Q. What do you recollect coming down the stretch at Pebble, and Nicklaus is in the hunt, too, if I'm not mistaken, just how all that played out??
LANNY WADKINS: Yes, he was. Gene Littler had a pretty good lead, and my whole group I was playing with that day with Leonard Thompson and Don January, and we were probably three to four groups ahead of Littler, at least. And the interesting thing was I eagled both par-5s on the front side that day. I did not have a birdie on my card the last round until 18 at Pebble.
But the thing I remember most was I was playing the day -- at the time I'd had some injuries, and I was actually a non-exempt player at that point. I had missed Top 60 the year before. And I was playing that week, I knew I was in good shape. I was trying to finish in the Top 8, and the Top 8 gets you in the Masters, so that was my goal starting the last round.
And all of a sudden Littler made some bogeys, and I got to the point I made a great par save at 16. I remember standing on 17 tee, and this is when we played the back tee at 17, thinking if I could make two birdies, I might have a shot. And I hit probably one of the best two irons of my life at 17. It was 12 feet behind the hole, back left pin and the putt just went right around the top edge and didn't go in. I thought, well, that's it.
I hit a good drive and 4-iron and landed up at 18 and behind the 18th green at Pebble Beach is the big scoreboard with the scores, and I don't remember the exact numbers. I was either 5-under and Littler had been 7, and I hit like a 92-yard wedge shot to 18, and I watched the scoreboard and they changed Littler from 7 to 6 and I'm sitting there at 5-under. And I just got this big -- my eyes got about as big as saucers, and I hit this wedge shot 18 inches from the hole and giggled the putt in the edge somehow and finished sixth. And actually Littler got it up-and-down at 17, had about a 30-footer at 18, made par; we tied.
Nicklaus had about a 15-footer at 18 to tie us, missed it. And then Gene and I, you're right, it was the first major. We thought we were playing the next day, and they said, we're going to the first tee.
So we went to the first tee. They had no gallery ropes. They were all down. Every shot we hit was like the final hole of the British Open where you see people swarming the players. That's what we had. For three holes it was like that. It was almost out of control. It was pretty wild, and I made about a 15-footer at the first hole to stay alive. We both birdied the second hole, and I won the third with par.
So it was -- I felt bad for Gene. He was a friend of all of us, and we were actually -- January and Leonard and I were really pulling for Littler to win all day long till I had a chance. Then I was pulling for me. (Laughs).
Q. Kind of a segue from your wedge on the 18th to tie it, you go back to '83 at the Ryder's Cup, I think your first two or three saves the U. S. won fairly handily. Did you get any sense at Palm Beach Gardens that day when you hit that wedge and the closeness of the match, that that was kind of a turning of the Ryder Cup? Could you sense it that day?
LANNY WADKINS: We had a sense in '79, because the first time Europe played was '79. Seve played in '79 along with Antonio Garrido. I don't know if any other Europeans played that year, but I do know those two did. I'm not sure if Bernhard Langer played or not, but by '83 they had a pretty good size contingent of Europeans as well as Great Britain and Ireland. Obviously the quality of golf had gotten better. I think Woosnam played for the first time in '83, I believe, along with Faldo was playing, and I think Langer was playing.
So yeah, it was starting to look a lot different, and they were starting to gain a lot of momentum, and it was very tight all week. And obviously things turned around in '85. So it was just -- it was very exciting, and you could see the potential was there that I guess people hadn't seen before, and that's what we noticed was the quality of the golf had gotten dramatically different.
And we had a lot of younger players coming along too. The team in '83 we had a lot of young guys. We had some veterans in, Raymond Floyd, but we had guys, Calvin Peete on that team, Jay Haas playing I think his first Ryder Cup, and Curtis Strange playing his. Fuzzy was probably playing his. Then Watson and I were playing our probably third. So it was a little bit different look for the U. S. team than it had been in the past.
Q. You've got a major at Pebble Beach, 21 Tour victories, and your Ryder Cup record. When people hear that you're going into the Hall of Fame, what do you think they should think of first of Lanny Wadkins as a golfer??
LANNY WADKINS: I don't know. Maybe just longevity is I think the thing that I was proudest of. I won in three different decades. I did play on eight Ryder Cup teams. Missed one in '81. So it means I made eight teams over an 18-year span, which is, I think, pretty significant.
I love representing my country. I think that was the thing that I really enjoyed as much as anything. Like I said earlier, I played on a couple of Walker Cup teams as well, and really it was just -- I think I was a good teammate. I love competing. I mean I love fighting for wins, and being out there and just enjoying the day.
I was probably more feisty, a little bit more temperamental at times than I should have been, but we all do things our own way. Quit laughing. (Laughs).
But that's an individual's makeup. I mean I always felt like if everybody out there was Trevino or Chi Chi or Fuzzy, they wouldn't be special. What makes them so special is that they are who they are. And the best that myself and the Curtis Stranges of the world and others can do is do what we do, and that's you play golf the way that you can play it best, and that's what we try to do.
Q. Thanks, Lanny. Congratulations to you.
JACK PETER: Okay. At this time we're going to close the press conference. I'd like to thank everyone here in Savannah for attending. I'd like to thank everybody on the telephone. Particular thanks to Mike Stevens and the Champions Tour staff. A particular thank you to Mr. Lanny Wadkins, and again, welcome to the family and we look forward to seeing all of you in St. Augustine, Monday, November 2nd. Thank you all.