His athletic discipline also suffered. "I dropped golf for a while." says Wilk. "When I came back, it was on my terms." Wilk got a scholarship from nearby Cal State-Northridge, where he was a four-time NCAA Division II All-America, winning the national championship in 1982, his senior year. That summer Wilk made the cut for the final stage of the PGA's qualifying school in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Julie arranged for Ernie Velasquez, Vic's biological father, who lived in nearby Jacksonville, to pick up Vic at the airport. It was their first meeting. Velasquez spent the week following his son around the course.
"It was great to finally meet him," says Wilk. "I mean, he was my father. But this was the finals of the most important tournament of my life. Looking back on it, I think meeting him that particular week was a bit of a distraction."
Wilk missed making the PGA Tour by one stroke. Twelve years and 10 trips to Q school later he has yet to make the Tour, despite reaching the final stage seven times. Says his mother, "He always misses by one stinking stroke."
Missing the cut at the Q school finals in '82 began a decade of serial misfortune that would test Wilk's love of the game but, in the end, reward him with the love of his life. During the practice round of a tournament in Baltimore the next summer, Wilk tore ligaments in his right thumb when he swung his club and hit a piece of buried shale. He showed up on the 1st tee the next day with ice taped to his grossly swollen hand. He could barely hold his driver. Wilk made the cut, but he was able to play in only a couple more tournaments the rest of the summer.
The following spring he was invited to be the head pro at a new course in Taylorsville, Ky. It turned out that he was allergic to bluegrass—a problem for a golf pro in the Bluegrass State. While out on the course one day he sneezed with such ferocity that a rib tore loose from his sternum. The injury knocked him out of the game for 2½ years.
In the summer of '87 Wilk launched what he refers to as "my minicareer" on the Canadian Tour. For three straight summers he migrated north, driving to cities such as Windsor, Saskatoon, Regina and Vancouver. He earned enough money each summer to pay for PGA qualifying school in the fall. He passed his winters in Southern California doing a variety of odd jobs: waiting tables, driving a UPS truck, giving golf lessons. At the Sherwood Country Club north of Los Angeles, he caddied and detailed ears for luminaries such as Simpson ("Nice guy," says Wilk, "but his golf swing is a train wreck").
In 1990 Wilk's car was rear-ended as he was driving on a highway outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, an outpost about six hours north of Edmonton. Two vertebrae in his back were crushed. The accident ended his season, but Wilk never considered quitting the game. "As a child actor you deal with rejection constantly," he says. ""I think that toughened me." Such is Wilk's mental toughness, says his coach and friend. Pasadena golf pro Jim Empey, that "even during the most discouraging times he believed he could play this game. Without that confidence he would have quit a long time ago."
A year after that wreck Wilk made a triumphant return to the scene of the accident, winning the Fort McMurray Rotary Classic. A year later, at a tournament in Lethbridge, Alberta, he met a 20-year-old New Zealander named Victoria Hill, who was working as a nanny in Canada. They were married in Las Vegas in December 1993. "The wedding cost $200," says Wilk. "We were married in the same chapel as Joan Collins. We don't know which marriage it was for her."
The truth is, Victoria has been a terrific influence on Vic, as well as a competent and inexpensive—if, at times, overly demonstrative—caddie for him. It is not unusual for her to crack Vic with a towel as they stride up the fairway. She celebrates his birdie putts by thrusting a fist in the air and shouting, "Yeah!"
Vic qualified for the 1994 Nike Tour in late '93, but his resolve wavered when backing he had been promised fell through. At the last minute Cleveland Golf agreed to sponsor him. The Wilks had $2,500 in the bank, but Vic doubted they could make it through the season.