Victoria had no such reservations. "She just looked at me and said, 'C'mon, let's have some guts. It doesn't matter to me if you have a sponsor or not—let's go.' " The Wilks lashed most of their possessions onto the roof of their Suzuki Samurai and hit the road. They kept expenses down by eating at Burger King and staying in private homes.
During a practice round before the Knoxville Open in May, Vic hit a bad shot and, as he says, "started punishing myself." Ever since childhood he has reacted to bad shots by slipping on the old hair shirt. When she saw it happening this time, Victoria unloaded on him. "How are you ever going to be successful with your attitude?"
He moped through the rest of the round but began thinking, Here I am, married to a great person, playing on the Nike Tour. How can I have this attitude when I'm so darned lucky? After his round he stopped at a bookstore and bought a Bible.
That night he opened it to the Book of Job. "Satan took his wealth, his family, his friends, but Job never cursed the Lord," says Wilk. "He kept believing and got his wealth back, tenfold."
The Wilks were staying at the home of Richard Goff, a former elder in a Knoxville church. At dinner on Saturday, Wilk mentioned that he would like to be baptized. Goff took him to his church, and a minister performed the sacrament, dunking Wilk in a small baptismal pool. The next day Wilk shot a 66 to win his first tournament on the Nike Tour. You could say it was a timely victory: Vic and Victoria were down to their last $700. In the picture that ran in the next day's Knoxville News-Sentinel, Victoria is clutching the oversized $36,000 check the way one might cling to a life preserver on high seas.
For the year, Wilk won $68,145, enough for a down payment on a new house just outside Las Vegas. Last week Budget Rent A Car came through with a sponsorship deal. It provides use of a car for a year, so Vic and Victoria can give their tired, 1986 Samurai a rest.
On a tour of up-and-comers and retreads, Wilk is neither—he's a 34-year-old never-was. But these days he has an attitude that matches his swing. Says Wilk, "I've gotten all my bad luck out of my system. Remember, Ben Hogan didn't start playing his best golf until he was 36."
He carded an un-Hoganlike 77 in his first round in San Jose. His second-round 69, which included an eagle on the first hole, was not enough; he missed the cut by a stroke.
The bad news came in the gloaming on Friday. A tournament employee wielding a marker made a wavy red line above the cut score on the big board behind the 1st tee.
"Looks like you got the squiggle, pal," said Bill Doctor, a Tour caddie who is a friend of Wilk's.