"Lanny has some things to learn," says Heard. "Just like we all do. Things having to do with attitude. He tends to get mad at himself, to let things upset him once in a while, but he has so much ability that I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be just as good or even better next year. He wants to be good. If he has to improve his putting, he will."
It appears that if Wadkins has a problem during his second year it may be that the expectations of his friends exceed even his own. His own sound reasonable enough. "For a start I'll try to win a tournament again, and as soon as possible. Besides that I haven't thought very much about it yet. Maybe there is such a thing as a sophomore slump. I don't know. But I don't intend to find out. It seems to me that if you're good, you're going to play good consistently."
However, Bob Murphy, who was also a first-class amateur player and whose rookie year might be considered better even than Wadkins' on the ground that his share of the total purse that year was greater and he had two tournament wins, followed with a disappointing second year—half as much money and no wins. On the other hand, Jack Nicklaus, whose rookie earnings were $62,000, not only won the U.S. Open but took 3.5% of the total prize money, compared to Murphy's 2% and Wadkins' 1.5%. Nicklaus followed his own rookie act with the Masters, the PGA Championship and nearly twice as much money.
"Lanny is going to earn more money than he can count in the next 10 years," says Bert Yancey. "He's already a star. The only question is whether he's going to be a star of the Palmer, Nicklaus, Player type, or something somewhat less."
Lanny himself is not ready to talk about such possibilities yet. What he will talk about is going home. He and his wife Rachel have bought a condominium adjoining the Bermuda Run Golf and Country Club, a development outside Winston-Salem, N.C., and filled it with things chosen carefully from the showrooms of the local furniture industry. They have tried to get there once every six tournaments or so this year for a two-week stay. "Getting home is nice, but you really need two weeks to get unpacked and settled. Anything less and you're still living out of suitcases, just like being on the road," said Rachel between visits to the Magical Kingdom at Disney World. "The tour is hard at first. Everything is new, every town is a strange town. You don't know where to go, where to eat. Next year should be easier."
Neither of the Wadkinses is quite so starry-eyed as both were last March when Lanny said, "We're having so much fun you kind of worry something's going to happen." The midsummer tour through the Midwest was long and hot, the traveling began to take its toll, "and there were some bad towns." But there were good times, enough to warrant looking forward to more. "It's fun to go back to a tournament you've played well in," he said. "It sparks you up to have people shouting encouragement at you." There are friends now to rely on for companionship, encouragement and needling—Miller and Heard, J. C. Snead, Bruce Fleisher, Forrest Fezler and all their wives. There is a business manager who has relieved Lanny of his off-course problems. Money is already coming in from arrangements such as the one he has with Ford.
And because Wadkins is now an exempt player he will be able to plan a more reasonable schedule for the coming year, ideally, he thinks, four or five weeks on and two weeks off. Bob Murphy tried it a different way his second year and learned what he calls a "cheap lesson" in the process.
"I set out to try to substantiate my income that year," says Murphy. "] made lots of appearances and set up outside business arrangements here and there. I did well financially but my golf went down as a result. I was trying to do all those things and still play the full schedule I'd played the year before. I'd show up for the pro-am on Wednesday and tee it up Thursday and I just couldn't do it. I call it a cheap lesson because I learned and came back the next year with $120,000.
"It's hard to say whether Lanny will be a great player. That depends on what tournaments he wins. A great player has to win major tournaments. But there's no doubt he'll win. He has that quality. You've got to remember, though, that a lot of great players had less auspicious starts than Lanny Wadkins did."
While still an amateur, Lanny played in the 1970 Heritage Classic on the difficult Harbour Town course at Hilton Head. He surprised everyone but himself by finishing second to Bob Goalby. For Wadkins it was merely confirmation of what he had long suspected. He could play with the pros, even the best of the pros. And nothing since has happened to alter his estimation. But there is still a chapter missing from the Lanny Wadkins book—the one about adversity. Try to imagine the stories of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Ken Venturi or Lee Trevino without it. Adversity will come. It does to all golfers in one form or another. The heroics in golf lie always in the meeting and dealing with it.