Bobby Wilson – Perhaps the greatest athlete ever to grace the grid
Imagine qualifying for the Olympics, but having your dream crushed because the President of your country decided to boycott the games. That is exactly what happened to Bobby Wilson who had qualified for the 1980 United States’ Olympic Team in Team Handball.
Shortly thereafter he switched his focus to Long Drive and in the 1980 Finals at Oak Hill he led every round of the competition except for the final. Because he was leading the competition, he was interviewed by Peter Alliss and Dave Marr. But in the finals, the conditions became difficult and he admits that he let his nerves get the best of him. His 4th place finish was still impressive for a rookie competing in his first event.
A few minutes after the final was over, Evan Williams introduced himself and said: “There is something special about you. I mean it. You handle yourself really well.” Then a few hours later, Mike Dunaway introduced himself and said, “I watched you. I liked the way you handled yourself. I have an event out in Vegas and I want to invite you to it. Evan and I agree, there is something special about you.”
Wilson added that, “Evan began mentoring me and Mike Dunaway introduced me to corporate golf and that’s how I got started.” That was about the time when Big Cat Williams was fielding so many calls about corporate outings that he earned the nickname the “Godfather of Long Drive” when he recommended his friends for the shows he could not appear at. The special friendship that Bobby Wilson, Big Cat, Mike Dunaway, Art Sellinger, and Mike Gorton shared has lasted nearly four decades.
As one of the greatest pure athletes ever to grace the grid, Wilson was always a threat to win any Long Drive event he appeared. Big Cat Williams gave him the nickname Mr. Consistency because he almost always was in the Top Four. And as a testament to his longevity, he qualified for the 2013 Open Division Final at the age of 57. After numerous close calls, he finally won his elusive first World Long Drive Title in 2004 when he claimed the Senior Division. Then, in 2009 he doubled down when he became the first competitor to win both the Senior and Super Senior Divisions of the RE/Max World Long Drive Championship. A few years later, he followed that with consecutive Grand Champion (55+) titles in 2013 and 2014.
This father of five is a man of deep faith that has been happily married to his wife Julie for 30 years. They have six grandchildren and they look forward to welcoming two more that are due in November. His love and commitment to his family has fueled his desire to be the best he can be in the sport and in life. He is an excellent role model for everyone to follow.
He is known as a consummate professional and an ambassador for the sport who always had time for the fans. He is also a legendary storyteller. He counts the most meaningful advice that Evan ever shared with him to be, “When you do a corporate outing, if the only thing that they remember is how far you hit the ball, you have failed.” And during his appearances at corporate outings and events he strives to create memories that will last a lifetime for everyone in attendance.
He was a top ranked Long Driver for a quarter century. He was selected to the Long Drivers of America Hall of Fame in 2000 along with Art Sellinger. With five world titles, 11 career wins, and the Tour’s career money record, I consider this Hall of Famer, not only to be one of the greatest athletes ever to grace the grid, but also, to be one of the best men too.
By Rich O’Brien