Throwback Thursday: Rob Wilkin
Sept. 1, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
Rob Wilkin (Men’s Golf, 1981-83)
Arkansas City, Kan. native Rob Wilkin brought his small town dreams to Lawrence, from 1981-83 as a talented junior college transfer for then men’s head golf coach Ross Randle. Wilkin continued his playing career on the links after college, competing in tours and at majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open. Wilkin could most recently be found playing in the Nationwide Tour’s Midwest Classic in Kansas City, last month. Currently he is the head golf pro at Heritage Park Golf Course, in Overland, Park, Kan. Wilkin and his wife have five children (four daughters and a son), one of which is a KU graduate.
Why did you decide to go to Kansas?
“Growing up in Arkansas City (Kansas), you really have the two major Universities and my numbers were not quite Division-I quality coming directly out of high school, so I took the junior college route. Eventually I became a junior college All-American and one day I had the phone ring and it was Ross Randle, who was the KU golf coach at the time. He had lost some players from his roster the year before, so he needed some guys who were ready to play. Fortunately for me, I was ready and it definitely was a good step for me.”
What are some of your fondest memories from when you were a student athlete at KU?
“Being a student-athlete at Kansas is very special and that is something I will always cherish. I remember going to Allen Fieldhouse once a month to check-in at the coach’s office. And believe it or not, as golfers, we used to lift weights, so we would go to the southeast corner of the Fieldhouse to the weight room. We also spent a lot of time at Alvamar (Country Club in Lawrence), at the driving range. I remember playing all the 27 holes that Alvamar had at that time.”
What did you do after you left KU?
“Once my eligibility was up, I still had another semester to get my business degree and I wanted to be sure I finished. During that time, I spoke with Jerry Wilhite, who was the head professional at Alvamar at the time and we talked about my options, which were that I could either become a professional golfer, or enter the golf business as a golf pro. I ended up doing both as I became the first assistant at the new Alvamar Country Club when the clubhouse opened in the fall of 1983. In the spring of `84, a position opened up at the Men’s Club in Kansas City for a head assistant there. That was a fantastic golf course and it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn the business from someone who was the head pro at Pinehurst Country Club and eventually the head pro at Wolf Creek over in Olathe.”
What are some of the highlights of your professional golf career?
“Playing golf in high school and college, you always want to see if there is a chance that you can play professionally and I was able, even though I was working at Wolf Creek. I went through the Tour Qualifying School six times, but I missed every time, even though I was very close. I played on what used to be called the Hogan Tour, which turned into the Nike Tour, which is now the Nationwide Tour. I recently returned from the Senior U.S. Open and although I missed the cut, it is still something I will remember.”
Obviously you are being modest, because you made the cut at the 1988 U.S. Open in Brookline, Mass., what was that like for you?
“I have played in six total majors, and I still think the U.S. Open in 1988 is the highlight of my career. I made the cut; I beat Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman in that tournament. I played some great, fresh rounds with Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. The U.S. Open is kind of the premiere golf tournament and I would still rank that as number one on the list of my accomplishments. Hopefully there will be a few more majors coming down the road.”
What do you currently do in your position as the head golf pro at Heritage Park in Overland Park?
“I am entering my 14th season as the head professional at Heritage Park and I am basically in charge of running all the golf operations. I do everything from concessions to pro shop merchandise and overseeing the green-fee and golf cart rentals. I manage the staff that keeps play going and I report to the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department at their monthly budget meetings.”