Yorkshire is mourning the loss of two great golfing characters.
Bob Wilkinson, a stalwart of the European Tour and the European Senior Tour in the 1980s and 1990s, died after a prolonged battle with cancer. The former Fixby member was 75.
Bob was instrumental in helping take the European Tour outside the boundaries of Europe with the Dubai Desert Classic, where he was Tournament Director from its first staging in 1989 until he retired in 2002.
He was also involved in the creation of the Senior Tour in 1998, bringing sponsor Lawrence Batley to the table with the Lawrence Batley Seniors event. This followed an association with Lawrence Batley which stretched back almost two decades from his promotion of the Lawrence Batley International from 1981 under the umbrella of the Leeds based EGP Sports Group.
Indeed, he continued to run the Lawrence Batley over 80s amateur events in the UK, for golfers over the age of 80 until last year.
Born in 1942, he was Head Boy at Ripon Grammar School before working his way up to be a store manager for Littlewoods. His initial foray into the golfing world came in 1977 when he became the first Northern Region Secretary of the PGA.
Leading the tributes to Bob was Nick Tarratt, Director – European Tour International Dubai Office, who said: “I first met Bob in the early 1980’s when he was working with EGP and my long association with him continued when I moved to Dubai in 1990.
“He was always hugely hard working and always over delivered in everything he did. He was involved from day one of the Dubai Desert Classic and was never shy to make the tough decisions that were right for the tournament.
“The tournament would not be where it is today were it not for Bob’s efforts, particularly around the participation of Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods for the first time in 2001, which took the event to the next level on the world’s golfing and sporting map.
A special tribute was paid to Bob during this year’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, recognising his major contribution to the tournament over many years.
Tarrant added: “We raised a glass to Bob and toasted his memory amongst many of his old friends at the Emirates Golf Club. I learned so much from him and will always remember him fondly.”
Mike Stewart, Senior Tournament Director at the European Tour and Tournament Director of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, said: “I had the honour and privilege to work with Bob Wilkinson on the tournament in 1989 and for many years thereafter.
“Without question, the early years were memorable, and I am proud to have been part of the team that helped get the tournament off the ground. Bob’s input was massive, and I doubt if it would have developed so well and become what it is today without his careful guidance – not to mention the contribution from his wife Jo who was always there by his side to help keep him on the right track.
“Bob’s steely determination to get things right, coupled with a great work ethic helped him to deliver many memorable tournaments. He was passionate about what he did and cared so much about those around him as well the tournament itself.
“I hope that others will remember and appreciate his significant contribution as I do. For me the tournament is synonymous with Bob Wilkinson and whenever I hark back to our pioneering days in the desert I will always do so with a smile on my face.”
He is survived by his wife Jo, daughter Natalie and son Lee, who is Head of Scoring and Information Services for the European Tour.
Pannal member and greens chairman Bob Rushworth suffered a fatal heart attack whilst helping the greenkeeper chop down trees. He was 63.
Bob was an amiable man, a man's man, and one with a fund of stories recounted with his trademark Lancashire wit…but he was not to be crossed.
Born and bred in Blackburn, he successfully “carried out his missionary work “in Yorkshire for over 30 years, settling in Harrogate and playing his golf at Pannal. His funeral in the town’s Christ Church was attended by more than 600 mourners.
He was introduced to the game at Pleasington Golf Club with his younger brother Dave and became a category one golfer for over 30 years. His other sporting love was Blackburn Rovers and he followed his team through thick and thin before finding displeasure with the new owners.
A natural born salesman, Bob started his working life peddling animal feed before he turned his unique selling technique to the golf industry. The switch turned out to be a good one, as he represented Footjoy in the North-East for 15 years before joining sister company Titleist for a further 10 years.
His close friend and former colleague Mark Foster remembers him with great fondness. “He loved Pannal, playing two or three times a week, and he was really happy in his role as greens chairman.
“I will never forget his acerbic wit. Nobody would get into a verbal joust with Rushy, he was just too sharp for most. He loved a pint of Krombacher and the odd Glavar late on. Everyone who spent time with him loved him and was guaranteed a good time.
“Bob made me laugh like no one else ever has, he was just the funniest raconteur. His one liners are of legend but unrepeatable. He could be tough though and if you were on the wrong side of him, you knew it.
“He loved his golf and loved his family and was fiercely proud of them. He will be much missed. A wonderful man.”
Bob is survived by his wife Mandy and their three boys Jack 28, Sam 26, and Will 22.
Golf champions they may not have been. But champions of the game they most certainly were.