Sunday, 14 January 2018
Bob Wilkinson  (Getty Images)
Bob Wilkinson (Getty Images)

Bob Wilkinson, a stalwart of the European Tour and the European Senior Tour in the 1980s and 1990s, has died after a long battle with cancer. He 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 (now the Staysure 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 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 being 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.

“We will certainly raise a glass to Bob and toast his memory in a couple of weeks’ time 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.”

Bob passed away peacefully on Sunday January 7 at Danetre Hospital in Daventry. He is survived by his wife Jo, daughter Natalie and son Lee, who is Head of Scoring and Information Services for the European Tour.

Bob’s funeral will take place on Monday January 22 at 11.30am at All Saints Church, Norton, Daventry Road, NN11 2ND.  At 12.30pm there will be a committal at Rainsbrook Cemetery and Crematorium, Ashlawn Road, Rugby CV22 5ET, followed by a celebration of Bob’s life at The Olde Coach House, Main Street, Ashby St Ledgers, Rugby CV23 8UN.

Everyone who knew Bob is invited to attend but if they intend doing so, the family respectfully requests that they email Lee (lwilkinson@europeantour.com) in advance, so they can have an idea on numbers. Please note it is family flowers only but donations can be made in lieu to Friends of Danetre Hospital or Cancer Research.

There will also be a special tribute paid to Bob during this year’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, recognising his major contribution to the tournament over many years.

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