Randy Watkins chewed, briefly, on baseball
By Randy Watkins
The year was 1977 and I was practicing daily on my golf game in advance of the PGA National Junior Championship to be played at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Having advanced through two different qualifying tournaments, I was excited to play in one of the biggest and most prestigious junior golf tournaments in the world. One problem: All I did from daylight till dark was hit balls, chip and putt and play as many holes as daylight allowed often finishing after dark.
The exception was an invite from Coach Harper Davis — yes the Hall of Fame Mississippi State and Millsaps great — to play on his Pony League baseball team as his second baseman and reserve pitcher. He was the head coach of the Adcock and Campbell team and he needed a few more players.
I never blinked and said, “Yes sir!”
I mean, how do you tell Harper Davis, “No”?
All I know is I could not. My Dad was none too happy but relented and allowed me to play with the understanding with Coach Davis that I would miss some practices and even a game or two because of golf.
“Not a problem,” Coach said, as he and I had played several rounds together and he was a very fine player himself. He knew golf was my first love.
At the very first practice, some teammates and I decided we needed to be like the big leaguers and chew some tobacco. As was the custom then, we all got a jaw full and started getting loose.
I was first up for batting practice and even though I felt a little woozy from the tobacco, I dug in. On the first or second pitch I was drilled with a fastball, and naturally I swallowed the entire wad. As I tried to get up with Coach Davis helping I became dizzy and disoriented.
It wasn’t long before he figured out what was happening and soon took a couple of steps back to allow nature to take its course. As I emptied my stomach behind home plate, he and my “buddies” started laughing at this now funny picture.
I remember slowly wobbling to the dugout to lie down out of the heat, hoping Coach would leave me alone. No such luck as he followed me in…..
I remember his words as if they were said today, “Randolph, leave your uniform and cleats with me when you leave and go get your spikes and clubs, baseball and tobacco may not be in your future.”
It was one of the best pieces of advice I ever received and came from one of my all-time heroes. The rest as they say is history…
Randy Watkins went on to win that U.S. National PGA Junior Championship later that same summer as a 15-year-old, was All-SEC twice at Ole Miss and won the SEC Championship as a junior in 1982. Watkins played the PGA Tour for two years, later became the executive director of the then-Viking Classic and now operates Randy Watkins Golf Group, which owns three Jackson-area golf courses and runs two state park golf courses.