Bob Bidwell was one of those people that made a place a place. There was never any question, standing on the first tee at TPC Wakefield Plantation, exactly where you were, because of him. He remembered names. He had kind words and bad jokes and story after story to tell. He was as friendly a fellow as you’d ever meet, and he got every round, by members, guests and Web.com Tour pros, off to a pleasant start.
“When I stop paying attention to the ladies,” Bidwell said last year, “put a lily on me because I’m done.”
Bidwell, who died Sunday at 89, had been the first-tee starter at Wakefield Plantation since it opened in 2000, as much a fixture at the club as anyone or anything. A World War II veteran who grew up in Pennsylvania, went to Slippery Rock and coached football and tennis in Florida, he retired to the Triangle in 1999 and made himself part of the furniture. It’s hard to imagine Wakefield Plantation without him.
“We try to find those people like that,” course owner John McConnell said Monday. “They're hard to find, obviously. We have a couple at other clubs who remind me of Bob. They’re very similar, but he was unique. I loved the way he lived.”
His annual brush with fame came every year at the Web.com Tour’s Rex Hospital Open, where Bidwell would announce the starters on the tee and the finishing groups as they approached the 18th green each year at the Web.com Tour’s Rex Hospital Open.
At one point, Bidwell decided that last year’s Rex would be his last, but had a change of heart afterward. It would have been, and still is, hard to imagine him anywhere but the first tee on June 1, in the old-school knickers he always wore for the tournament.
“It’s not going to be the same without him,” tournament director Brian Krusoe said. “From the time I’ve been here, he was always the guy I’d look out for and try to find. He always had a story, always had a smile. He loved people and loved talking to people. He was always the first guy you’d see turning into the golf course, sitting there in his cart waving at you.”
His good graces hardly went unacknowledged; the Web.com Tour named him its Volunteer of the Year in 2015, and the club commissioned a plaque honoring his many years of service that summer and placed it next to the first tee, mounted on a boulder.
At the time, Bidwell joked he knew where his ashes would go someday. Monday, bouquets were scattered at its base in his memory.
“Bob didn't have a lot of material possessions but he made a huge impact on people by just being nice and caring to people,” Wakefield Plantation general manager Josh Points said. “That doesn't happen very often. We've got a lot of people, members at the club and in the community, who are really successful in life. In some ways, they all wanted what Bob had: a lot of great friends and a positive influence over people.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock