DUBAI, Jan 24 — Organisers of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic led the local golf community in paying glowing tributes to Bob Wilkinson, who played a key role in raising the global profile of the European Tour event.
The Tournament Director from the first staging of the tournament in 1989 until he retired in 2002, Wilkinson passed away peacefully at his home on January 7 at Danetre in the United Kingdom, aged 75.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend who will always be fondly remembered for his pioneering work that has left an indelible imprint on the Omega Dubai Desert Classic,” said David Spencer, strategic advisor to Golf in Dubai.
“He was a fun loving, generous and caring person, who always wore a smile on his face and had a positive attitude towards life,” he added.
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.”
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.
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.