A much slower process was his election to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
After spending much of the decade watching other players get inducted with fewer PGA Tour victories, Wadkins was elected on the PGA Tour ballot with 61 percent of the vote.
"It's a huge honor," Wadkins said Thursday from Savannah, Ga., where he is playing a Champions Tour event. "Even starting out on tour, I never envisioned this day happening. I came out playing not to win money, but to win golf tournaments. This is a special day."
Wadkins will be inducted Nov. 2 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
He was the only player elected from the PGA Tour ballot, which requires 65 percent of the vote from Hall of Famers, media and golf executives. Wadkins got in under a provision that if no one receives the minimum vote, the player with the highest percentage (provided it is over 50 percent) gets elected.
It was the first time since Vijay Singh in 2005 (58 percent) that a PGA Tour player was elected through that stipulation.
Golfweek reported that two-time Masters Tournament champion Jose Maria Olazabal has been elected on the International ballot, although that announcement has not been made.
Wadkins attributes his election in large part to longevity, noting that he won in three decades and qualified for eight Ryder Cup teams, an American record he shares with Billy Casper and Raymond Floyd.
But he also was renowned for his fearless play, and if there was one club that stands out in his bag, it was the wedge.
For all his victories, starting with the 1972 Sahara Invitational and ending with the 1992 Greater Hartford Open, Wadkins said his greatest moment on the golf course came in the 1983 Ryder Cup at PGA National.
He was playing Jose Maria Canizares in the second-to-last match, trailing by one and needing to earn a halve to give the Americans an outright victory over Europe. Wadkins hit a wedge from 72 yards out to inside a foot to win the hole.
"The coolest thing I ever did," he said.
His signature victory came at Pebble Beach in the 1977 PGA Championship.
He played in the Masters Tournament 23 times, finishing third three times (1990, 1991 and 1993).