December 8, 2013
Pause is a good thing
The World Golf Hall of Fame has decided to take a twelve-month break from inductions in order to complete a “strategic review” of its selection process. That’s good news.
In recent times the Hall has been criticized for inducting players still in their golfing prime, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson as examples. The minimum eligibility age currently is 40 but many consider golf’s highest honour should be awarded closer to the conclusion of a recipient’s career.
This recently-announced hiatus also provides the opportunity for officials to ask themselves who has been overlooked in a process that to date has relied on a mix of voting and covert backroom decisions. PGA Tour and International Player selections are by ballot, the Veteran’s and Lifetime Achievement awards are by undeclared committee. (The LPGA has its own criteria which relies on career wins, not age, and is unaffected).
There are 139 current World Golf Hall of Fame members and some glaring anomalies. The induction pause is perfect timing to considering rectifying these, so here’s my list for consideration.
As major championships are an almost-mandatory component of a HOF resume, how is it possible Dave Stockton is not there? He won the PGA Championship in 1970 and again in 1976, besting Arnold Palmer in ’70 and Raymond Floyd in the latter. He played on two winning Ryder Cup teams and captained the winning side in 1991.
Another clear inconsistency is Australia’s David Graham, winner of the PGA Championship in 1979 and the US Open three years later at Merion, where his final round of fairways and greens is still recalled as the closest to a perfect final round ever played in the championship.
In May, no-majors Colin Montgomerie was inducted along with Fred Couples, who won a single Masters title. Both had strong careers, no doubt, but hard to value their achievements more deserving than Stockton or Graham.
The most talented British golfer of his era, Max Faulkner, has also gone under-unappreciated. Faulkner won the Open Championship in 1951— the only time the event was played in Ireland — and was a British side stalwart in the Ryder Cup long before Continental Europe became part of the matches.
Last time around former European Tour director Ken Schofield was committee-selected for Lifetime Achievement. Chronologically it might have been more appropriate to have posthumously chosen the gruff yet ever-kindly Keith Mackenzie, the R&A Secretary who was directly responsible for bringing the Open Championship into the modern age of commercialism, and in so doing restored golf’s oldest championship to its rightful place in the Majors hierarchy. A considerably more daunting task in post-WWII recovering Britain than Schofield’s growing of the European Tour, which to some extent came about because of Mackenzie’s earlier wisdom.
To fully honour the World part of the Hall’s title, decision-makers also should more-openly consider additions from South America and Asia who have become homeland legends. Case in point is Mario Gonzalez, eight-time Brazil Open winner, seven out of nine between 1946 and 1955 and twice as an amateur.