OpinionTuesday, April 1, 2014
Hall of Fame induction changes raise hackles
Democracy in golf took a bit of a hit last week when the World Golf Hall of Fame management announced a unilateral decision to reduce the voting panel for future entrants from the current 300 or so voices to a internal commission of 16.
That the large majority of the disenfranchised voters are active members of the media, a group that has been involved in the decision-making process from the earliest days of the original Golf Hall of Fame, is to a large extent irrelevant to the issue. Simply put, the question is should the elective process be inclusive or exclusive?
At the announcement World Golf Hall of Fame chief operating officer Jack Peter explained the revision was because the voting structure was too cumbersome.
“We looked at this deep and we looked at this wide and we looked at this from a variety of different angles,” Peter explained. “And we came to the conclusion that as the landscape of media coverage continues to evolve and change around the world we felt that the current voting body of almost 300 people was beginning to get a bit unwieldy.”
Those questioning the change have noted that by comparison the US Baseball Hall of Fame has no trouble dealing with a 571 voter list primarily made up of media, nor those administering the Heisman Trophy for the most outstanding player in US college football, who must tally an annual ballot of 928, 870 from members of the media.
Peter believes such comparisons are invalid. “Golf is very different from team sports like football or baseball,” he said. “And as a result the pool of qualified candidates will always be smaller. And the World Golf Hall of Fame is very unique. We induct men. We induct women. We induct professionals, we induct amateurs. We induct non-competitors, and we do it all on a global playing field.
“At the same time the game continues to grow around the world. So we had to weigh all of these factors. The most important goal was to devise a system that would continue to recognize the most worthy individuals. And we believe the commission-based system does just that. We believe it puts the decision making of who gets into the Hall of Fame in the right hands, individuals who know the history of the game, have a passion for the game, who know the players, who understand the qualities that make up a Hall of Famer.”
That the first panel consists such distinguished members as co-chairs Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nancy López and Annika Sorenstam plus 12 others, whist reinforcing Peter’s point, is still open to the criticism that with a 75 per cent qualifying mark, the new system magnifies rather than eliminates the potential for “personal” conflict.
Notably missing from the panel is Jack Nicklaus, while adding The Players as one of “two major championships” required for a player to be considered, is clear intimation that politics is now part of the WGHOF process.