Did the World Golf Hall of Fame get it right for 2019?

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Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Last week the World Golf Hall of Fame announced the 2019 inductees: two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, three-time major champion Jan Stephenson, former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, revered teacher Peggy Kirk Bell and paralyzed motivational speaker/trick shot artist Dennis Walters. Are you OK with the selections?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Far be it from me to judge who’s worthy and who’s not, but I’m starting to think if you’re a pro golfer who’s had a decent career, and you keep showing up, then you’ll get inducted to the WGHOF eventually.  I wouldn’t have thought Goosen or Stephenson would’ve been Hall-worthy based on their on-course records, personally.  Maybe they’ve done a lot of off-course philanthropy and volunteering which adds to their lustre, I dunno.  Billy Payne certainly has been one of the giant executives of golf in the last 25 years, so yes.  Peggy Kirk Bell is an icon, and the undisputed reigning monarch of Pinehurst, so yes.  And Dennis Walters… personally never heard of him, but I’ll give the selection committee the benefit of the doubt.  Final comment: I don’t know if it says the WGHOF HAS to induct 5 people every year… maybe the criteria should be a little more rigid.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Induction into the Golf Hall of Fame or any Hall of Fame for that matter always requires a certain amount of subjective decision making. Review of a person’s contributions can be based on such a wide variety of intangibles reaching from how much they gave of themselves, did they make advancements to the game and/or how much better off is the game because of their efforts. Strangely, IMO, playing is the least subjective of them all particularly for the USPGA TOUR. The LPGA has a very stringent list of criteria and you sure cannot argue the quality of their nominations. Determining the career of an amateur is far different than that of a professional simply because of the difficulty in verifying the standard of play or depth of the field. This does not in any way take away from the accomplishment of winning. It simply means it is two very different categories. I don’t object to any of the nominations.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think this is a well-rounded group of inductees, each of whom (aside from Goosen and Stephenson) contributed to the game in different ways. The Hall of Fame shouldn’t just consist of iconic professional golfers. It should also include those who have contributed or helped to grow the game in a significant way, and Payne, Bell and Walters all contributed to and grew the game in their own way. I believe the selection committee got it right this year.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I like the fact that the WGHOF has broadened its scope to highlight the achievements of more than just PGA and LPGA Tour players. Golf is a world-wide game played on many levels and amateurs, teachers and administrators all deserve recognition for their contributions. Billy Payne, Peggy Kirk Bell and Dennis Walters are all good choices. However, on the player side, I’ve felt for a long time that the Hall has lowered the standard for enshrinement from excellent and exceptional to basically pretty good. I don’t think of either Goosen or Stephenson as world beaters, dominant players or exceptional. Both had their moments but for most of their careers they were just part of the pack.

There are several people who are considered Hall of Fame worthy yet have not been inducted. Among the notables are Tom Weiskopf (16 PGA Tour wins, 1 major), Macdonald Smith (24 wins, 0 majors), Doug Sanders (20 wins, 0 majors), Corey Pavin (15 wins, 1 major), Hal Sutton (14 wins, 1 major), David Duval (13 wins, 1 major) and Butch Harmon (teacher). Do you think any of the above should be included in a future class of inductees or can you think of any other people that have been snubbed so far? (Note: the WGHOF changed its criteria a few years ago so as not to add active players unless they have reached the age of 50 or been retired for 5 years. For modern players they must also have a minimum of 15 wins on recognized world tours and/or 2 majors. Therefore, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia & Henrik Stenson will eventually be added. There are different criteria for players in the Veteran’s Category.)

Deeks: Of all the names mentioned in your question, I’d vote for MacDonald Smith, Tiger Woods, and… well, that’s about it.  I’d have to think a bit about Weiskopf: his on-course credentials aren’t overly strong, but he’s had an impact as a bone-fide course designer.  Unfortunately, his attitude and personality work against him.

Schurman: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Regarding the USPGA TOUR, it should take 3 majors/a Players or 2 majors/a Players plus 15 wins or 1 major/a Players and 17 wins or 0 majors/a Players and 20 wins. There is always ‘room’ for the Selection Committee to consider people like Colin Montgomerie for seven European Money titles, but they become exposed to criticism when they do.

Kaplan: I think it’s insulting that Dwight Eisenhower is in the Hall of Fame, but Canadian legends Stanley Thompson and Moe Norman are not. Allow me to make a case for both: When you think of Canadian golf architecture, the first name that comes into everyone’s head, unequivocally, is Stanley Thompson. Thompson designed, or played a major role in the design of 176 golf courses (144 in Canada; 26 in the U.S.; 4 in Brazil; and 2 each in Jamaica and Colombia). Some of those designs rank among the best on the planet! He also co-founded the American Society of Golf Course Architects in 1948 alongside Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones, and was the President of the society in 1949. Both Jones and Ross are in the HOF, yet Thompson somehow is not. What’s up with that? As for Moe … he may not have the stellar PGA Tour record and accolades of a Bobby Jones or a Byron Nelson, but no golfer is more revered among amateurs and professionals north of the border than Mr. Norman. Norman was indisputably one of the greatest ball strikers in the history of the game. The fact that Tiger Woods used Norman and Ben Hogan as his two examples of the only two players who truly “owned their swings” should be enough, in my opinion, to earn the eccentric icon an automatic exemption. Titleist certainly recognized Norman’s greatness, going so far as to issue the man a cheque for $5000 every month for the remainder of his life beginning in 1995. I have no idea why the Hall of Fame hasn’t followed suit.

Mumford: Smith and Sanders for sure; Pavin, Sutton and Duval, no. Butch Harmon has a famous last name that garners recognition and many see him as a walking talking infomercial. However, once you take all the self promotion out of his resume, you find out that he’s done a lot for the game and certainly has Hall of Fame credentials. Tom Weiskopf is even more interesting. He’s actually had three golf industry careers: as a player, an architect and a TV analyst. His playing accomplishments alone should get him into the Hall of Fame and as a designer, he and partner Jay Morrish designed some of the best golf courses in the world. As an inspiring colour commentator, Weiskopf was neither inspiring nor particularly colourful but you can’t keep him out of the Hall for that. As far as other snubs are concerned, I’ll echo what Dave Kaplan says: both Stanley Thompson and Moe Norman should be in the WORLD Golf Hall of Fame.

Each year, someone on the PGA Tour usually breaks through to win his first major. Which player do you see as most likely to win a major in 2019?

Deeks: Based on recent (2 year) performance, I think you’d have to say Bryson DeChambeau, John Rahm, and Tony Finau are all due for a major.  But my sentimental choice would be Jumbo Ozaki.  At age 71, though, I dunno…

Schurman: Tommy Fleetwood.

Kaplan: I’ve got my eyes on Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Cantlay to break through next season. These two are so good that It’s just a matter of time until they do. Why shouldn’t it be next year?

Mumford: I’ve been saying for a while that Jon Rahm has the potential to be one of the dominant players of his generation, so he’d be my first pick to break through with a major in 2019. Tommy Fleetwood sniffed the big time twice in 2018 and may nab one next year too. If Tiger wins the Masters as many predict, that leaves a lot of very good players squabbling over just one major. It could be golf’s version of The Hunger Games.

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  • Jim Deeks
    Jim Deeks
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    I also agree with Dave Kaplan about Stanley Thompson! I think it’s American myopia that’s kept him out of the WGHOF, pure and simple. And as much as I’ve always respected (and personally liked) Moe Norman, I’m not sure I’d consider him Hall-worthy. He may eventually have acquired widespread fame in his life, and even icon status, but neither his on-course record of achievement or off-course contributions would vault him above several others not currently enshrined, in my view.

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