Pictured above: The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum
The reaction to Jim Deeks’ story last week about his efforts to get the late Geordie Hilton into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame has been swift and almost unanimous in support.
If you haven’t read Jim’s blog, you can read it HERE. It’s quite long but paints a very compelling picture of why Hilton, the RCGA’s first full time paid Executive Director, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame in the Builder Category.
I’m not going to list all of Geordie’s accomplishments but they are many, and came at a time when the RCGA, forerunner to Golf Canada, was doing some groundbreaking things for Canadian golf such as building Glen Abbey as the permanent home of the Canadian Open; establishing the Canadian Golf Foundation; and expanding the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame with a permanent home at The Abbey.
Those are the visible signs. Less visible but still noteworthy are the many relationships he established, nurtured and enjoyed with leading figures in the golf world. Some may scoff that that was just part of his job. Perhaps. But those same leading figures, people like Jack Nicklaus, Ken Schofield, Greg Norman and Deane Beman, also took the time to write letters in support of Hilton’s nomination, not something I expect they would do for someone who was “just doing his job”.
Last week Deeks contacted some of the people who had written letters of support, just to let them know that Hilton’s nomination had been denied for a fourth time and to advise that he and Geordie’s family had decided to go public with the rejection. In his blog, Jim hadn’t wanted to use the names of those supporters, surmising that perhaps they didn’t want to be dragged into a condemnation of the Selection Committee.
Greg Norman was one of the first to respond. He was travelling in Europe but sent an email through Jane MacNeille, the Corporate Communications Manager for Great White Shark Enterprises:
Wow, what a real shame. You can tell Deeks he can use my name in support. Also tell him that was a very well written article and one that should be heard internationally. As he says not really knowing why three votes were negative, there is no justification for it just on his credentials alone compared to others in the “Builder” division.
Others also echoed their continued support and questioned the Committee’s decision.
Some of the comments posted on our website or sent to me by email condemning the Hall of Fame Selection Committee for denying Hilton’s induction suggest the Committee must be homophobic. (In case you didn’t read Jim’s blog, Hilton was gay and eventually died of AIDS in 1990).
Come on! It’s 2015. Surely we’ve moved past that. That sound like something the dinosaurs vying to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States would say.
On the flip side, it has been suggested that perhaps Hilton’s credentials just don’t measure up to a spot in the Hall of Fame. Generally, this line of thinking uses the “just doing his job” argument and then goes on to suggest that people like Dick Grimm, Bruce Forbes and other RCGA presidents were largely responsible for the Associations’ accomplishments at the time.
There’s no doubt that the governance model in the 1980’s was much different than it is today. Volunteer committees and the Board of Governors were much more actively involved in the decision making and running of the RCGA. Many of the people involved at the time are themselves in the Hall of Fame and deservedly so. But like any corporation or association, it’s the top dog who takes the fall if something goes wrong and generally gets some of the credit when it works out. Hilton may have had a lot of exceptional volunteer people to work with but he’s the one who ultimately had to make it happen by hiring the right people and executing the plan.
Dick Grimm, Mr. Canadian Open, was one of the people Hilton hired and he’s in the Hall of Fame. And he also happens to be the man who seconded Hilton’s nomination when Deeks submitted it four years ago.
I know several of the people on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, a couple quite well. I’ve never had a conversation with any of them about this and doubt that they would discuss it anyway. I respect that. But for the record, I don’t for a minute believe this has anything to do with being gay or having AIDS.
I do believe they are just plain wrong.
People who are in the Hall of Fame are thrilled when nominated, knowing that their life’s work has been acknowledged and validated, and given some measure of historical perspective. They accept their position with modesty but take it very seriously. They know what’s required to get there and none would be willing to compromise the criteria to let someone in who didn’t belong.
Jack Nicklaus, Dick Grimm, Dick Zokol and Doug Roxburgh are members of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. All of them say Geordie Hilton belongs in there with them.
Greg Norman, Ken Schofield and Deane Beman are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame (as is Nicklaus) and all of them say that Geordie Hilton’s career was Hall of Fame worthy.
Many other notable players and administrators from Canadian and international golf say the same thing. Can they all be wrong?
I don’t think so.