I think, most of us, when we hear the words “Hall of Fame,” we think of the people who are honored in the
various halls based on the accomplishments on the field of their particular sport or life’s work that they have
In golf, we think of Mr. Palmer or Mr. Nicklaus and all the tournaments they won. But in reality, it’s what they accomplished through their charities and the giving of their time, which truly made them special. Sure, without their great careers we wouldn’t have known of them, and without the riches that these careers afforded them, they would not have been in a position to help others, but they did win…and they did give back.
On June 10th during the start of U.S. Open week this year at Pebble Beach, (5) new members were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. A couple you may have heard of and a couple you may not. But what was great about this year’s class of inductees was the diversity of their backgrounds and their lives in golf. And it was (also) great to see that it’s not only a (350) yard drive that means you are important enough to be a member of this hall – but it is how you improved your sport -and- have given back to the game that you love.
If I were to truly cover all that these (5) have done in their lives, I would run out of room quickly in this paper – but here is a short version of why these new members are so special -and- why I say “sometimes they just get it right.”
In no particular order
Billy Payne – He was born in Athens, Georgia and was best known, athletically, as an excellent football player for the university of Georgia. After his undergraduate work, he continued on to graduate from the U of G.’s Law School, which set him up for a very successful career in the business world. In preparation for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he accepted the position of president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Games. As a member at Augusta National G.C., he was probably just enjoying golf and a less vigorous schedule when he was called upon to serve as Masters Chairman – a highly political and sometimes thankless task to be sure. Well, he again accepted the responsibility – serving as chairman from 2006 to 2017. During this time, he handled: controversial (but necessary) course changes, he expanded to full coverage the Par 3 Contest, he increased junior access to the grounds during Masters week, in 2013 he coordinated the 1st Drive Chip and Putt competition, and before his tenure expired as chairman – he set in motion (in 2019) the 1st ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship – the 1st ever! event for women to be played at Augusta National. He continues to work with several golf related foundations and charities – and hopefully is enjoying a few rounds of well-deserved (relaxing) golf at this club he served so well.
Retief Goosen – He was born in South Africa and began playing golf at the age of nine. He excelled at the game very quickly winning several major junior competitions throughout his region. At (15), he became quite well known for surviving a direct lightning strike, which burned the clothes completely off his body – melted the spikes in his shoes, (and) welded! his irons together in the golf bag he was carrying. I don’t know if this is how he wanted to become well known, but he did! After a full recovery, he continued his amateur career very successfully and in 1990 turned professional. His professional career included (36) wins on the United States and European tours, including an incredible run – (from 1995 until 2009) – of at least one victory in every year. He played in (6) President’s Cup matches, and in 2001 and 2004 won the U.S. Open against – (think who was playing so well in those years) – the best in the world. In recent years, he battled through several golf related injuries, but has stayed very competitive on tour -but- now that he has turned (50) – he has started what will probably be a great run on the P.G.A. Tour Champions. As in the theme of this entire grouping of new inductees, Mr. Goosen spends a great deal of his time promoting the game of golf, as well as working with numerous charities here in the U.S. and his native South Africa.
Peggy Kirk Bell – Hall of Fame?! How about (8)!!! Halls of Fame! That’s how many this truly “bigger than life” woman is a member of. Her story – (as I warned, and by the way, is true of the other two inductees you are about to visit in this writing) – is beyond the limitations of this article. But, here goes – Ms. Bell was a fine athlete in her native Ohio – and was named the best overall athlete at her high school – but golf was not included in her life until about the age of eighteen. After a first try on her own, wherein she lost all (3) balls she was given to an area far beyond the fairway – and had to return to the clubhouse before approaching the 1st green due to this fact – she realized that not only was she in need of more golf balls – but also some instruction on how to keep them in play! But she didn’t give up – and after attending Rollins College, where she continued to improve, she sought the advice of the greats of the game – including Babe Didrikson – and was encouraged to participate in the founding of what is now the LPGA. She always played well among these great players – including a “major” win at “The Titleholder’s Championship” in 1949 – but her impact on the game was not to be fully developed walking the fairways on tour. – So, here goes the brief, and quite honestly, very unsettling fashion for yours truly. She purchased the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Course – at this location – (in Southern Pines, N.C.) – she began teaching others, and it has been estimated that through her “golf camps” for women golfers, she introduced or advanced the games of over 20,000! women. During this time, she also became one of the few women certified pilots in the world and flew her own plane from event to event. Pine Needles G.C. has been the sight of (6) U.S.G.A. Championships, and countless very talented leaders in golf have learned about life & golf under her tutelage. I’m completely out of room – Google her – she was great – (she passed away in 2016) – and those that met her, will never forget her bigger than life kind manner and her impact on our game.
Jan Stephenson – Top Miss Bell? – No, I can’t – But I believe some very talented filmmakers are about to try. Not in any way trying to actually top Ms. Bell – which would most assuredly be the farthest thing from Ms. Stephenson’s mind – but in telling the life story in the form of a movie – which is in the works and covering the life of one Jan Stephenson. I certainly hope they do because only a book or a movie can possibly do justice to her life’s journey. – Quickly – Ms. Stephenson was born in Australia, loved sports and the outdoors, and when introduced to the game of golf at an early age, she excelled at it almost immediately winning junior and amateur events throughout her area. After winning countless events in Australia – including the Australian Ladies Open in 1973 – she was encouraged to come to the U.S. and try the LPGA Tour. This success only continued on our shores, and in 1974, she was named the Rookie of the Year on the LPGA. In 1977, she was asked to be the “face” of the LPGA Tour by the (then) commissioner – and her life was about to change forever. If you are not over – let’s say (55) years old – you probably don’t remember – but by the late 70’s and early 80’s, she –through a controversial cover on “Sport Magazine,” and a subsequent beautiful, but for the time “racy” calendar – she moved the needle for women’s golf, as well as causing a major stir among her peers. Much to her credit – even with all these distractions and impositions on her time away from the golf course – she continued to win on tour – including (16) total victories (and) 3 major titles – which also included the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open title. Her personal life was, well…wait for the movie! But now I need to jump ahead: Ms. Stephenson’s career slowed down due to a few injuries, but today – (today is the key) – Jan is the proud owner of the Tarpon Woods G.C. in Palm Harbor, Florida – a course she and her foundation purchased for the sole purpose of assisting in the raising of monies for the “Military Order of the purple Heart” – a group that assists blind and disabled veterans and first responders. *Her facility is only one of five such Purple Heart accredited facilities in the world. In her own words, “I have come to deeply appreciate the extraordinary gift of freedom the United States military provides to this great country and to the world.” Ms. Stephenson still competes and supports the LPGA Legends Tour – including competing recently in the Senior Women’s Open at…Peggy Kirk Bell’s Pine Needles Golf Club.
Dennis Walters – As I stated in this article, I have written each one of these brief portrayals “in no particular order.” Because the excellence of the character, the giving back, and the inspiration that can be derived by these (5) folks should never be a contest of any kind. But – (you probably knew there was a but coming) – if there is one inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, who is the most improbable and uplifting of all time – it has to be Mr. Dennis Walters. Now I know many of you may not be familiar with Mr. Walters and his impact on our game over the last (4) decades – so let me try to explain. Dennis is originally from New Jersey and loved golf as a youngster (and) – he, like the others, excelled at the game as a junior golfer and as a college player at North Texas State. His dream was to play on the P.G.A. Tour, and even though he missed getting his P.G.A. Tour card in 1971, he didn’t give up and continued to play professionally on the South African Tour and elsewhere. When, in 1974, a horrific golf cart accident paralyzed him from the waist down, keeping him from what was sure to be a promising career. After a couple years of intensive rehab – in 1977 – Mr. Walters, instead of giving up his dream – simply altered his dream, and with the help of E-Z Go Golf Cart Company & others, designed a seat that “swiveled” – allowing him the fundamental movement to swing a golf club back & through. Inspired by Trick Shot artists like Paul Hahn Jr. and others, he soon introduced a “performance art” of golf that has not – (and will not) – ever be topped. *If you have ever witnessed how well he strikes a ball (and) the distance that he hits a ball – it either makes you immediately want to go work harder on your game – or quit the game in exasperation! With his little dog “Bucky” by his side, he has entertained countless thousands of youngsters & oldsters alike – having now performed over 3,000 shows and traveling an estimated three million miles! (And) again what he has done to raise funds for countless charities (and) how much of an inspiration he has been for the “differently abled” is beyond anything that can be expressed in mere words.
To: Mr. Payne / Mr. Goosen / Ms. Bell / Ms. Stephenson / and Mr. Walters – you are most deserving of this induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame – for not only your talents, but for what you have given back (and) thank you to the powers to be at the hall, and their participants who vote on such masters – you truly got it right!
Note: If you ever get to Florida, check out the facilities at the World Golf Hall of Fame – quite a place – very interactive – you’ll love it. It’s located in St. Augustine, right on Rte. #95. For info, call (904)940-4133.
Once again, all the World’s Tours did not fail to surprise & entertain.
On the LPGA Tour – Four young talented players from all over the globe and came home with victories in June – beginning in Charleston, South Carolina – where the 74th U.S. Women’s Open was played brilliantly by (23) year old Jeongeun Lee6! *Yes, Lee6 is her real last name – a name she took legally when she realized she was the 6th woman competing in Asia with the name Jeongeun Lee! Really, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Anyway, Miss Lee6 won for the 1st time ever on the LPGA Tour and walked away with her first ever check for winning on this tour of one million dollars! This tour is really doing great, obviously! And one more footnote to this event – the course they played on – the Charleston C.C. – has been a piece of land that has been the sight of this club in one form or another since 1786! The following week (24) yr old Lexi Thompson won her 11th career title at the Shoprite Classic in Galloway, New Jersey; next up among these fine young women golfers was Canada’s Brooke Henderson – who at…now (21) years old – became the winningest golfer (man or woman) to win on any tour – that was born in Canada – with her 9th career win; and closing out this month’s champions was a (22) year old from Australia by the name of Hannah Green – who went wire-to-wire in defeating the LPGA’s best at the 65th edition of the Women’s P.G.A. Championship at the beautiful Hazeltine C.C. in Chaska, Minnesota…this was only her 1st win of what should be many…(4) winners – all (24) or younger! The tour is on fire!
On the P.G.A. Tour Champions – (3) events were held, starting with the Principal Charity Classic, where Kevin Sutherland shot a closing (62) in his final round to capture his 2nd title on tour this year at the beautiful Wakonda G.C. in Des Moines, Iowa; the red hot Scott McCarron took home his 3rd trophy of the season -and- his 11th career title – at the Japan Championship in Marita, Japan; and home state professional Jerry Kelly won in a playoff at the American Family Insurance Open in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Men’s Euro Tour – saw limited action -with- 1st, the Belgian Knockout, *A combined stroke play/match play event played in Antwerp, Belgium – which was won by (22) year old Euro Tour Rookie Guido Miglozzi of …? You guessed it! Italy! for his 2nd win; and in Munich, Germany, another Italian – this time – veteran Andrea Pavan – won the prestigious BMW International Open in a playoff.
And, on the Men’s P.G.A. Tour – June got started at “Jack’s Place” – the fantastic Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where Jack Nicklaus hosts the Memorial Golf Tournament, and which was won this year by (27) year old Patrick Cantlay – a player to watch going forward now that he has a couple tour victories under his belt; the following week, the tour moved to Ancaster, Canada for the 110th! RBC Canadian Open, where (now 30! year old) Rory McIlroy won his 16th career U.S. Men’s P.G.A. Tour title; and Father’s Day weekend means – the U.S. Open – which was played on the 100th! anniversary of the outstanding Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California – an event that witnessed (35) year old veteran Gary Woodland just barely hold off the “three-peat” attempt of Brooks Koepka, who won this open in 2017 & 1018. This was a very popular 1st major championship victory for Mr. Woodland, and he now joins the (5) others who have won the U.S. Open at Pebble, including: Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Kite in 1992, Tiger Woods in 2000, and Graeme McDowell in 2010 – nice group to be a part of Gary! And, closing out my coverage of June saw another victory for a popular veteran when Chez Reavie won the 68th Traveler’s Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut – a win that was made even more popular since his last victory on tour was (11!) years ago.
I usually only cover the developmental tours towards the end of the year – mostly because of space for this article – but it bears mentioning that the Web.com Tour is now the “Korn Ferry” Tour. *Korn Ferry is an executive search firm (&) Korn Ferry has signed a (10) year agreement to sponsor the former: Ben Hogan – Nike – Nationwide – Buy.com – Web.com Tour – (and) has also signed the agreement that the Web.com Tour put in place to sponsor this tour’s finals in Evansville, Indiana – Anyway, they were off & running with the 1st official Korn Ferry Whichita Open title going to Sweden’s Henrik Norvander – good luck to all.
If you want to see the best men’s golfers compete close by – check out the BMW Championship (August 15th – 18th) at one of the world’s finest golf courses – Medinah C.C. in Medinah, Illinois – tickets are still available – just “dot com” anything to do with Medinah or BMW Championship for details.
And – for the junior golfers you know – call your local golf course for classes, leagues, camps, or individual instruction – give them the game of a lifetime! I don’t have all the info – but here’s one place you can start – Wicker Memorial Park G.C. in Highland, Indiana – which hosts their junior golf camp for kids (7-18) running July 15th through July 18th – call (219) 838-9809 for info.
Charity events are also popping up everywhere – they are always a lot of fun and help so many great causes – as an example – the great folks at Duck Creek G.C. will be holding their annual Susan G. Komen Outing on Saturday, July 13th – please sign up if you can – or check what your favorite facility has coming up.
Sorry for not having all the info at the time of this publication – but I remember that Ringo’s Golf Center on Rte 30 about 4 miles west of I-65 is due to be holding their 35th annual tent sale this month – give them a call at (219)942-8929. And J+M Golf also holds a tent sale usually in early August – call (219)365-5611 – my lack of knowledge gives you a good chance to call & say Hi to our good friends!
The warm weather is finally here – so please go out – play some of the best golf courses you will find anywhere – which we have right here in our region – enjoy the many festivals your community puts on – and, whenever possible spend/support (both) with your hard earned dollars. Local business support local jobs!
(Ok) – I put it off as long as I could – my pick to win 148th Open - *What in my life was always called the British Open – Anyway, my pick is: Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain! I’ll bet that’s who you thought I was going to say?! – Anyway, he’s my pick & I’m sticking to it.
Special thanks this month: To Mike Modrzejewski for not asking me who Rafa Cabrera-Bello is! And to those fine folks who called in to participate in our contest that was published in the June edition…especially – Leon R., John A., William R., Pete R., Steve D., Bob B., and Barb P., who all won (2) free rounds of golf at one of the (3) courses that were so kind to donate them as prizes. Thanks Wicker Park, thanks Duck Creek, and thanks Aberdeen – for making our contest a success.
(And) if you have a suggestion for a feature article you would like to see covered -or- if you just want to chime in – please contact me at our e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a voicemail at (219)617-3276, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus newspaper online – visit our website at golfplusonline.net.
Lastly: The wonderful Mr. Dennis Walters, during his acceptance speech, made these approximate comments, which may have been intended for our youth – but which I believe are a good message for us all – to: “Try the impossible – Chase your dreams – And if you fall short, just find another dream – But never, ever give up.”
Fairways and greens my friends - Pete