By Ron Sirak
ORLANDO -- The World Golf Hall of Fame is one of the best-kept secrets in the game. A walk through the facility in St. Augustine, Fla., is an inspiring trip through time.
The problem is not enough people are making the walk.
In an effort to make more people aware of the institution and get more people involved, WGHOF chief operating officer Jack Peter announced Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational wide-ranging changes to the selection process.
The main revisions include:
Instead of being an annual event, induction in the WGHOF will happen biennially beginning May 4, 2015.
Instead of players being selected by a ballot involving hundreds of voters, including dozens of golf writers, a 16-person Selection Commission, with three writers, will choose the induction class. (Editor's Note: Sirak, the current Golf Writers Association of America president, will be one of the three writers on the committee for 2015.)
To be elected, candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Selection Commission, or 12 of 16 members. Both Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie (above) were elected to the WGHOF's Class of 2013 with barely more than 50 percent of the vote using the old process.
- The International ballot, which always seemed out of place for a body with the word "World" in its title, has been eliminated. There will be four categories: Male and Female Competitors, Veterans and Lifetime Achievement.
To be considered in the Competitor category, a male needs 15 wins (up from 10) in International Federation of PGA Tours events or two victories in majors or Players Championship.
A woman needs 15 wins on tours that receive Rolex Rankings points or two victories in the five LPGA majors. The 27-point rule will remain in effect for the LPGA Hall of Fame. It is highly unlikely a woman would earn 27 points and not make the WGHOF.
Remaining the same from the previous selection process is the minimum age of 40 for induction or, for retired players, the need to be five years removed from active competition. That means Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa will be eligible for the 2017 class.
The revisions to the selection process come after the WGHOF announced last October it was suspending induction for 2014 to undergo a strategic review of the criteria and make sure it was properly defined to maintain the highest quality of candidate be added to the roster of the game's legends.
"The changes to the process and induction ceremony will serve the long-term interest of the institution well," Peter said. "The changes take the unique nature of the game and its candidates into account and, most important, will continue to allow the Hall of Fame to recognize worthy individuals."
If there is a real flaw in the WGHOF, it is that the public won't start taking it seriously until the players take it seriously. That is another reason for the changes.
Not enough active players and not enough members of the WGHOF show up at the induction ceremony each year. It was hoped that moving the induction from the fall to the Monday of Players Championship week, which was done in 2011 years ago, would fix that. It didn't.
Getting current members of the WGHOF to return to the yearly induction has been a challenge, even after the ceremony was moved to May. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Selection Commission for the 2015 class will be chaired by four WGHOF members: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez. In addition to that four and the three writers, and a representative from the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, Masters, PGA of America, USGA, R&A and, for the 2015 class, the Japan LPGA and Sunshine Tour.
"This is a great step for the Hall of Fame," Palmer said. "I was honored to be a part of the first Hall of Fame class 40 years ago in 1974, and it will be a privilege to serve on the Selection Commission with Nancy, Annika and Gary for the class of 2015."
The process to determine the incoming class will begin with a 20-person Selection Sub-Committee, which will review eligible candidates and pass 10 names along to all WGHOF members, who will whittle the list to five.
Any player receiving no votes from the sub-committee two consecutive years will be removed from the ballot.
The Selection Commission will pick no more than two candidates from each of the four categories and no more than five total for each class.
The hope of involving the WGHOF members in the voting is that if they feel more vested in the process, they might show up to the induction ceremony in greater numbers.
The intent of making induction something that happens every two years also is to generate greater turnout of both active and inactive players by making the event feel more special.
*__Photo: Getty Images