News & ToursJune 8, 2010

Golf Hall Of Fame still searching for identity

The World Golf Hall of Fame is a good book in search of readers. The story it tells about the history of golf is compelling and articulate, particularly after a renovation that brought new life to the facility at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. The problem has been getting the fans -- and to some extent the players -- to buy into the Hall's significance. The release on June 8 of the additions to the ballot for the class to be inducted in 2011 is sure to reawaken several controversies about the WGHOF.

The ballots going out to a voting body of Hall members, journalists, historians and global golf dignitaries include Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Both are deserving candidates worthy of consideration and, in the case of Els anyway, enshrinement. The problem some will find -- even some WGHOF members I have spoken with -- is that both are only 40 years old and still very active as competitors.

I have a Hall of Fame vote and my personal policy is not to vote for anyone under the age of 50, which means Macdonald Smith and Jumbo Ozaki will be getting my vote again this year. I don't want Derek Jeter in the baseball Hall of Fame until he stops winning world championships.

The other issue is where the induction will be. The "when" was already changed when the ceremony was pushed from this fall to next spring. But the WGHOF has not said where, although there have been whispers it may land in New York City for at least one year, as reported in the April 19 Golf World. One idea said to be under discussion is taking the show on the road -- New York, London, Tokyo. That seems like a counterproductive move.

Part of what the WGHOF needs to create an identity is to make the facility a travel destination. How does moving the ceremony around do that?  Or even moving it out of St. Augustine? The logical solution seems to be to have the induction the week of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, a short drive from the WGHOF. That would increase attendance from both the fans and -- perhaps even more importantly in terms of enhancing credibility -- the players.

Pretty much everyone thinks have the WGHOF induction the week of the Players is a good idea -- except the PGA Tour. Depending on whom you talk to, one concern is that the induction would upstage the Players Championship. It seems the opposite would be the case. It would transform the flagship event of the tour into a celebration of global golf.

Others say the tour is concerned it would be sending the wrong message by having the induction the week of the Players. That reasoning goes like this: The WGHOF is an international body that includes both men and women. To have the induction the week of a men's event run by the PGA Tour would undermine that all-inclusive message.

That seems to be a needless worry. The Golf Writers Association of America gives its awards each yea r on the Wednesday evening before the Masters. There have been LPGA players who have complained they have to go to a men's event to get their award, but the simple fact is that the Masters provides the greatest media stage for the ceremony. The world press is there.

The same can be said for the Players Championship. Let's move the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction to Players Championship week - and let's get those guys under 40 off the ballot. Both will enhance the credibility of the Hall. By the way, ballots are due back in July and we'll know the class of 2011 late this year.

-- Ron Sirak

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