It may not attract the attention enjoyed by its counterparts in other sports, but the annual induction ceremony at the World Golf Hall of Fame has few rivals in the pomp and circumstance department.
The festivities of Oct. 30 will feature fireworks, rousing music, a gala reception, celebrities and emotional speeches.
Inspiring words can be expected from the three living inductees among the five-person Class of 2006 – Marilynn Smith, Larry Nelson and Vijay Singh. Tributes to the other two inductees, Mark McCormack and Henry Picard (who died in 2003 and 1997, respectively) are sure to be heartfelt as well.
The fivesome’s golf accomplishments are unassailable:
- Smith, who enters the Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category, notched 21 victories on the LPGA, including two majors. More important, Smith was an effective promoter of the fledgling women’s circuit and was instrumental in the creation of its Teaching and Coaching division. She will be introduced by LPGA Hall of Fame member Kathy Whitworth.
- McCormack (Lifetime Achievement category) is widely regarded as the father of sports marketing. He founded the management group IMG, which immeasurably raised the profile of professional golf and the earning power of its players. McCormack will be presented by his first client, Arnold Palmer.
- Nelson (PGA Tour ballot, garnering 65 percent of votes cast) is a Vietnam veteran and late-comer to golf who won 10 times on the PGA Tour – including three majors. He played on three U.S. Ryder Cup teams and has 19 Champions Tour victories. Nelson will be introduced by career Grand Slam winner and Hall of Famer Gary Player.
- Picard (Veterans category) was a two-time major championship winner whose record in the 1930s was eclipsed only by Sam Snead. Picard’s generosity to fellow competitors earned him widespread respect. He will be presented by LPGA Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, who as a junior golfer knew Picard at the Country Club of Charleston.
- Singh (PGA Tour ballot, with 56 percent of votes cast in 2005; deferred induction until this year) counts three majors among his 29 PGA Tour victories and 22 international titles. A tireless work ethic enabled him to overcome many hurdles en route to a World No. 1 ranking in 2004. Singh will be introduced by his friend Ted Forstmann, the CEO of IMG.
The induction ceremony, emceed by actor/comedian and golf nut George Lopez, is open to the public. It will be taped by The Golf Channel and aired as an hourlong special on Thanksgiving (8 p.m. EST, Nov. 23).
Before the 6 o’clock kickoff to the evening celebration, attendees can get in the mood with a round of golf at either the King & Bear or Slammer & Squire courses at the World Golf Village, or indulge themselves with a treatment at the Laterra Spa on property.
Roam the Walk of Fame, the Renaissance Hotel lobby or the exhibits at the Hall of Fame, and no telling who you might bump into. Besides Smith, Nelson, Singh, Palmer, Player, Daniel and Whitworth, the golf luminaries on hand will include PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, JoAnne Carner, Tony Jacklin, Deane Beman, Carol Mann, Judy Rankin and Louise Suggs.
In addition to the exhibits of memorabilia donated by the Class of 2006 and the other Hall of Fame members, the WGHOF features a temporary exhibit on the Ryder Cup and a retrospective on Player’s career.