ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose passion for golf helped to boost its popularity after World War II, was selected Friday to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Eisenhower will be the first U.S. president in the Hall of Fame when he is inducted posthumously Nov. 2 at the World Golf Village.
“One would be hard-pressed to find any single person who did more to popularize the game of golf, not only in the United States but throughout the world, than President Eisenhower,” Arnold Palmer said. “His visibility, coupled with his passion for the game, were the inspiration for literally millions of people picking up the game for the first time.
“Those involved in golf today owe him a great debt of gratitude.”
Eisenhower was a member of Augusta National and close friends with the late Clifford Roberts, who founded the home of the Masters along with amateur great Bobby Jones.
Even now, the former president’s influence is felt each April during the Masters.
The tee shot on the 17th is difficult because of the “Eisenhower Tree,” a loblolly pine that is 65 feet high, more than 100 years old and about 210 yards off the tee down the left side. It gave Ike fits during so many rounds.
Eisenhower finally campaigned to have the tree removed, proposing during an Augusta National governors’ meeting in 1956 that it be cut down. Roberts overruled him and adjourned the meeting.
After his election in 1952, club members built a special cabin for him – The Eisenhower Cabin – complete with space for Secret Service agents on the bottom floor.
He also has a pond named after him on the Par 3 Course called “Ike’s Pond.” According to club history, Eisenhower was walking through the woods on the east part of the property when he told Roberts he had found a perfect spot to build a dam for fishing.
Eisenhower made 45 trips to Augusta National – five before his election, 29 while in office and 11 after his two terms as president.
According to “First Off The Tee,” a book on U.S. presidents who played golf, 3.2 million Americans played golf when Eisenhower took office in January 1953, a number that had doubled when he left office.
“He was a role model not only in the United States, but throughout the free world, and his leadership during World War II brought hope when it was sorely needed,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. “That such a man was devoted to golf did much to popularize and raise the stature of our sport.”
Eisenhower will be inducted along with two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, former PGA champion Lanny Wadkins and Christy O’Connor of Ireland.
He joins a short list of Hall of Famers who never played competitively, such as Bob Hope and Dinah Shore.