Editor’s note: This column first ran in Golfweek magazine that hit doorsteps on March 7, 2014. If you’d like to subscribe, click here.
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When someone has proposed a candidate whom this voter deems unworthy of World Golf Hall of Fame induction, my answer often has been, “It’s not the Hall of Very Good.”
Such discussion about borderline players has been more frequent in recent years as the hall unfortunately has been watered down, to the point that members have questioned the merits of inductees and hall wannabes have thought, If he’s in, I should be. This chatter escalated in 2013 when a pair of one-time major winners (Ken Venturi and Fred Couples) with 14 and 15 PGA Tour victories and someone with no major title (Colin Montgomerie) were added.
The peanut gallery can get loud and highly populated. Interestingly, when it comes to admittance, the women (LPGA) have been too harsh, the men too soft – arguably opposite of society.
Hence the hall returned to the drawing board and soon will announce a different induction process. The new system is expected to have a 16-person committee (industry leaders, hall members and journalists) decide who gets in. Male and female finalists, determined by a preliminary voting body, would need at least 75 percent approval (12 votes) from the committee for induction, say some familiar with the changes.
That would seem to pave an easier path for women, for years measured by a stringent LPGA points system. As for the men, last year’s crop would seem to enhance the chances of eligibles such as Ian Woosnam, Mark O’Meara, Jim Furyk and Corey Pavin; on the other hand, tougher requirements could hinder their causes.
So while the hall is in flux and frayed feelings fall on both sides of the induction line, let’s try to make everybody feel better. We’ll do this by establishing the Hall of Very Good in available retail space a few yards away from the WGHOF in St. Augustine, Fla. It’s where scorned golfers can come for recognition, feel the love, know they’re not forgotten and be reminded there’s nothing wrong with very good.
One must be at least 50 or retired. The general benchmark is at least 10 Tour victories and a major. But there are exceptions because sometimes a player’s major total can overshadow or inflate. Our committee gives high marks to total body of work.
The HOVG bar-restaurant will be open at night so people can visit after golf and work. It will feature a putt-putt course, kids’ game room, memorabilia galore and a resident storyteller in case a member isn’t there regaling.
We’ll have biennial ceremonies and require members to attend every third one (on Tuesday of The Players) and play in a pro-am. They’ll be glad to know their busts on the wall actually will resemble them. And some (such as Lorena Ochoa, Davis Love III and four-time major winners Laura Davies, Meg Mallon and Susie Maxwell Berning) should know they will graduate and move a few steps down the parking lot.
In other words, our HOVG is a way station for some and purgatory for others.
Although the big hall tends to discount elite amateurs, we’ll induct six. Some of our members are a major hole or three from the real hall; Doug Sanders, Steve Elkington and Tom Lehman come to mind. Some were halted by accident (Tony Lema) or injury (Jerry Pate).
Without further ado, we present the inaugural HOVG class of 51. Should you deem something about the list as not very good, don’t despair. We can fix it next time.
Women’s pro wing (10): Lorena Ochoa (27 LPGA victories, 2 majors), Laura Davies (20-4), Meg Mallon (18-4), Susie Maxwell Berning (11-4), Jane Blalock (27-0), Sandra Palmer (19-2), Jan Stephenson (16-3), Dottie Pepper (17-2), Beverly Hanson (17-3), Sally Little (15-2).
Amateur wing (6): Harvie Ward, Charlie Coe, Catherine Lacoste, Frank Stranahan, Jay Sigel, Vinny Giles.
Men’s old-timer wing (9): Johnny Farrell (22 PGA Tour victories, 1 major), Willie Macfarlane (21-1), Johnny Revolta and Jim Ferrier (18-1), Macdonald Smith (24-0), Bill Melhorn (20-0), Harold “Jug” McSpaden and Bobby Cruickshank (17-0), E.J. “Dutch” Harrison (18-0).
Modern era men’s wing (26): Davis Love III (20-1), Tony Lema (12-1), Ian Woosnam (29 European and 2 PGA Tour wins, 1 major), Mark O’Meara (16-2), Corey Pavin (15-1), David Graham (8-2), Fuzzy Zoeller (10-2), Tom Weiskopf (16-1), Dave Stockton (10-2), Doug Sanders (20-0), Hal Sutton and Art Wall Jr. (14-1), Mark Calcavecchia, George Archer and Craig Stadler (13-1), Paul Azinger and Bobby Nichols (12-1), Steve Elkington (10-1), Bob Goalby, Dow Finsterwald and Al Geiberger (11-1), Don January and John Mahaffey (10-1), Bruce Crampton (14-0), Jerry Pate (8-1), Tom Lehman (5-1).