Hall of Fame's inclusionary nature misses the mark

Golf’s shrine fails to draw a crowd: Inclusive nature of Hall of Fame misses the point
National Post
Robert Thompson
On Golf
On the Florida coast sits a beautiful building full of golf memorabilia. It’s a good thing there are lots of golf clubs, balls and ageing pictures taking up space because sports fans aren’t
clamouring to get into golf’s Hall of Fame.
One of the reasons is no one cares about the inappropriately named World Golf Hall of Fame is that it is simply too easy for players to gain entrance to its so-called hallowed halls. At no point was this fact more evident than in Houston last weekend, where recent Hall of
Famer Vijay Singh won another tournament no one really cares about.
Hardly anyone would argue that Singh, who has three major championships to his name, does not deserve his own bronze plaque.
But why now?
In 1998, when the PGA Tour decided it needed to play catch up and created the World Golf Hall of Fame, it set out some rules. Players had to have been active on the PGA Tour for 10 years, and have won 10 events or two majors. They can also gain entry by winning five
great Champions Tour events such as the Jeld-Wen Tradition.
Oh, and players had to be at least 40 years old. The age factor must have seemed strange, even at the time, considering the same year the Hall of Fame was established, 41-year-old Mark O’Meara won both the British and Masters, proving 40-somethings could win on the PGA Tour.
One factor was missing from the World Golf Hall of Fame’s selection criteria — the player did not have to be inactive. Therefore, Singh, arguably at the height of his golfing career, gains access to the Hall of Fame when he could still be a star for many years to come.
Golf really goofed on this one when it had a prototype to work from. All it had to do was look to baseball’s hall in Cooperstown, and it would have had a worthy template to build upon.
Baseball’s hall is legendary because it truly represents legends.
Ruth. Gehrig. Mantle. Cobb. Aaron. Not just stars, but superstars who changed the sport. Names everyone recognizes.
Baseball also realized players should have to wait five years from the point where their careers finish in order to be elected. And the voting is tough — it is rare for more than an individual or two to gain access to Cooperstown in any single year.
These days the PGA Tour keeps making it easier for players to end up in its Hall of Fame. At first, players needed 75% of all votes cast to gain access, then that number was reduced to 65%. Then, suddenly, the Hall of Fame decided 50% was enough for a player if a
year was going to pass when no one was likely to be elected.
That’s a strange inclusionary vision for a Hall of Fame. After all, these are supposed to be places of exclusion. The fewer that are elected, the more exclusive and important the hall becomes. Golf doesn’t seem to get this and therefore Singh is in. His runner-up in voting was Larry Nelson and no one seems to think he is worthy.
Of course, the PGA Tour’s categories seem genuinely erudite when compared to the LPGA, which awards its members with points for each victory. Win enough, even if that means victories at tournaments few care about, and you are in.
The PGA Tour should have had some success with its Hall of Fame.
The location is great, right off a major highway and with two expensive golf courses to attract people. Thought was put into the site’s design and the accompanying resort is splendid.
But hardly anyone stops or wanders in.
It isn’t hard to figure out why.

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Jeff Lancaster

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1 CommentLeave a comment

  • You’ve nailed my complaint exactly. Let the golfer spend a couple of years on the Seniors Tour before being eligible. I understand they wanted to fill the Hall as quickly as possible while interest in Tiger was high, but the HoF is for, as you said, players who impacted the game. As good as Vijay is, I don’t think you can judge that until much later.

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