Battle over the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame shows its shortcomings

220px-RCGA-HoFI suspect about five people in Canada care, which is unfortunate, but I’ve been amused to see the debate between Ian Hutchinson at Golf News Now and Jim Deeks at Fairways over the failure of the Hall of Fame nomination of Geordie Hilton. Interestingly I think Hutchinson makes some valid points (yes, you heard me right), while Deeks seems moderately hysterical about the whole thing.

Here’s the synopsis:

  • Deeks proposes past RCGA executive director for nomination to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, demonstrating all the shortcomings of the hall of fame nomination process in one fell swoop.
  • He also collects some support for big names for a sports manager who operated the Canadian golf organization, including Greg Norman. He initially refuses to say who he garnered support from, then later discloses it.
  • He uses a rhetorical device to suggest the Hall of Fame committee is inept, and homophobic and probably didn’t let Hilton in because he died of AIDs and/or the committee is too stupid or young to recognize the importance of Hilton.
  • Deeks makes it sound like the end of the world that the committee doesn’t agree with his perspective and has made such an egregious oversight.

Hutchinson argues that maybe that isn’t the case:

  • He takes apart Deeks’ argument, relatively convincingly, point by point.
  • He rightfully points out: “Deeks says himself that Hilton felt his personal life was his business, but now it’s been dragged out in a public forum. His contributions to golf are what matters and good form on Deeks for nominating him.”

However, I actually think the debate is significant not because of Hilton’s failed nomination, but because it reflects the shortcomings of the Hall of Fame, its committee process, and why it pales in comparison to other halls. Perhaps because of these things, few care about the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, which is a shame.

Deeks’ point is that his nomination of Hilton was ignored or overlooked by a committee that is currently chaired by Hall of Famer Sandra Post. Deeks makes the hall committee sound like some sort of nefarious organization that is impenetrable. Hardly the case. A two minute search on the web tells you who they are:

Hall of Fame Selection 

Ian Clarke (ON), Chair Mario Brisebois (QC) Graham Cooke (QC) Ted Fletcher (QC)
Tom McCarthy (NS) Wayne Petersen (AB) Sandra Post (ON) Lorne Rubenstein (ON) David Shaw (NS) Steven Young (ON) Karen Hewson, Staff Meggan Gardner, Staff

Here’s my issue: The hall of fame allows outside nominations. I don’t know of any other hall that allows such a process. Baseball’s process is clearly defined, and that’s why it is the best hall of fame by a significant margin. In other words, players have to be out of the sport for five years to be eligible and then they are voted on by sports writers and the results are publicly disclosed. You can disagree with the result, but the process is transparent.

There’s nothing transparent about the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame’s process. It is a closed committee of hall of famers and former admins of Golf Canada. It is exactly how a hall of fame shouldn’t be run. There’s no transparency, it isn’t clear who gets nominated or isn’t nominated, and it isn’t clear how the selection is determined. Any hall that doesn’t have a clear process gets criticized, and rightfully (see the NHL).

For my way of thinking Deeks should never be nominating anyone. Nor, for that matter, should Hutchinson, who apparently does it regularly, a suggestion he has too much time on his hands or too much of a vested interest (he put up Mike Weir, for instance).

I don’t think it is that difficult to determine an appropriate process, which I think is making the individual eligible either when they turn 50 or has been inactive in the sport for five years. Pretty simple, really. That wouldn’t keep someone (an architect or great senior player) from getting in if they did something great after the age of 50 (Rod Spittle comes to mind, though he was also a great amateur player who should be in the hall ahead of someone like Hilton, in my honest opinion). It also removes this ridiculous nomination process. I mean, why isn’t Lorie Kane in the hall? Is it because she didn’t get support or someone simply didn’t nominate her?

This way everyone would know who is eligible and who had support and who didn’t. And why are there only 12 people on the hall committee, including two Golf Canada staffers who I have tremendous respect for, but shouldn’t be on the committee or simply sit in an advisory role.

Yes, there are lots of ways the hall could be reformed. Deeks’ inadvertently points out one of the shortcomings when he says he’s pulled Hilton’s nomination, which would expire after five years, precluding Hilton from ever entering the Hall of Fame. Essentially he’s hopeful that a change in the committee might make it willing to see his perspective some time in the future. That’s just gaming a badly set up system.

I’m not generally supportive of golf administrators going into the hall. I think they need to be truly exceptional, and I’m not sure Deeks’ argument is convincing.

Interesting, he points to the admission of Stephen Ross into the golf hall as support for Hilton. But I always thought that was Golf Canada patting itself on the back, and when you look at Ross’ largest accomplishment–selling Glen Abbey for $40-million 16 years ago–that appears pretty dubious now that it could be developed for hundreds of millions. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but….

It would be great if Deeks’ rant at least led to an overhaul of the Hall of Fame process. But I don’t think anyone cares that much, aside from the likes of Hutchinson and Deeks, who personally have a lot vested in the hall. That’s a shame, but don’t expect it to change any time soon.


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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • I agree with much of your article Robert. I think it is difficult to get enthused about a Hall of Fame process when the selection committee includes one member west of Toronto……hardly national in scope
    Barrie McWha

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