Out of the Hall

Columns - outside the ropes

January 8, 2021

© Guy Cipriano

I recently read the news that the next class of inductees to the World Golf Hall of Fame won’t be welcomed until March 2022. Among those to be honored are competitors Tiger Woods and Susie Maxwell Berning, as well as former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and player/architect/benefactor Marion Hollins.

Hmmm …

After I read the announcement, I did some research and learned there are no golf course superintendents in the Hall. OK, that’s not entirely true: Old Tom Morris was inducted in 1976, as part of the third class (surprisingly, a year after his son, Young Tom).

The absence of golf course superintendent representation strikes me as very odd. And wrong. Consider this: Would there be golf without golf course superintendents? Of course not, at least not how we currently play the game.

So how do we crack the selection code? First, let’s look at how members are elected.

The World Golf Hall of Fame is supported by 26 organizations, including our own GCSAA. Which raises numerous questions: Can the GCSAA nominate potential inductees? Do any of the other organizations care about superintendents? Is anyone representing our interests?

I’m looking at you USGA, AJGA, ASGCA, GCBAA, CMAA, GWAA and the rest of you supposedly with the best interests of the game at heart. None of you thinks the superintendent is worth honoring? Not one of us in more than a century of work?

Part of the problem could be the process, which was revamped in 2014. It’s not easy to follow, but let’s try.

Elections are held every other year. There are four categories for nominees: Players — male, female and veterans — and Lifetime Achievement. So, if you don’t play, there’s only one option for you.

Anyone who has made a major contribution to one of the organizations or the promotion of the game may be selected. We must have someone who meets the criteria. No?

From there, a 20-member selection subcommittee nominates in the four categories. Then a separate 16-member selection committee votes. Election requires 75 percent of the vote.

But here’s where the odds are against us: Every two years, only three names are permitted in the Lifetime Achievement category. (Players get five.) So only three from architects, journalists, administrators, celebrities and so on.

And then, only five individuals can be elected to each class.

I’m sure you can see the flaws in this system. And I’m sure you agree with the sentiments of Arizona Golf Hall of Famer Shawn Emerson, who asks, “Could golf continue without turfgrass?” No way!

Not to single anyone out, but without the superintendent would Bob Hope, Bing Crosby or Karsten Solheim even have a Hall of Fame to go into? On what canvas would Alister MacKenzie, Donald Ross or Robert Trent Jones have been so creative? What sport would have nourished Dwight Eisenhower, Fred Corcoran or Billy Payne? Check out the list yourself: It makes for interesting reading.

I got to wondering if we’re overlooked by the WGHOF because we have our own Old Tom Morris Award. But even that annual honor is light on superintendents. Incredibly, in 38 years only three of us have been inducted into our own “hall of fame.” Even if the GCSAA created its own hall of fame, would it be any different from the Old Tom Morris Award? And no disrespect to 2021 winner Jim Nantz, but when was the last time he mowed any grass — the artificial putting green in his backyard or other? I appreciate his mentions of course superintendents during PGA Tour telecasts, but we need more than gratuitous shout-outs.

Furthermore, every other organization has its own awards, too. That doesn’t stop players, architects, golf writers and others from entering the WGHOF.

Admittedly, most golf course superintendents are far from household names, nor would they likely attract viewers or an audience to an induction ceremony. That is beside the point.

Let’s turn to the second consideration: If we could add a superintendent to the WGHOF, what would the criteria be? What would he or she have to have contributed to the game? What would this person have to have done on a world stage to help grow and enhance the profession? (If those alone were the criteria, I nominate the reel mower.)

Here are some accomplishments to consider. This individual has:

  • Exhibited excellence as a turf manager and upgraded levels of conditioning
  • Served as a mentor and teacher
  • Made those who work for them better
  • Prepared a course for major events and tournaments
  • Cultivated new talent
  • Educated people about turfgrass management, in person and/or in research and articles
  • Participated in research and/or created a device that makes playing surfaces better
  • Contributed to organization at the regional, state, and/or national levels
  • Considered the environment in turfgrass preparation, practices and education
  • Not just grown grass but grown the game

A worthy candidate would demonstrate a healthy mix of those. I could easily put forth a handful of qualified candidates: Monroe Miller, David Stone, Paul Latshaw Sr. or Mark Kuhns. And that’s just from the United States. Because this is a World Golf Hall of Fame, we have many more individuals to choose from.

Let’s make this a rallying cry for superintendents globally. We need to get the other organizations to support us, embrace this long omission and acknowledge that our time is overdue.

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf (tmoraghan@aspire-golf.com). Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at www.aspire-golf.com/buzz.html or on Twitter @TimMoraghan