Begin with Pinehurst 45 years ago and on to St. Andrews in 2015 and upcoming at Pebble Beach, a lineup of iconic golf locations for enshrinement that would star in any Hall of Fame. Add 160 legendary golf figures who have made the game even more revered and you have quite a sense of place for the World Golf Hall of Fame, which began in 1974 in Pinehurst, N.C., and is now celebrating 21 years in St. Augustine, Fla., at the World Golf Village.
The newest class of honorees—Peggy Kirk Bell, Retief Goosen, Billy Payne, Jan Stephenson and Dennis Walters—will be inducted June 10 in Carmel, Calif., the Monday of U.S. Open week at Pebble Beach Golf Links, also a celebration of the vaunted oceanside course’s centennial.
It’s a historic occasion not lost on Greg McLaughlin, who moved into the role of World Golf Foundation Chief Executive Officer and President of The First Tee, with oversight of the World Golf Hall of Fame, in late 2018.
“Since I started this role in December, it’s been very exciting,” McLaughlin said. “Look at all the great legends I have had a chance to get to know better and still more to visit with. It’s been the best part of this job. Pebble Beach is a wonderful place to honor these legends. We’re excited about the week, and more than 35 Hall of Famers have indicated they will attend.”
The 2019 class embodies the diverse character of the Hall of Fame:
Margaret Anne “Peggy” Kirk Bell, Lifetime Achievement, United States. The longtime Southern Pines, N.C., resident took up the game as a teenager in Ohio making a name for herself as an amateur star. She went on to become a charter member of the LPGA in 1950, received the PGA’s First Lady of Golf Award in 2007 and was an avid supporter of the game as a top 100 golf instructor, becoming the first woman selected into Golf Magazine’s World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
Retief Goosen, South Africa, Male Competitor Category. Known affectionately as “The Goose,” Goosen sat within the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 10 for more than 250 weeks from 2001 through 2007. His 33 worldwide wins include two U.S. Opens, in 2001 and 2004. Goosen led the European Tour Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002.
Billy Payne, United States, Lifetime Achievement Category. During his 11 years as Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club (2006 to 2017), Payne oversaw a number of significant achievements including the introduction of women as club members. He originated the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship with the USGA and PGA of America and established the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur tournaments. Payne was also a key figure in the successful return of golf to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Jan Stephenson, Australia, Female Competitor Category. In her first season on the LPGA in 1974, Stephenson was named LPGA’s Rookie of the Year. She went on to lead an impressive career with 20 professional victories, including 16 on the LPGA Tour. She is a three-time Major Champion with wins at the 1981 du Maurier, 1982 LPGA Championship and the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open. Her impact on the game extends outside of her play as one of the founders of the Women’s Senior Golf Tour.
Dennis Walters, United States, Lifetime Achievement Category. Walters is an elite golfer who was paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 following a golf cart accident. He has since dedicated his career to sharing life lessons and inspiring fans and disabled golfers of all ages through golf clinics and special performances at more than 3,000 worldwide appearances. Walters was also honored with the 1978 Ben Hogan Award and was a 2018 recipient of the USGA’s Bob Jones Award.
“One of my responsibilities is helping determine how we position the next 15 to 20 years of the World Golf Hall of Fame,” McLaughlin said. “We have to evaluate how people take in museums and honor the past. At the same time, there’s a lot of really amazing technology out there that brings our Hall of Fame members to life, and that’s important to inform everyone even more about the greatest contributors to golf.”
McLaughlin’s vision for the World Golf Hall of Fame will be discussed in concert with the sport’s leading organizations. The qualifying standard for induction—with biennial ceremonies, an induction process governed by a 16-person Selection Commission, four categories for induction and a minimum age of 50—is also continually being examined.
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR June-November 2019 issue, which can be read here.