Did you hear ’em talkin’ bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I’ve heard it all before
It’s like deja vu all over again
On October 18 the World Golf Hall of Fame announced that five accomplished people would enter its hallowed halls as the class of 2017. It will come as a surprise to no one and the profound disappointment of this one that none of the names are that of The Golf Channel founder Joseph E. Gibbs.
This should by no means be perceived as a slight to Henry Longhurst, Ian Woosnam, Davis Love III, Meg Mallon or Lorena Ochoa. While I am of the opinion that the “Hall” makes a mistake by feeling the need to induct somebody, anybody, every two years; I don’t necessarily have an issue with this group. Especially Longhurst who, in my opinion, set the standard with his half a century work in both print journalism and broadcast commentary.
Woosnam, Love III, Ochoa and Mallon are all fine, accomplished players. By all accounts they are also wonderful people and terrific ambassadors for the game of golf. During my decades of work in golf television I had the pleasure of meeting the first three and befriending Miss Mallon. I am a huge fan of hers. I am happy for all of them, thrilled for her, that they will now be enshrined. But forgive me if I missed the resounding drumbeat for any of them to be so honored. I AM pounding the drum (again) in the hope that somebody, anybody, seriously consider the man responsible for spearheading one of the biggest success stories in the history of the sport.
“Woosie” won 29 times on the European Tour, twice on the PGA TOUR (including the 1991 Masters and won the European Tour Player of the Year twice. Well done “wee Welshman” but Hall of Fame credentials? Maybe but not a lock.
DLIII has 21 PGA TOUR wins and like Woosie, one major. Love captured the 1997 PGA Championship. He captained two United States Ryder Cup teams (1-1) but was never the Player of the Year, leading money winner or Vardon Trophy (given to the player with the lowest scoring average on the PGA TOUR recipient. Again a rather nice resume but should it get him in the Hall? Not sure.
Lorena Ochoa picked up 27 LPGA Tour wins including two major championships (2007 Women’s British Open and 2008 Ana Inspiration) in less than a decade. She was the LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2003 and its Player of the Year in 2006, ’07, ’08, and ’09. She was the Tour’s leading money winner those same years and claimed the Vare Trophy (the LPGA’s version of the Vardon Trophy in ’06, ’07, and ’08). She was well on her way to perhaps becoming the LPGA’s top player of all time and then she retired at 28. Great player, no doubt. Wonderful person, without question. But is an 8 year career Hall of Fame material? I’m not saying yes or no, I’m just asking the question.
Meg Mallon played on the LPGA Tour for a quarter century and was one of its fiercest competitors. She was known as a “big game” player and proved it by winning four major championships including the most difficult of all, The United States Women’s Open, twice. In all she won 18 times, played on eight U.S. Solheim Cup teams and captained the squad in 2013. Again a great player and in Meg’s case an even better person but do those numbers qualify her for golf immortality?
Again I am not denying any of them are great players and worthy of our admiration and praise. My question is simply are the accomplishments of each enough to be inscribed on a plaque for generations of golfers to see from now on. Shouldn’t the Hall of Fame be reserved for not just the really good or the occasionally amazing but for the absolute best of the best? Shouldn’t we require the ones being dignified do something special? Make a difference? Blaze a trail? Shouldn’t the bar for exaltation stay constant or in some cases be raised, not compromised? The problem, as I see it, is a self-inflicted wound. The World Golf Hall of Fame simply admitted too many people (and I’m not talking about patrons) too quickly. Did they have to rush Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, or Mark O’Meara in? Was it necessary to fast track Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, or Sandy Lyle? Who’s left for goodness sake?
I’ll tell you who… Joe Gibbs, that’s who. What about what he accomplished isn’t Hall of Fame worthy? The man blazed a trail, took a chance, put it all on the line, and created history’s first 24 hour, niche cable television channel dedicated to one sport. He had a vision. He had a dream. He convinced a dedicated, mostly talented, staff to join his crusade and proved all the experts and naysayers wrong. “It’ll never work” they said. “Who would want to watch golf 24/7-365?” they chided. “I give it 6 months” they concluded. Well it worked. Millions of people watched and millions more still do. The Golf Channel flipped the switch on January 17, 1995, it’s 2017 and Golf Channel ain’t going anywhere. One man, Joe Gibbs, with a little help from his friends, turned a middle of the night “what if” into a TV phenonmenon AND a billion dollar business. He belongs in the World Golf Hall of Fame because what he did made the world of golf better. Better for me, better for you. Better for Tiger Woods, better for Annika Sorenstam. Better for Ian Woosman, Davis Love III, Lorena Ochoa and Meg Mallon.
Will 2019 FINALLY be the year that Joseph E. Gibbs ascends to his well deserved place in the World Golf Hall of Fame? Or will it be “deja vu all over again”?