Fred Couples was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night and he gave one hell of a speech. The coolest golfer on the planet even got choked up and cried at the end, saying, “Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the Hall of Fame. This is the coolest night of my life.”
The acceptance speeches for Colin Montgomerie and Ken Schofield are also shown in the video above.
Here are highlights from Couples’ presser earlier that day. (Given that Freddie is my childhood hero — and I’m not sure I’d be here today if he hadn’t inspired me to pick up the game — it was a real idiot move by me on missing the ceremony. D’oh!)
*On the most memorable moment in his golfing career: “Yeah, well, I can say this one because it’s a little too long of a story to tell tonight. But I lost in the U.S. Amateur to Hal Sutton, and I had a ticket from Charlotte to Houston to start school after that tournament. And somehow I changed it to Los Angeles, and I went and spent a week with some friends of my parents who were older, and after a couple days I got bored and I said, Mr.José, is there a golf course near here, and we went to the golf course.
“This is memorable because this is what got me here 33 years later. He says, yeah, right down the street. So we drive into the parking lot, and I knew something was going on because there was a big banner that said Queen Mary Open. If you know the Queen Mary, it’s an old tournament, so I walked into the shop and I said, hi, I’m so‑and‑so, I’m here or I’d like to play a practice round or hit balls or do something, and the guy said we have an event. I said, I just was dropped off, can I hit balls. His name was Larry Benson, he said, sure. He said, I’m playing later today with a friend; play with us. We played. At 5:00 we finished, and I said, well, is there any way I can play as an amateur before I go back to school, and jokingly he said, but no, if you turn pro we have a spot for you.
“I went back, had dinner with these people, I went into a room, the next morning drove back to the course and turned pro. Why, I have no idea. And that’s how people nowadays‑‑ they come out of college, they turn pro, but at that time I was going to say I didn’t have a manager or an agent or a lawyer or a chef or a masseuse or a trainer or a cell phone or anyone to call, I made what was probably at the time the dumbest decision I ever made, turned out to be the greatest decision, and that’s how I turned pro. I went to the Queen Mary Open and looked at a guy and said I want to play in this as a pro.”
*On the key golfers that helped him in his career: “Yeah, I have friends on the PGA TOUR, and when I was a rookie in my second year, there are several people that helped me out. But really the ones that I sought out and tried to get to know, Ray Floyd and Tom Watson and spent time with them. I don’t chip the ball like Ray Floyd and putt like Ray Floyd. I certainly don’t practice six hours a day like Tom Watson did in his prime. But I just‑‑ as I always say, I took a little from them, and a little went a long way.
“And then obviously the other guy would be Lee Trevino. I played with Lee Trevino in the 1979 U.S. Open as an amateur. Somehow when I got on Tour, we just kind of hit it off, and I played in this thing called the Fred Meyer Challenge with him that Peter Jacobson ran a few years in a row. He would always find me, and as Jim Nantz used to say‑‑ he calls me Cupcake. Cupcake, here’s what I see you doing. You’re driving it all over the place, you need to shorten your swing, you need to do this, you need to do that. The other guys, I would ask them and they would kind of answer.
“But those three guys by far have been very helpful.”
*On how he’ll be remembered: “Wow. He’s the guy whose ball stayed on the bank at 12 at Augusta. You know, that’s one of them. People know I won Augusta. He’s the guy that doesn’t wear a glove. He’s got a smooth and slow swing.
“It’s like‑‑ I was answering this the other day, and Kathy is going to say, geez, he goes round and round, but my knowledge of things are maybe different. When you’re a baseball player and you get in the Hall of Fame and you’re sitting there looking at Babe Ruth, it’s a little weird no matter who you are today. I guess you wait five years.
“And the weirdest thing in golf, I’m still playing. I had a chance to win Augusta, a month later I’m getting in the Hall of Fame, which is a nice analogy, but it’s not like a month ago I hit a three‑run homer to beat the New York Yankees.”
*On how he would access his career and what he wish he would have achieved (basically, it’s Freddie saying he underachieved): “Well, I wanted to achieve more. I wanted to win another major on the regular Tour, there’s no doubt about that. I felt like I was very capable of doing that, and I didn’t. And not just really at Augusta. I felt like the British Open I had three or four chances. I played with Norman when he won, I played with Justin Leonard, although we were a little bit back in the pack, but when Justin won. I was in the last group another time. And that was a tournament that I really felt like I could win and didn’t.
“But you know, it’s just a hard thing to achieve. I mean, when you say you want to do things in golf, it’s very hard to do. Obviously Tiger wants to win 18 or 19 majors. Phil wants to do this. Vijay wants to‑‑ I’m talking about all the great‑‑ Greg Norman was going to do this, and then a guy holes a bunker shot and then a guy holes a chip shot and keeps him from winning three, four, five majors. For me it was just always to win one more major. I always thought I could do it. The majors weren’t the number one thing in my life. It was really playing good wherever I played. If I went to play in France, I wanted to play well. If I went to Japan I wanted to play well, and when I played the PGA TOUR I wanted to play well.”
*On the influence his family had on his development as a golfer and why he doesn’t wear a glove: “I wish my sister would have come in because part of the funny story about what my mom has done in golf is she made more money than my father, but my sister felt like I was spoiled because when school was out, whenever it was, I got $5 a day, and that got me to Jefferson Park where it would get me a burger and fries and a Coke after I played golf, and then I stayed up there and practiced. Now, I think I saved her a lot of money because I played with people, as I say, from 15 to 60, so I had babysitters, which didn’t cost her anything and they all took care of me. But to get, as my sister said, I get $8 to $10 a week, you’re getting $35. It’s a little bit unfair. If I needed a new sand wedge, my parents would get a new sand wedge. They never drove me really‑‑ I’m not knocking‑‑ I used to ride my bike to the golf course. It was about a five‑minute ride.
“But all in all, they gave me‑‑ my brother needed a mitt, a jock strap and a cup. I know it’s funny. I needed irons, woods, I really never played with golf shoes for the longest time, but I needed golf balls. I never wore a glove because they were so expensive. And it’s just fun.”
*On what he decided to display in his HoF case: “Everything I own is here. No, it was all in storage about three months ago. But I have the Masters trophy, I have the set of clubs from Augusta that I won with. I have a Houston Cougar golf shirt that looks like a kid’s extra small. I don’t know how that ever fit. A golf bag, some other trophies, LA Open trophies.
“Both PLAYERS Championship trophies. I have a Ryder Cup bag I think and a Presidents Cup bag in the other area. I don’t display much. It was kind of nice to get this induction where I could get this stuff out of storage and put it in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Everyone is calling it the Hall of Fame, but someone told Jim Nantz today it’s the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“I’ve looked at it. There’s some other things in there, too. Some junior trophies. That Donna Capone‑‑ this is funny. She came to me the other night when we were there, and she said, man, what is that one trophy from, it’s awesome, and I’m thinking Augusta she knows, THE PLAYERS Championship. I said, I don’t have my glasses, can you read it to me. And she said Skagit Valley junior golf. And I was like, that’s probably not what you thought, but it was a big chuckle. She thought maybe it was from some other tournament I won, but it was a junior trophy. They want to make you feel good, they give you the biggest trophies when you’re 12 years old.”
*On which member of the Hall of Fame has inspired him the most: “That I know the most about? I probably know the most about Ray Floyd. I’ve spent time with his family and I know his boys and his daughter. I did stay with him maybe three years in a row at Doral when we played, and then obviously we were partners a few times in things. And looking up to any of them, I mean, I looked up to all of them.
“My favorite player growing up was Tom Weiskopf, who is not a Hall of Famer I don’t think, is he? No, but I was tiny, he was tall. The only thing we had in common was we played golf, but I just liked the way he played, and he seemed to have this way of smashing the ball, and everyone hooked up with, gee, I love Jack Nicklaus or I love Arnold Palmer. For some reason I was attached to Tom Weiskopf. But I would say I know the most, of the 146 guys, would be Ray Floyd.”