The World Golf Hall of Fame (WGHOF) introduced a new procedure for individuals to be inducted beginning with the Class of 2015, which was unveiled in a press conference today by PGA Tour Commissioner and chairman of the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors, Tim Finchem, along with Gary Player, Nancy Lopez, Arnold Palmer, Annika Sorrenstam (via the phone) and WGHOF COO Jack Peter.
The changes were made after a review of the ballot and nomination process, which included an evaluation of the ballot system and voting body, along with criteria such as tournament victories and age.
There were several positive revisions made, but overall, the selection process has become more exclusionary and “old boy’s club-y” — it’s become a small group of mostly administrators and only three golf writers.
The induction process will now be decided by a “Selection Commission” consisting of 16 individuals who will be responsible for electing candidates. Inductees will need at least 75% of the vote to gain entry into the WGHOF, which is a positive compared to the previously required 67% — or 51% in last year’s scenario with Fred Couples.
The Selection Commission will be co-chaired by Hall of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam, along with members of the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors and a mix of institutional and at-large seats.
Additionally, a “Selection Sub-Commitee” has been established to oversee the qualification and vetting process. In other words, these people — which includes powers-that-be, former players and even an agent — are responsible for choosing the finalists who reach the ballot for consideration to the Selection Commission. This Sub-Committee will be comprised of 20 individuals.
The new process will consist of four categories under which an individual may be considered for induction: Male and Female Competitor Categories and the Veterans and Lifetime Achievement Categories.
The Male and Female Competitor Categories will have similar criteria for qualification:
*A player must have 15 or more official victories on approved tours or at least two victories among approved major events.
*Each player also must be at least 40 years old at the start of the year selections are made or at least five years removed from active competition.
*Veterans Category will include players whose careers were primarily completed before 1975, and the Lifetime Achievement Category will be comprised of individuals who contributed to the game from outside of the competitive arena.
The new process will start with the Selection Sub-Committee meeting this spring to debate the candidates in all four categories. It will then present five finalists in the Male and Female categories and tree each in Veterans and Lifetime Achievement to the Selection Commission.
Then, in the summer, the Commission will discuss the merits of the finalists and vote on each of the 16 individuals. Each class will have no more than five inductees. The Class of 2015 will be announced later this fall.
Lopez spoke glowingly about the amendments to the Female Category.
“I believe in the changes to the process because in the Female Competitor category keeps high the standard of induction to female members,” she said. “The standard is important to the players who previously qualified and the 75 percent of the vote through the Selection Commission will maintain it.
“The women’s game continues to grow around the world. And the Hall of Fame made the right decision to include other female International golf organizations in the new process. And of course we want to continue to recognize the greats from all over the world.”
Speaking of the International component, the previous “International” category has been eradicated (for the better). Player, who hails from South African, praised this aspect of the revisions made.
“I think what excites me is the International aspect,” he said. “And I’m pleased to see that everybody Internationally who has played a vital role in doing so much for this game that we love so much is now being included. If you look at baseball and football who had Hall of Fames, if I’m correct in saying so, long before golf did, we’ve made great strides.
“As a young pro leaving South Africa, there wasn’t a thing called the Hall of Fame in golf. So this is a dream for me to have been included, particularly in the first lot of inductees and to see the tremendous strides they’re making all over the world. And people are visiting here from all corners of the globe where they can come here and see what this game means.
Starting in 2015, the Induction Ceremony will become a biennial celebration instead of an annual one.
“I think that it’s a great idea to have it biennial, instead of every year,” said Player. “I think it gives it a lot more prestige. If you look at the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup being every two years, it adds luster to the tournament or to the event.
“I also think the age of 40 is a very good idea to include a man when he’s 40 years of age, posthumously I don’t want to recognize in the Hall of Fame when I’m dead and gone, I want to do it when I’m here. So I think that’s a great idea.”
Well, I’ve also thought inducting people at age 40 was strange since most golfers are still competitive at that age. Shouldn’t the Hall of Fame be a celebration of that individual’s accomplishments? Of course, this criteria was probably kept the same because GOD FORBID, YOU INDUCT PHIL MICKELSON, ERNIE ELS, AND VIJAY SINGH IN THE HALL OF FAME AT AGE 40, BUT NOT TIGER WOODS. (I’m pretty certain Tiger is fine with waiting until he’s 50.)
Woods is currently 38, so expect him to be inducted in the class of 2017. Then, perhaps another review will occur and they’ll push the age requirement to 50. I don’t disagree with the other provision that you have to be retired for five years — that one’s for Lorena Ochoa.
Naturally, the greatest uproar in the presser over the announcement was the exclusion of the media, since the 16-person selection committee only includes three golf writers. Most other sports’ Hall of Fames have a large media contingent, like in baseball and football.
“We looked at this deep and we looked at this wide and we looked at this from a variety of different angles,” said Peter. “And we came to the conclusion that as the landscape of media coverage continues to evolve and change around the world, we felt that the voting the current voting body of almost 300 people was beginning to get a bit unwieldy.
“All of you recognize the changing pressures that you’re under to not only cover this sport but many of you cover other sports, as well. And it was becoming a bit of a challenge for us to continually scrub the list, make sure that there were qualified golf writers on the voting body. And we felt that this was just a better way to insure that the right people who truly know about the game of golf can be making this decision.”
Can we get any more condescending? It’s really not that hard to go down the list of names and monitor it to make sure you have the right people voting.
Now, there’s even an IMG agent/administrator on the selection sub-committee, Alastair Johnston. We all have biases, but wouldn’t you think he’d automatically be partial to IMG clients? Peter doesn’t feel like there will be any conflict of interests, though.
“The question was are we concerned about the conflict of interest on members of the commission,” he said. “The answer is no. We have spoken with each of the members of the commission about the role they play and we don’t foresee any conflict with that at all.”
Mmmhmm. What else was he going to say?
Like I said, there are some positive changes, but for the selection process, there are more flaws still than anything and the sense that it’s become even more politicized.
Here’s the full list of members on the Selection Commission and the Selection Sub-Committee: