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Fred Couples Hall of Fame Induction Calls Criteria into Question

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND - JULY 29:  Fred Couples of the United states during The Senior Open Championship played over the Ailsa course at Turnberry on July 29, 2012 in Turnberry, Scotland.  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

The doors to the World Golf Hall of Fame have just flown wide open this week in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Apparently if there aren’t any truly deserving players on the ballet, the voting body, comprising of golf journalist, historians and dignitaries, simply chooses the next best thing.

The World Golf Hall of Fame has been trying to transform themselves into a must-visit destination for golf fans for years. Similar to Cooperstown, NY for baseball fans, Canton, OH for football fans and Springfield, MA for basketball fans.

This push has so far been unsuccessful so the PGA Tour stepped in and moved the annual induction ceremony to the Players Championship week in an attempt to draw more attention to both the World Golf Hall of Fame and the induction festivities.

Fred Couples was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame yesterday, making him the first member of the 2013 class.

Obviously, taking a “pass” on inducting anyone into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year was not an option for the voting body.

Couples was certainly a great player in his prime, there is no question about that, but the Hall of Fame?

Couples has just one major and 15 PGA Tour wins.

Perhaps if the PGA of America created a Presidents Cup Hall of Fame, Couples would be worthy of induction for his successful captaincies, but this is the World Golf Hall of Fame we are talking about here.

Just one major and 15 total wins apparently now qualify you for the Hall of Fame.

62 players throughout the history of the PGA Tour have won 15 tournaments or more, many of which accomplished this during a period of time where there were far fewer tournaments on the schedule each year, albeit weaker fields as well.

77 players have won more than one major championship, and the list of those that have won only one major during their career is far longer.

With 15 PGA Tour wins and one major, Couples’ career could be classified as very good, but not outstanding. 15 wins and one major would be the equivalent of a baseball player with a .275 career batting average and 260 homes runs. A very good career to be sure, but certainly not deserving of a spot in Cooperstown.

Couples is, and always has been, a very popular player. His silky smooth swing, good looks and laid back personality drew a lot of fans to the game and earned him a significant amount of media attention during his prime. But voting a player into the World Golf hall of Fame should not be a popularity contest, it should be an evaluation of his career.

Voting in a player with just 15 PGA Tour wins and one major now throws the doors to the World Golf Hall of Fame wide open and, in a way, diminishes the accomplishments of many other far more accomplished players who have been given one of the games highest honors—being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

By voting in Couples, you now open the door for players such as Jim Furyk (16 wins and 1 major), Corey Pavin (15 wins and 1 major), Hal Sutton (14 wins and 1 major), Mark Calcavecchia (13 wins and 1 major), David Duval (13 wins and 1 major), David Toms (13 wins and 1 major), Paul Azinger (12 wins, 1 major and a winning Ryder Cup captain), Justin Leonard (12 wins and 1 major) and many others.  

All of these players had very good careers, but to induct them into the Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Nicklaus, Jones, Palmer, Player, Hagen, Hogan, Vardon, etc. etc…that just seems like a bit of a stretch.

This also calls into question why some other more deserving players have not yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Willie Macfarlane had 21 wins and one major:  How is he not in the Hall of Fame?

Johnny Revolta had 18 wins and one major, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Ferrier also had 18 wins and one major, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame either.

Ken Venturi had 14 wins and one major, a long career in golf broadcasting, not to mention an outstanding amateur career, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Art Wall, Jr. had 14 wins and one major, a career very similar to Couples, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Tom Weiskopf had 16 wins and one major, a career better than Couples during the era of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Miller, Watson, etc. How is it possible he is not in the Hall of Fame when Couples has just been selected?  

Davis Love III had 20 wins and one major, which is a career significantly better than Couples during the exact same era, yet at the age of 48, Love still has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Mark O'Meara had 16 wins and two majors, which is also a career far better than Couple's during the same era, yet he too is still waiting for his call from the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Discounting the fact that Couples was an extremely popular player, looking solely at his career accomplishments, he should fall just outside what should be required of a player to reach the Hall of Fame.

His induction into the 2013 Hall of Fame class appears to be nothing more than a publicity stunt to draw more attention to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the induction ceremony, which is now televised live on Golf Channel during the Players Championship week.

But by doing so, the voting body has now opened the doors to the World Golf Hall of Fame far wider, paving the way for a large number of players with accomplishments very similar to Couples to be inducted in the coming years. The entire selection process and criteria can also now be called into question, being that they have chosen Couples to be inducted next year while still leaving out numerous players who have accomplished far more during their careers.

And most importantly, by doing so they have completely diminished what was, and should still be, one of the game’s highest honors that should be bestowed only upon those that have had truly exceptional careers in the game of golf.  

For more golf news, insight and analysis, including golf's top-5 19th holes, check out The Tour Report.

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