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Couples First Inductee in World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2013
The World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum will enshrine 15-time PGA Tour winner Fred Couples as the first member of the Class of 2013. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem made the announcement that Couples was elected through the PGA Tour Ballot at the Tour Championship.
Couples will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at its Induction Ceremony on May 6 at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. The ceremony will once again kick off the Players Championship week. The timing is fitting for Couples, who won the 1984 and 1996 Players Championships.
"Fred Couples is one of those unique players whose talent and accomplishments are Hall-of-Fame caliber, as are his personality and popularity," said Finchem. "He has been a fan favorite for decades, thanks to not only his significant achievements on the golf course, but also because of his relatable, friendly demeanor that has connected him to fans around the world. Congratulations to Fred on this incredible honor."
Couples is one of the game's most popular players and revered for his naturally smooth golf swing. It carried him to the top of the game, when he won the 1992 Masters. That major championship victory also made him the first American player to reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He dominated in the early 1990s, winning PGA Tour Player of the Year and the Vardon Trophy in 1991 and '92.
He's also been a fixture for the U.S. in team competitions. He played on five Ryder Cup teams, helping the Americans to victories in 1991 and '93. Couples will also take part in next week's Ryder Cup competition at Medinah Country Club, where he will be an assistant captain for the U.S. squad.
Couples has been a large part of the American success at the Presidents Cup. He played on four U.S. Teams, with three emerging victorious. He also captained the winning U.S. Presidents Cup teams in 2009 and '11 and will once again lead the Americans at the '13 Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village, where he will attempt to become the first captain to post a 3-0 record (Jack Nicklaus was 2-1-1).
Couples has won five times internationally, and since turning 50 in 2009 has won eight times on the Champions Tour, including major titles in the 2011 Senior Players Championship and the 2012 Senior Open Championship.
"I am honored by my selection to the World Golf Hall of Fame," Couples said. "It is humbling to have received the votes and to be included in a group of such legendary players. I am looking forward to the induction ceremony next May during the Players Championship week. I am excited to have a place in the Hall of Fame with so many great players with whom I have competed and that I admire." (See below for a full transcript of the announcement and subsequent media interview at East Lake.)
The Hall of Fame will finalize the Class of 2013 by announcing inductees from the International Ballot and Veterans and Lifetime Achievement categories in the coming months.
"We are thrilled to welcome Fred into the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum," said Hall of Fame Chief Operating Officer Jack Peter. "He has a unique connection to fans and is one of the game's most beloved figures. We are excited to showcase his wonderful career at the 2013 induction ceremony and within the Hall of Fame."
For more information about the World Golf Hall of Fame, visit www.WorldGolfHallofFame.org.
Couples and Finchem met with reporters for the following announcement and interview at East Lake. Here's what transpired.
JACK PETER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Laura. I would first just like to thank Tom Clark and the staff for accommodating us today. It's always a treat to be back at East Lake for the Tour Championship by Coca Cola. It promises to be a fantastic finish to what's been a great FedExCup season. The Hall of Fame is also very well represented in the field this week with Phil and Ernie, so we like our chances. I also want to say a special hello and thank you to Tom Cousins and the East Lake Foundation for their continued and wonderful work they're doing here in the community. You can't say enough about it. I think that it's truly one of golf's greatest success stories, so congratulations to Tom and the group here. Now on to the business at hand. It's been a great year at the Hall of Fame. I'm not going to recap the entire year. We're still riding a bit of a high from our ceremony this past May. If you haven't seen it, the DVD is still available for purchase. But on to the business at hand.
We are here today to announce the results of the 2013 PGA Tour ballot. The induction ceremony is scheduled for Monday, May 6 and will once again kick off the Players Championship. The announcements concerning the international ballot as well as the lifetime achievement and veterans categories will be announced later this fall. At this time, I'd like to invite Commissioner Finchem to make the announcement.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Jack, and I'm particularly delighted today to announce that one of our most accomplished and popular players has been voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, as Jack mentioned, on the PGA Tour ballot. It gives me great pleasure to let you know today that Fred Couples will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2013 class in May in Sawgrass at St. Augustine.
Let me just - Fred is with us, but let me just mention that Fred's playing history is compelling. 15 times he's won on the PGA Tour, notably the 1992 Masters, as well as the 1984 and 1996 Players Championships. He's had eight wins in a short period of time on the Champions Tour, including the 2011 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship and this year's senior British Open. He's won five times overseas. Off the course he's handled himself always with great comportment. He's represented the United States on five Presidents Cup teams and Ryder Cup teams. In 2013, next year, he will captain the United States in the Presidents Cup for a third time. And next week he'll do some work as one of captain Davis Love's assistants in the Ryder Cup. Ladies and gentlemen, joining us from Rivera in Los Angeles and looking quite relaxed, Fred Couples.
FRED COUPLES: Thanks, Commissioner. What a great day for me. I got the call last week, and I thought it was something about the Presidents Cup. I did hear you say one thing that I guess I won a popularity vote here, because for the people who voted for me, I want to say thank you. But for the ones that didn't, I don't think you realize I have over 30 junior tournament wins in Seattle, Washington, which may have put me over the top here to be in obviously the Hall of Fame.
But to Jack Peters, thanks for all your help that you do in this. And yes, I have watched it. I watched last year's. I do not have the video, but there were some very funny people on there, and obviously to see Phil Mickelson become a Hall of Famer was truly fun, and now it will be my turn next May during the TPC week. But for everyone who votes for this thing, I'd like to say I fooled you, but it's been a long career, 31 years of playing. I don't know exactly the full criteria of becoming a Hall of Famer, but there are certainly some unbelievable ones, especially on the tour I play now, the Champions Tour, we have several of them.
So, again, for me, it's truly an honor, and I am going to go help Davis in the Ryder Cup next week, and then rest my back a little bit, and then get ready for next season or a little bit this season. But the call I got, Tim, last week was truly an honor, and I appreciate it.
JACK PETER: We'll now open it up for questions.
Q. You said you guess you won a popularity contest. Was there some question in your mind of whether you were worthy of a Hall of Fame spot?
FRED COUPLES: To be honest with you, I think it's been on the Golf Channel once in a while who they might think are the next ones up and coming and my name's been plastered on there before. But I've really never thought about it, to be honest. And then certainly when Tim called last week, I had a little bit of time to reminisce about - because I've been laying around resting my back for almost a month now. But the criteria, you know, I've won 15 times in a major and all that. But I think one of the things I've done well is played for a long time. Sometimes that is meaningless. I think when you get in the Hall of Fame, it's more about the finishing you've had, and I know a lot about the baseball Hall of Fame. I know a little bit about the football Hall of Fame, and the way they talk about some people not getting in and waiting a long time.
For me, at my age of 52, I think it's certainly a great honor and great timing, because it will push me to play a couple more years and see how I can play. But I never really thought about it. I joke and say popularity because people always ask me about my popularity. And I know I have a few people out there that I annoy, and I have a lot of people that like watching me play golf, and today is a great day for me. I hope a lot of people I don't want to say respect my game - but understand that to be in the Hall of Fame you've got to be a very, very good player. I don't consider myself to be a great player, but I'm a good player. For everyone who voted, I appreciate it.
Q. There are many, many standout moments and memories from your career, including one very obvious one, but what would you pick and why?
FRED COUPLES: Well, wow. That's a great question. I think what made me really a much better player was being on the Ryder Cup team and then losing a critical match. I think that time in my life I realized, by looking at these top players, what golf really meant. It was one week. So I would never be paired with Ray Floyd at that age in a US Open. I did play well a few times. I remember the 1982 PGA that Raymond had actually won. But I had never played with any of these top, top players for a couple of years. Then winning the TPC, I beat Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros, and Fuzzy was right there and a few other players. I knew that would help me as a player. But then being amongst all these great Ryder Cup players and veterans really pushed me to think that obviously this is what I want to do.
As we all know, I've taken a lot of time off from golf, and sometimes it's not my main goal. But a lot of it was to do other things besides play golf. But the one thing really was hooking up with the Watsons and the Floyds and Lanny Wadkins and learning a lot. And as we know, Ray Floyd I would call a mentor, and we'll miss his wife Maria who just passed away. The other gentleman, Tom Watson, I've looked up to my whole life. So even though he's not a whole lot older than I am, but that would really be the pushing point way back in the Ryder Cup at the Belfry.
Q. You said that you just mentioned that you don't consider yourself a great player. You've always been such a laid back guy. Do you consider yourself a great competitor? I think everyone talks about the drive within, but I'd like to hear it from you.
FRED COUPLES: Well, the easy answer would be to say, yeah, I'm a great competitor. I will say maybe this is a little twist to it. I love competing, and I was in a great era of playing with the young Phil Mickelsons and the older Greg Normans, and the prices, and we all play in our certain areas just like other athletes. While they're doing it, I don't know if Y.A. Tittle could throw the ball nowadays like any of these guys. But for me playing golf, you can play for a long, long, long time. I think the gist of it all for me to say the word great, I think I've been a very good player. I've played great at times. Sometimes you play good and you win. Sometimes you play great and you get beat.
But the object for me, really, was to play. And Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were extremely boring for me. They actually were. I really hated them. I'd probably speak for a lot of players, and not so much the Pro Ams which mean so much to the Tour. When Thursday came and I had an 8:00 o'clock tee time and I got to the course at 7:00, it was really still boring. But when it was 7:59 is when it all started for me. I was telling Bob Verdi that yesterday. You all have to have stories. But I've been telling this story since I got on Tour and became a better player, that I'm honest. I do get bored. I love to play golf, and when I get bored, I go away. But when you start throwing greatness around, it's just not a word that my buddy George Brett was a great baseball player. There are other people in the Hall of Fame that are maybe good players. But good is a good thing. I've been good at it for a long time, and I hope to continue to play a few more years.
Q. When Tim called, did you answer the call?
FRED COUPLES: I did, actually, surprisingly enough. I have even made the commissioner wait a couple times on calls. This was one I'm going to do an event with a couple of Tour players in early October, and that's what we were kind of talking about. At the very end, he said, oh, by the way I want to let you know you just got voted into the Hall of Fame. And it didn't - I mean, it's a little bit of an adjustment here to realize what he had said. But, yeah, I did answer the phone, but I think it took maybe three or four times to connect. I let Tim wait a little bit. He's no different than anyone else. Except he's our commissioner, and I should really watch what I say (smiling).
MODERATOR: Thank you, Fred. Congratulations again, and we'll see you next week at the Ryder Cup. Commissioner, Jack, thank you both.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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