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World Golf Hall of Fame Amends Selection Process


On Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, an outside-the-ropes press conference took place. Jack Peter, the head of the World Golf Hall of Fame, outlined significant changes in the criteria and selection procedures for induction into the institution in St. Augustine, Fla.

The biggest amendment will be in the selection process. Before, ballots for the PGA Tour and international categories were largely voted on by media, similar to the baseball and pro football halls of fame.

The new protocol involves a new 20-person selection subcommittee reviewing all eligible male and female golfers. The group will then forward their recommendations to a new 16-person selection commission that will cast the final votes.

The selection subcommittee and selection commission will be comprised of current Hall of Fame members, former players, administrators and executives from the various golf tours, golf organizations and media. A candidate will need to gain 75 percent of the vote for membership into the hall.

"We believe it puts the decision-making of who gets into the Hall of Fame in the right hands," Peter said of the new commission system. "Individuals who know the history of the game, have a passion for the game, who know the players, who understand the qualities that make up a Hall of Famer."

In addition to Peter, on hand for the announcement were PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Hall of Fame members Arnold Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam.

Other amendments to the new selection process system are outlined in the transcript of the press conference below.

MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome everyone this morning to a special announcement on behalf of the World Golf Hall of Fame. We've got an esteemed crew of guests. We're going to go through, and each person will have an opportunity to speak. We're going to start off with Commissioner Finchem, and then go to Mr. Arnold Palmer, followed by Nancy Lopez, Mr. Gary Player, and then we have Annika Sorenstam and she'll also speak. And then we'll conclude with Mr. Jack Peters. I'd like to hand it off to Commissioner Finchem at this point.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Thank you for being here. Before I get into today's business, I would just like to start by thanking Arnold for his hospitality this week with the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour. And also MasterCard for their partnership in bringing this tournament forward in such style the last number of years. It gets better every year, and we look forward to a great finish today. I'm here speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors of the World Golf Foundation, which I'm sure most, if not all, of you are aware is made up of representation by all the major golf organizations. I just happen to be chairing this year as we rotate the chairmanship.

The World Golf Foundation oversees the activity of the First Tee, the Golf 20/20 and similar type grow the game programs and the Hall of Fame. Today's announcement relates to the Hall of Fame. As we look at the Hall of Fame we look at an institution that does two primary things for the game of golf, one, it rewards and tells the story of phenomenal records, three of those phenomenal stories are sitting up here with me and one is on the telephone. That's a great part of the sport. The other thing it's designed to do is captivate the attention of people by telling the story of what these incredible records have meant to the game and the unique personalities that conducted these records.

So as we look at those two objectives from time to time the board has asked that we review and the staff of the Hall of Fame, Jack Peter, review whether we're meeting those objectives. A process like that started a couple of years ago. Jack and his team went to work to evaluate every aspect of the Hall of Fame and a number of changes have been recommended to the board going forward. Today's announcement relates to one of those changes and that is the way in which the Hall of Famers are designated for inclusion and induction into the Hall of Fame. As many of you have reported on, we've been looking at that process very closely.

Today we're pleased to announce that we're implementing a selection process going forward, which will be governed by a 16 member Selection Commission. The Selection Commission will be responsible for electing individuals into the Hall. With each inductee needing at least 75 percent or 12 of the 16 votes of the vote to be inducted. The Selection Commission will be co chaired by four of our World Golf Hall of Fame members, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.

They will be joined on the commission by 12 others, who will be a mix of the World Golf Foundation board members and a number of at large seats. I think the information regarding the detail is in your packets, but Jack will cover that a little bit later, as well. Additionally in the process that will be a subcommittee made up of 20 individuals, including six Hall of Famers. That committee has been established to determine finalists for consideration by the selection committee.

Under this new process it will include four categories, somewhat different than we've had historically, through which an individual can gain admittance to the Hall. Those four categories, are, No. 1, Male Competitor, these are players of at least 40 years old with 15 or more wins on approved Tours or two victories among major championships.

Secondly, Female Competitor. This is available to players of at least 40 years old with 15 or more wins on approved Tours. And again, two victories among major championships. The last two categories are categories that we've had in the past. First of all the Veteran category. Veteran category is focused on recognizing a player who historically has had a significant career and a spectacular career, but whose career is concluded generally by 1975.

And finally, Lifetime Achievement. This category will continue to be focused on individuals who have contributed uniquely to the game of golf outside of the competitive arena, although, as you know, from in the past, some of those individuals, as well, had a competitive record.

The process will begin this spring with the selection subcommittee meeting to debate and discuss finalists in all four categories and produce finalists. That subcommittee is charged with presenting to the full selection committee the following: Five male candidates, five female candidates, at least three veterans and three in the Lifetime Achievement category, as well. This summer the commission will meet to discuss the merits of the finalists and vote. We would anticipate that the results of that vote would be released to the media and to the fans soon after that decision is made. Therefore, the Class of 2015 will be announced later this fall.

Finally, beginning with the 2015 event, the Induction Ceremony, previously held on an annual basis, will become a biennial celebration with the next ceremony taking place in 2017. This is the new selection process. We do anticipate additional changes with the Hall of Fame designed to integrate activity with our Hall of Fame members more effectively and also to more effectively reach out to fans around the globe and tell the story of what the Hall of Fame represents and why people should be interested in the great careers of our Hall of Fame inductees. With that announcement I'd like to ask Arnold to say a few words about the importance and history of our great game.

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I'm happy to be a part of this. And of course the new process in mind will set up the Hall of Fame for a long term success. Jack and his team have listened to the input. The system takes the unique nature of the sports into account and we will be take keeping the bar for induction of priority high. The Hall of Fame has done a wonderful job of serving their purpose. And these changes will continue to do so. And I'm honored to be co chair of the selection committee. And it will be a thrill to serve along Annika, Nancy and Gary.

What else do I want to say here? This is the 40th anniversary of the Hall of Fame and I was lucky enough to be first class of '74. And I'm looking forward to being a part of the process for selecting the Class of 2015. The induction ceremony in 2015 promises to be one of the best, going every other year will add even more prestige The Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup.

Once again, thrilled to be a part of this commission and looking forward to working with Jack and his team on the Class of 2015. Of course I think that the steps that have been made are very good and we are endorsing it wholeheartedly. And look forward to the future. Jack?

JACK PETER: Thank you.

NANCY LOPEZ: Good morning, I guess. This is really fun to be up here with these great players. And as I was sitting here I said I don't think I've been more nervous teeing off in the U.S. Open. This is a great honor for me to be co chair with Arnold and Gary and, of course. Annika.

The World Golf Hall of Fame means so much to so many, especially to players. The LPGA has always been an important part of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and these changes insure that that will continue. The women's game has a strong history from The Founders. I just came from The Founders event, and listening to the stories Of the Founders and the past history of golf is tremendous. And will continue through my generation into the players that are winning today.

I believe in the changes to the process because in the Female Competitor category keeps high the standard of induction to female members. The standard is important to the players who previously qualified and the 75 percent of the vote through the Selection Commission will maintain it. All 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.

So I'm really, really happy to be on this co chair committee, our selection committee, to be able to keep growing the World Golf Hall of Fame, and of course have always the best players, and the people that have contributed so much to golf, because it is an important place and when you see your name in there it's a great honor for any player that is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

GARY PLAYER: Well, may I just endorse the things that Arnold and Nancy have said. How pleased I am to be associated and have been associated with the Hall of Fame for a long time now. But also to have Nancy and Annika join Arnold and I, Nancy's always been one of my favorite lady pros, she's fantastic and loves the game. And I think they've made a wise choice.

I was at Pinehurst this morning. At 3:00 we got up and left to come here. I vividly remember when Arnold, Jack and I were inducted into the Hall of Fame, alongside who I thought was the greatest player who ever lived, Ben Hogan, and Sam Snead and Byron Nelson and I think Louise Suggs and Gene Sarazen, and they were the pictures on the wall. We looked a lot younger, I must say. But it brought back great memories. And you think where the Hall of Fame has gone since 1974. That was the first - we were the first inductees at that stage. And the building was originally started there. So they've made tremendous strides.

And I think what excites me is the International aspect. 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.

And 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.

I'd like to say to Jack and his committee, they've done a fantastic job. And Jack, by the time you retire, this will be really on its feet and you'll be able to sit back and relax and say I did a hang of a lot, which I have. You travel everywhere and meeting everybody, and I tell you we really appreciate what you do.

I think that it's a great idea to have it biennial, instead of every year. 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. And 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. I must congratulate everybody concerned for all the effort and hard work. We appreciate it very much indeed.

JACK PETER: So on behalf of the Hall of Fame I want to thank Commissioner Finchem and the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors for the opportunity to make these changes. It's been a great process and I think we've arrived really in a very good place. I especially want to thank Arnold, Annika, Nancy and Gary for being with us today and for agreeing to co chair the new Selection Commission. You've all been very supportive over the years and I look forward to working with each of you as we prepare for the Class of 2015.

I want to acknowledge and thank the other members of the commission and list out who is participating with us in this commission. In addition to the co chairs, George O'Grady, the Chief Executive of the European Tour; Mike Whan, the Commissioner of the LPGA; Pete Bevacqua, the Chief Executive Officer the PGA of America; Will Jones, the Executive Director of The Masters; Peter Dawson the Chief Executive of The R&A; and Mike Davis, the Executive Director of the United States Golf Association; and of course Tim Finchem, who is with us, the Commissioner of the PGA Tour.

Representing the media we have the chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, Derek Lawrenson. We have the President of the Golf Writers Association of America, Ron Sirak. And we have three at large seats representing the International Federation of PGA Tours: The Chairman of the Japan LPGA, Hiromi Kobayashi; the Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour, Selwyn Nathan; and the third at large seat will represent the media, the Past Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, John Hopkins.

So when the board asked for an International review last year, we felt it was imperative to engage the members of the Hall of Fame and solicit their feedback. We wanted to make sure they had a strong voice in the entire process, and we think we've accomplished this through the Selection Commission and the selection subcommittee. As we all know, golf is a very unique sport. That's what makes it the greatest game ever invented. It's very different from team sports like football or baseball. And as a result the pool of qualified candidates will always be smaller. And as we all know the World Golf Hall of Fame is very unique. We induct men. We induct women. We induct professionals, we induct amateurs. We induct non-competitors, and we do it all on a global playing field.

At the same time the game continues to grow around the world. So we had to weigh all of these factors. The most important goal was to devise a system that would continue to recognize the most worthy individuals. And we believe the commission based system does just that. We believe it puts the decision-making of who gets into the Hall of Fame in the right hands, individuals who know the history of the game, have a passion for the game, who know the players, who understand the qualities that make up a Hall of Famer. Everyone involved agreed that the 75 percent threshold for selection, along with the increase in the minimum criteria, was the right step.

Eliminating the PGA Tour and International ballots in favor of a men's and women's competitors category, was the way to acknowledge the International growth of the game. And it was also a way for us to continue to recognize all the great women who have played the game. And I want to thank the LPGA and Commissioner Whan for their endorsement of the new changes. Like Nancy said and hopefully Annika will be on the phone shortly, it will insure more deserving women are in the discussion, and will eventually be inducted.

So we're excited. We're excited to get this started this spring. The Commissioner covered the highlights of the process, including the selection subcommittee meeting later this spring and the commission meeting this summer, with announcements shortly thereafter. I want to again thank Commissioner Finchem, Arnold, Nancy, Annika and Gary for being here today. It's an exciting time for the Hall of Fame, and I want to thank all of you for being with us today, also.

Q. This is either for Jack or Tim. In reviewing the criteria, obviously you've made significant changes. But you haven't explained why or what the misgivings were of the failings of the previous for the changes. Secondly, it's clear that only three media representatives are involved in the commission to determine who gets go the Hall, wherein most Hall of Fames, specifically baseball and football, it's almost majority is the media. Could you explain why you made those changes?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I was against the changes. Just kidding (laughter).

JACK PETER: Alex, it's a good question. We looked at this deep and we looked at this wide and we looked at this from a variety of different angles. 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. And 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. The representation of the media through the President and Chairman of the AGW and GWAA and that third pick, if you will, with John Hopkins, will give the media substantial representation in the discussion of those 16 people moving forward.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: If I could just add to that, the board looked at a number of different ways to approach this from the standpoint of Jack and the folks who manage the Hall. But it wasn't done because there was something really broken with the other system. There isn't any right or wrong in these things, it's just that we're looking for the system that creates the most interest, that people look at and have a lot of - because they've recognized the leadership here by four Hall of Famers. The Hall of Famers are much more directly involved in that process, and we think that will translate to more interest in the results of the process as we go forward. Again, it's not like, okay, we are having problems, here. We liked the old system. But we like this one better.

Q. The minimum age of 40 seems to be the tipping point. That was one that came up during this process, as well. Was it ever discussed to maybe extend that to 45, 50 years old, and why did you stay with 40?

JACK PETER: It was discussed continuously, is the honest answer. And at the end of the day we felt the precedent we had set almost 15 years ago at the age of 40 was a good one. We are comfortable with members coming in with the age of 40 carrying the flag of the Hall of Fame throughout the rest of their career as Hall of Fame members, and we decided to leave it.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I hear you. They are unique in sports. How many sports are there when a player is an unbelievable world class player, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and yet he or she is playing golf professionally after 50, 55 years old, 60 years old. It's unique. And you weigh it back and forth, what's best. And I think what Jack said is exactly correct.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Good afternoon. I'm sorry about the technical issues. But I'm so pleased to be involved with this event, and I apologize for not being there in person. It's a great honor to be part of the selection committee, and obviously the co chair with Mr. Palmer, Mr. Player, and of course Nancy. I'd like to start by saying thank you to Commissioner Finchem, the Golf World Foundation Board and the Hall of Fame team for creating this new process.

I believe that induction it the Hall of Fame is one of golf's greatest honors, it's something I as a young girl dreamed about for a long time. And this process will certainly insure that this continues. As we all know, golf has a rich history and is now a global game, and is developing new stars all over the world. As golf grows in these new markets and with golf in the Olympics in 2016, I think this new process sets the Hall of Fame up to recognize the game stars no matter where they're from.

This process will also give the Hall of Fame the ability to recognize the men, women, U.S. based or International players as contributors. That is the reflection in the new male and female competitor categories. Consequently, as Nancy mentioned, this is great for women's golf. It will discuss more about women and will be debated, and ultimately will get more recognized through this process. Again, I'm excited to help broaden the Hall of Fame status and the field worldwide and be involved in getting more Hall of Fame members more engaged. I look forward to participate in the selection of the Class of 2015. Thank you again for having me and of course to be a part of this.

Q. The induction ceremony, itself, tried March, May, June, November, what's left? Any thoughts at this point in the timing, what time of year will the induction ceremony be?

GARY PLAYER: It's currently scheduled for May 4th, 2015, to set off the Players Championship.

Q. This is for Gary. Gary, you've been more involved in the Hall of Fame than just about anybody from the player standpoint and a member of the Hall of Fame. Just wondering what your overall thoughts are about the changes and how you personally will engage your fellow Hall of Famers and other players in the selection process to get more input and participation?

GARY PLAYER: Well, first of all, you've made a comparison, and I'm not very familiar with baseball and basketball, but we are in our infancy, really, compared with these other sports. And I think we've made mistakes. When people make a mistake you must be honest and say I make a mistake. You had a man like David Graham who won two major championships and won tournaments all over the world and he was ignored and not put into the system.

And I think when you've got hundreds of people voting, I don't think you can come to the right conclusion. Whereas, the committee and the people they've chosen now, it's an all around committee, but real professionals at it, and you've got media from overseas and here, as well. So I think now you're going to get the right people put into the Hall of Fame. If you look at Laureus, the Laureus Sporting Award, which is probably one of the very best organizations ever, they have all the leading sportsmen and sportswomen deciding who the sportsmen and sportswomen is of the year, because they really know. They are in the arena with them and they understand.

And I think they've got a committee now that's really able, and you'll find the true champions being inaugurated - inducted, excuse me. I must say I'm very excited and I think it's very good. Arnold and I are both getting a bit old, particularly Arnold (laughter), we always needled each other from day one. He'll come back with something in a minute, but I love that.

So I think we'll be off in two years, and two other people will come on, and they'll be off, and we'll keep getting fresh minds and fresh thoughts and we'll go from strength to strength. And for me, particularly, you look at a country, I've just come back from China four days ago, and you look at the insurgence of golf there. It's quite unbelievable what's taking place. I was in India the week before and the same thing is happening there. You've going to find so many champions coming from India and China. So the possibilities are incredible.

The two most remarkable things I've seen in my life was Tiger Woods winning the Grand Slam at 24. It's not possible, but he did it. The other thing that is not possible is a 14 year old boy from China playing to the Masters. I said to my wife, if he was my son, I would make him withdraw. He cannot break 90. At 14? Augusta? This tough, monster golf course, and he made the cut with an unjustified stroke of one penalty. So we can see what's going to happen in the game. It's going to be absolutely remarkable the things that are going to take place. And I think the Hall of Fame is now set up to adjust to what's taking place worldwide.

Q. Nancy, the LPGA had a set criteria, there were certain cards you had to punch. Having gone through this, I guess the biggest question is, is that going to create more opportunities for the women players? And the second one, on the major thing, because of the way the LPGA has always had majors that are not majors, and then majors become majors, and cease to become majors, how do you count major championships, i.e. yours at Kraft Nabisco before it became a major but it is a major to you, I know.

NANCY LOPEZ: And the Colgate European is, too, because I won that before it became a major. The thing about being if any Hall of Fame you set goals. And I think the golfers do that. And I think with the changes, that's important now, they really know what they need to shoot for.

I think the age of 40 as we spoke about that, when I got on the Tour the Hall of Fame criteria was very, very tough. You had to win 30 tournaments and two different majors. I kept winning the same major. I had to win 35, with one major, and then if you didn't have any majors, it was 40 wins. So it was very, very tough.

But as I did reach the criteria, the other thing was, as Gary was saying, you want to be inducted when you're still alive. And I know when I reached the criteria at that time the other criteria was you had to be on the Tour ten years. And I reached my criteria, before - I think it was eight years. I was really afraid I might die before they inducted me. So I think that's really important to be able to be inducted. But I think goal setting for players to get into any Hall of Fame, and now the World Golf Hall of Fame is very important, and would be for me, because I was a goal setter. I always wanted to accomplish more and more in golf. And I think now there's something there for people to shoot for in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I can only echo what Nancy was saying. This is certainly a dream come true to be part of the Hall of Fame. And I think that the LPGA Hall of Fame has been one of the toughest, and continues to be one of the toughest, Hall of Fame's to get in. I just think that women will be more recognized and to win 15 tournaments, two majors, that's an amazing feat in itself. I certainly support this criteria and I think now the LPGA will be working with the World Golf Hall of Fame, and these women's accomplishments will be recognized a little sooner.

Q. Tim, do you think having more Hall of Fame members being involved in the process will translate to more attendance at the ceremonies?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Well, it certainly won't hurt. I think the extent to which the Hall of Famers generally are excited about what's happening with the Hall and the process which Jack has been out and talked to a wide range of the current members, and that certainly seems to be the case. So I think that will play into more attendance. But I think there are other issues with attendance in terms of what happens over those couple of days and different things that can happen that would - that the folks that are members want to come and be a part of. And the ceremony, itself, is terrific and it's gotten so much better in the last few years. But I think around that we need to still do some additional things. Like I said earlier, we will be announcing some other initiatives over the next few months and hopefully that will help, as well.

Q. The group, this commission, that will now be deciding, are you concerned at all about potential conflict of interest of those individuals that are involved?

JACK PETER: The question was are we concerned about the conflict of interest on members of the commission. 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.

Q. Jack or Tim, the amateur successes that some players have doesn't seem to be dealt with in the criteria. I'm just wondering if that's something you may address down the way, U.S. Amateur victories and things of that nature as part of the criteria or will that not be addressed in determining if a player should get into the ballot or in fact if they'll get selected?

JACK PETER: Well, the amateur game is certainly to be recognized in this. And we talked a lot about the amateur game in this. But it is largely a professional golf Hall of Fame. That said, we want to do everything we can to recognize the great amateurs that either have played or are coming up through the system. And in our discussions we think that the two categories of veterans and lifetime certainly allow for that conversation for those individuals to come in through those avenues.

Q. Seems like in the majors you consider the four majors and the Players, but the U.S. Amateur, which a lot of people consider, and the man next to you, pretty sure, considered as a major, is not considered as in the category, is that something that may be addressed?

JACK PETER: Possibly. As we like to tell everyone, the Hall of Fame will never be finished. It is not cast in stone. Obviously you all know we've made a number of changes over the years to the process. We've changed the date of the induction ceremony, and clearly the announcement today is another step in that evolution. It's an ongoing dialogue that we hope to have with the commission, and stay tuned. But things aren't set in stone forever, as you know.

Q. Gary had mentioned earlier David Graham being overlooked as a potential the Hall of Fame candidate. I'm wondering Jack, or Tim, not to put you on the spot, but if there are other names that come to mind that the committee is going to look at immediately to say these ladies or gentlemen have been overlooked and might get some priority?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I think that when somebody has a great career and doesn't get in selfishly it sparks a lot of interest and debate selfishly that's kind of a good thing. When somebody gets in, somebody that shouldn't be in, it creates more interest. One of the things this process does, there will be a lot more focus and understanding of the process. So when announcement is made you're going to go up to Nancy and ask her, what was your thought process on that? And having these great players at the forefront, along with some of the key administrators in the game, I have to answer that it's a healthy thing. But I wouldn't want to engage in trying to go down and say, oh, yeah, I personally was worried about this player or I wish that so I don't want to go there. But I think the process will be positive in that regard.

JACK PETER: I think that it's a good question. And I think the initial meetings later this spring with the selection subcommittee, all of those names, and I am not going to go down the list of them, all of those names will come back into play, into consideration, and into discussion, with a fresh set of eyes, with a new structure. So I think we have a phrase at the Hall of Fame: It's not no, it's not yet. So stay tuned.

MODERATOR: Thank each of our guests for being here and all the media.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.