GREET­INGS from St. An­drews and the Se­nior Open Cham­pi­onship. Look­ing out from the me­dia cen­tre to the right of the 1st fair­way on the Old Course, I can see a small tent. On the front it reads “World Golf Hall of Fame.” The ac­tual hall is nowhere near the East Neuk of Fife of course. It is in St. Augustine, Florida, not coin­ci­den­tally close to the head­quar­ters of the PGA Tour along the road in Ponte Ve­dra.

If you’re like me, you’ve al­ways found Amer­ica’s love for the “Hall of Fame” a wee bit dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend. Yes, the New World’s undy­ing ado­ra­tion for the cult of even mi­nor-league celebrity goes some way to ex­plain­ing this strange phe­nom­e­non. But when some­thing called the “In­sur­ance Hall of Fame” in Alabama can draw more than 250,000 vis­i­tors in a sin­gle year – I kid you not – you have to won­der what is go­ing on over there. What’s next? A hall of fame for halls of fame?

Which is not to say that golf’s hall has noth­ing much to com­mend it. It does. For fans of all shapes and sizes – and na­tion­al­i­ties – it is a fas­ci­nat­ing place, a bril­liant blend of mem­o­ra­bilia and an­cient arte­facts that ap­pro­pri­ately and rev­er­en­tially cel­e­brates the great­est game of all. If you are, say, a Ben Ho­gan fan, it is more than worth a visit. That’s the good news. Sadly, the same level of sat­is­fac­tion does not ex­tend to the ridicu­lously ar­bi­trary list of cri­te­ria used to de­ter­mine who is and who isn’t granted en­try to the hal­lowed premises. Most laugh­able is that, not so long ago, the vot­ing sys­tem had two sep­a­rate sec­tions. Be­lieve it or not, the WORLD Golf Hall of Fame had some­thing called an “IN­TER­NA­TIONAL bal­lot” that sat along­side the “PGA Tour” equiv­a­lent. I mean re­ally.

Sadly then, the Hall of Fame is lit­tle more than a PGA Tour pup­pet. Over the years that fact has be­come in­creas­ingly clear as a se­ries of ever more egre­gious omis­sions and in­clu­sions have pointed to an al­most com­plete ig­no­rance of any­one and ev­ery­one not able to call Sam, “Un­cle.” Anom­alies are ev­ery­where, al­beit things have im­proved – slightly – over the past few years.

An ex­am­ple. Back in the days be­fore this jaded cor­re­spon­dent grew tired of the US-cen­tric bias within the Hall of Fame vot­ing sys­tem, I rou­tinely ticked the box next to the name of the leg­endary Aus­tralian, Nor­man Von Nida. Quite apart from his con­sid­er­able and im­pres­sive play­ing ca­reer – three Aussie Opens, four Aussie PGAs, twice third in the Open Cham­pi­onship and many other ti­tles at home and abroad – the “Von” made an im­mense con­tri­bu­tion to the game in his na­tive land and beyond. So many of his younger com­pa­tri­ots ben­e­fit­ted hugely from his ex­pe­ri­ence, ad­vice and gen­eral largesse.

But Von Nida is not in the Hall. And he never will be. The list of “lu­mi­nar­ies” on the cur­rent se­lec­tion com­mit­tees re­veals only a few who will have heard of him, never mind own­ing the abil­ity to re­gale the room with even one il­lus­tra­tive anec­dote from his colour­ful life.

An­other ex­am­ple. Only last year Ian Woos­nam was granted a long-over­due ad­mis­sion to the hall. In his time, Woosie won a ma­jor cham­pi­onship and was for 50 weeks ranked the best player in the world. He is also one of only three men to have won on the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons, Euro­pean Tour and Euro­pean Se­nior Tour and has won more tour events around the world than any other male British golfer.

That’s a pretty chunky record. But al­ready in the hall wait­ing for the wee Welsh­man were the likes of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush (the first one), Chi Chi Ro­driguez, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Euro­pean Tour, Ken Schofield. I mean re­ally (2).

Any­way, I di­gress. My main point here is one of ge­o­graph­i­cal point-miss­ing. Is it not ob­vi­ous to any­one and ev­ery­one that the Hall of Fame is in en­tirely the wrong place? Es­pe­cially when where it should be is so ap­par­ent – not far from where I cur­rently sit. One of the knocks against the build­ing in Florida is that a dis­ap­point­ing num­ber of peo­ple ac­tu­ally visit. That would not be the case in St. An­drews, a place of pilgrimage for many tens of thou­sands of golfers ev­ery year. Plus, if we are to have a Hall of Fame, how can there pos­si­bly be a more ap­pro­pri­ate place than the Home of Golf?

But then, I shake my head. Even in the face of such ir­refutable logic, the pow­ers-that-be in the never-never land that is the PGA Tour are un­likely to ac­knowl­edge their propen­sity for parochial par­ti­san­ship. No chance. It is a colo­nial char­ac­ter­is­tic even greater than my own au­da­ciously ap­par­ent ap­ti­tude for al­lit­er­a­tion.


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