BET­TER LATE THAN NEVER

Our ed­i­tor-at-large casts an eye back on Ian Woos­nam’s im­pres­sive ca­reer and ex­plains why his place in the World Golf Hall of Fame is jus­ti­fied

Golf Monthly - - Gm Promotion Liam Dan Jezz Peter -

t’s al­ways good to see a big wrong righted and so it came to pass when Ian Woos­nam was fi­nally voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. About time.

That’s not only my opin­ion, it’s Woosie’s. For quite a while now, the Welsh­man has ea­gerly looked up to see who has been elected to be in­ducted at the grand place just out­side St Au­gus­tine in Florida. And for a quite a while, he has tossed his pa­per aside with a mix­ture of dis­ap­point­ment, con­fu­sion and some le­git­i­mate dis­gust.

Last time I looked, there were 149 heroic mem­bers of this par­tic­u­lar Hall of Fame. That Ian Harold Woos­nam has not been among this honoured posse of sig­nif­i­cant play­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors and jour­nal­ists has been an on­go­ing mys­tery. Was it, some of us won­dered, some­thing he had said?

For nearly 20 years I was on the vot­ing panel and for a lot of those years I filled in Ian’s name when asked to sup­ply a cou­ple of rec­om­men­da­tions. Maybe it was some­thing I said. What­ever the rea­son, how­ever, the wee man never came out of the hat to be in­ducted, praised, ap­plauded and have his face pre­served for eter­nity – or the next decade, whichever comes first – in one of the weird, cop­per-coloured face plaques that line the hall’s walls.

It seemed ex­tra­or­di­nary that a bloke who had won The Masters and some 51 other pro events, who had suc­cess­fully skip­pered a Euro­pean team in the 2006 Ry­der Cup and who was World No.1 for the best part of a year in the early 90s was con­sis­tently over­looked while oth­ers got the nod, some of them en­cour­ag­ing on­look­ers to won­der, “Re­ally? I mean re­ally?”

While I can’t see any­one who does not de­serve to be ap­plauded among that long list of 149 alumni, I can no­tice quite a few who should not have been ahead of the 5ft 4 ½ in Welsh­man. “Don’t for­get the half inch!” he would ad­vise ev­ery time his height came up. By the way, it was al­ways ad­vis­able to heed such sug­ges­tions be­cause Ian could be the feisti­est of men if he felt he had been slighted by any­one. As we all know, half an inch can of­ten be the dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure in many ar­eas of life.

His de­sire to en­ter the Hall of Fame was not just down to any sort of per­sonal van­ity but also car­ried the im­por­tant ad­den­dum that such recog­ni­tion brought with it play­ing rights on the Cham­pi­ons Tour, which in turn is the best pen­sion plan any­one in golf has come up with for our age­ing heroes. Now 58 and a win­ner on this cir­cuit last year, he doesn’t need this ben­e­fit any more but it would have been nice to have had it gift-wrapped sev­eral years ago.

Still, bet­ter late than never. Rest as­sured, Woosie will stand as tall as he can when he makes his ac­cep­tance speech in Florida next year along­side Davis Love, Meg Mal­lon and Lorena Ochoa. And he can take con­so­la­tion on the late­ness of his call-up to this ros­ter of the sig­nif­i­cantly fa­mous when he lis­tens to who­ever speaks on be­half of the re­main­ing 2016 in­ductee, Henry Longhurst. The famed jour­nal­ist and BBC com­men­ta­tor died 38 years ago.

What is for cer­tain is that Woos­nam may re­flect on a life well lived as well as a ca­reer that marked him out as a very spe­cial player in­deed. It was both his good luck and his mis­for­tune to be born in the same 12-month span that also brought us Seve Balles­teros, Nick Faldo, Bern­hard Langer and Sandy Lyle.

Woos­nam is the youngest of this sen­sa­tional quin­tet, ar­riv­ing in Oswestry on March 2, 1958 and just a few weeks af­ter Lyle, who was born 29 miles up the road in Shrews­bury. The pair spent much of their teenage years bat­tling on golf cour­ses, a series of en­coun­ters that ce­mented a last­ing friend­ship be­tween them as they made their way into the global con­scious­ness.

It was per­haps in­evitable that Woosie would be re­quired to play the role of Ringo when this Fab Five be­gan steal­ing the head­lines, but then he had been the one who strug­gled most at the be­gin­ning to make sense of be­com­ing a pro golfer, sub­sist­ing on baked beans as he wan­dered Europe in a camper van try­ing to se­cure his player’s card.

He could have given up. A more sen­si­tive, less de­ter­mined soul would have given up but he per­se­vered, dis­play­ing the stub­born­ness and se­ri­ous self-be­lief that has been at the core of his even­tual suc­cess.

When the news came through dur­ing a Scot­tish Open at Gle­nea­gles in 1991 that he had made top spot in the rank­ings, he in­vited a few of us to join him for a cel­e­bra­tory chat in the bar – a con­ver­sa­tion that fo­cused al­most en­tirely on or­der­ing pints of Guin­ness. No won­der he was known by then not as a poor man’s Ringo but as a pop­u­lar Peo­ple’s Cham­pion. En­joy the day, Ian, you de­serve it.

“He in­vited a few of us to join him for a cel­e­bra­tory chat in the bar – a con­ver­sa­tion that fo­cused al­most en­tirely on or­der­ing pints of Guin­ness”

Bill El­liott is Golf Monthly’s ed­i­tor-at-large and Golf Am­bas­sador for Prostate Can­cer UK

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