Just a few minutes after 8 a.m. today, the World Golf Hall of Fame announced its incoming class, a group that will be formally inducted at St. Andrews during the 2015 Open Championship. The new inductees are Mark O’Meara, who won two majors and Player of the Year honors in 1998; Dame Laura Davies, winner of four majors and more than 70 worldwide titles who is still two points shy of qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame; David Graham, a two-time major champion with 20 worldwide wins, and architect A.W. Tillinghast, who designed Baltusrol and Winged Foot among others.
This was the first class of inductees chosen by the newly formed Hall of Fame Selection Committee, a mix of people within the game, including co-chairs Arnold Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Annika Sörenstam. It is also the first that will be formally inducted away from the Hall itself, in this case at the University of St. Andrews where Palmer, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros (among others) have been awarded honorary degrees.
“It’s an incredible and unexpected honor,” O’Meara said.
He was driving near the Galleria in Houston, on his way to pick up something for his wife, when he saw PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem’s name pop up on his phone.
“I almost let it go to voicemail,” he said. But he had an inkling that it might be about the Hall so he answered.
“After Tim told me, I pulled my car over and gathered myself. Then I called my wife and said, ‘I have some good news but I don’t want to tell you over the phone. I’ll be home in a few minutes.’”
Mrs. O’Meara nearly jumped through the roof when she heard. “Obviously, we’re all very excited because I think this validates your accomplishments over an entire career.”
Davies also got a call from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan on the same week that she went to Buckingham Palace to receive her medal and official ordination as a British Dame.
“I put the two (honors) on the same level,” Davies said. “They’re both indescribable really.”
And while all of the living inductees were understandably humbled, the man with perhaps the deepest appreciation was Graham, one of the greatest ballstrikers of an era replete with legends and one of the most often overlooked major winners. He won the 1979 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in a playoff with Ben Crenshaw where he said, “The only person pulling for me was my wife.” Then he won the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion, shooting a final-round 67 that is considered one of the greatest closing efforts in U.S. Open history.
“Ben Hogan called me afterward to tell me well done,” Graham said of that historic round. “So that’s when I knew it was something special.”
Graham also thanked Palmer and Nicklaus for, in his words, “really being in my corner,” throughout his career.
The final inductee, Tillinghast, passed away in 1942. No one from the Hall had contacted any of his heirs before the announcement, but the work he did at San Francisco Golf Club alone should have gotten Tilly into the Hall a long time ago.
Induction will take place the Monday of Open Championship week 2015 in the village of St. Andrews, a bucket-list spot for any serious fan of the game.