NEW YORK – There was something strangely appropriate that on Wall Street - the heart of American wealth and privilege - the son of a Welsh farmer and a player who founded her high school golf team just for the chance to compete joined the game’s all-time greats.
It all must have seemed surreal for Ian Woosnam, who honed his unique game hitting balls in the family barn back home Wales, adjusting the height of a “tin” to match the trajectory of the club.
“I’d move this tin up and down. That’s the height I’d want to hit a 3-iron. So I’d move the tin to that height, and then I’d move it up for a wedge,” Woosnam said.
Woosnam – a 29-time winner on the European Tour and the 1991 Masters champion – was joined on Tuesday at the World Golf Hall of Fame class of 2017 induction ceremony by Meg Mallon, Davis Love III, Lorena Ochoa Reyes and the late Henry Longhurst, a columnist and television analyst.
While Love and Ochoa seemed destined for this night, as prodigies from an early age, the road to Hall wasn’t nearly as certain for Mallon and Woosnam.
Every member of golf’s Hall has a story worth telling, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to join the game’s most exclusive club. But there was something special about Mallon and Woosnam’s tales being told here at the tony Cipriani Wall Street.
Mallon’s mother, an accomplished tennis player, had to create a women’s golf team at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Detroit just to give her daughter a chance to play. Mallon walked on to the Ohio State women’s team and remained exceedingly humble throughout her career despite her ever-increasing success.
“Now, they have a junior varsity and varsity team [at Our Lady of Mercy] and it all traces back to what we started,” Mallon beamed with her familiar smile.
Mallon went on to win 18 LPGA Tour titles and four major championships. She played on eight Solheim Cup teams and was captain of the 2013 side.
Like Woosnam, Mallon’s path to the Hall of Fame was unorthodox. When she wasn’t allowed to use the practice range at her local club, she would chip into a brick wall at home. She would try to hit the bricks that were protruding from the wall so the ball would bounce back.
“That young girl stands in front of you humble, but bursting with pride,” an emotional Mallon said to finish her speech.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chi Chi Rodriguez, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, touched on the concept of humble beginnings as he discussed the devastation in Puerto Rico, which was battered by Hurricane Maria last week.
“We were so poor when we were kids. We can go back to being poor again and be OK,” Rodriguez said. “Man can endure things. It all depends on your upbringing. When you’re born poor, it’s a blessing.”
Rodriguez’s point seemed particularly valid when this group was welcomed into the Hall of Fame. Although the class of ’17 came from vastly different backgrounds, on Tuesday, they were all rich beyond their wildest dreams.