Sometimes Jane Blalock is introduced at functions and clinics as an LPGA Hall of Famer.
It’s awkward for her, because she isn’t.
“You just sort of let it go,” Blalock told GolfChannel.com.
It’s that name, Blalock. A lot of people hear that name and instantly associate it with women’s golf, with winning golf, with dominant golf. She did, after all, win 24 times in the '70s. She was Rookie of the Year, once made a staggering 299 cuts in a row and won the very first Dinah Shore, before it was designated as a major championship.
A lot of people just assume she’s an LPGA Hall of Famer.
Other people, those who followed the women’s game closely in the '70s, hear that name and think of something else. They think of the accusations that Blalock took liberties marking her ball on greens, claims that she improved her lies around spike marks in the '72 season. They think of the player petition that got her suspended that year. They think of her lawsuit, the temporary injunction that allowed her to keep playing and then the justice system’s ultimate ruling that the LPGA was in violation of antitrust. They think of the confusing, unresolved nature of the entire controversy and how it changed the women’s game. The tour hired its first commissioner in its wake.
Golf’s power brokers will likely be thinking a lot about Blalock again and evaluating what she really meant to the game.
At 68 now, Blalock will tell you that she wishes she were an LPGA Hall of Famer. She will tell you, not intending to be immodest, that she is proud of her career and believes it is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
With Sunday’s news that the World Golf Hall of Fame is creating new criteria for the induction of women, Blalock moves up in any line of players waiting to be enshrined there.
“It would be dishonest not to say it would be the ultimate honor,” says Blalock, now a successful business woman in Boston who runs her own sports management company, JBC Golf.
Does she deserve to be a Hall of Famer? It’s a question the World Golf Hall of Fame is sure to ask with new relevance.
“Yes,” Blalock said. “I’ve looked in the mirror and asked myself that question.
“Did I dominate for a period of time? Yes. Did I have a great impact on the game? Yes. I had great support, great galleries. I won a lot of tournaments. If I look at whether I’ve accomplished things that are significant, the answer’s yes.”
This is a place Blalock has been before, though.
To qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame back when Blalock retired in 1985, a woman had to have won 30 tour titles with two of them being major championships, or 35 tour titles with one being a major, or 40 tour titles without a major.
Blalock retired with 27 tour titles – 29 if you count team events – none of them majors.
In 1999, the LPGA changed its Hall of Fame criteria to a points system that still stands today. A player needs 27 points to be inducted in the Hall of Fame but must also have won a major championship or Rolex Player of the Year Award or Vare Trophy. A player gets one point for a tour title, two points for a major championship, one point for Rolex Player of the Year and one point for the Vare Trophy.
Blalock had the 27 points required, but she didn’t have the major or POY Award or Vare Trophy.
Still, with that new points system, the LPGA also set up a Veterans Committee to examine the worthiness of important players like Blalock, who didn’t meet all the criteria.
The LPGA Hall of Fame’s Veteran's Committee inducted Judy Rankin and Donna Caponi.
Blalock isn’t sure if the committee will ever admit her.
“I have no idea,” she said. “Would that be a wonderful thing? Absolutely, but I can’t dwell on it, or worry about it, because I think it would distract me from the other good things I’m trying to do.”
Blalock’s relationship with the tour is healthy and active. She’s the CEO of the Legends Tour, the women’s version of the Champions Tour. She also runs the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women. Back when the Masters filed suit against the LPGA for starting the “Women’s Masters,” the LPGA asked Blalock to testify for the tour, and she did.
But all these years later, hard feelings toward her still linger, Blalock knows.
“I’m sure there are a few that would not support my going into the Hall of Fame,” Blalock said. “I’m sure there are those, the old guard, that still hold a grudge, for all the wrong reasons, from 40 years ago. There’s ignorance about what happened. I say that in people not knowing the truth. It’s a sad situation, but it’s reality.”
Blalock denies the accusations against her almost 42 years after they were made.
“I filed suit immediately because they were wrong,” she says. “It was a very unpleasant time. It was erroneous. It was like a kangaroo court. The stories about it got bigger and bigger. There was nothing ever to really back up the accusation.”
There’s no denying Blalock made a major impact on the game. It’s why so many people think she’s a Hall of Famer. The ultimate measure of her career, however, is arriving at a new doorstep, before a new panel that will evaluate whether she’s a Hall of Famer.
“I couldn’t have played any harder or any better,” Blalock said. “I look in the mirror and feel really good about my career and everything I gave to it and the difference I made in the game.”
The World Golf Hall of Fame will have to look for itself now.