Awaiting Golf Hall of Famers

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World Golf Hall of FameThe next batch of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame will be revealed Thursday, and the only hint from headquarters is that the four newest members will attend the announcement in Savannah, Ga.
 
That rules out Craig Wood, Henry Picard and Denny Shute.
 
And that doesn't seem right.
 
Wood (1901-1968) might have been the Greg Norman of his generation, minus the yacht and the swagger. Known by his peers as the 'Blond Bomber,' he won 20 times on the PGA Tour and in 1941 captured two majors, the Masters and U.S. Open, after years of close calls and bad luck.
 
Wood was the first player to be runner-up in all four majors, including at Augusta National in 1935, when he was the victim of golf's greatest shot. Gene Sarazen holed a 4-wood from the 15th fairway for double eagle, then beat Wood in a 36-hole playoff the next day.
 
Picard (1907-1997) had 28 victories on the PGA Tour, including the 1938 Masters and the 1939 PGA Championship. He also was an excellent teacher who spurred Ben Hogan on to greatness by helping eliminate his hook.
 
Shute (1904-1973) for years was the answer to a trivia question - the last player to win consecutive PGA Championships - until Tiger Woods repeated in 2000. Shute not only won the PGA in 1936-37, he counts the 1933 British Open at St. Andrews among his 15 victories, and he played on three Ryder Cup teams.
 
'Those things are so long ago that modern people don't think anything about it,' 92-year-old Byron Nelson said Monday from his home in Texas. 'Golf has become so big. They just don't look back that far.'
 
Nelson played with them all.
 
He beat Shute and Wood in a playoff to win the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia Country Club.
 
And he doesn't understand why they are not in the Hall of Fame.
 
'They'll probably be put in one of these days,' Nelson said. 'They're a little slow about it.'
 
Those are only three names that continue to slip through the cracks as the World Golf Hall of Fame tries to move forward and backward at the same time.
 
Indeed, it can be a slow process.
 
'The dichotomy of new people being nominated and reconciling older players has been a challenge,' said Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
'We want to be inclusive. But we also don't want to open the floodgates.'
 
Golf's first Hall of Fame opened in 1974 at Pinehurst. When no one showed up because hardly anyone could find it, the Hall found a second home in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1998 and has been trying to catch up ever since.
 
Annika Sorenstam's induction in October brought membership to 100, and there is a sense it should be larger.
 
Baseball has 258 members of the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
 
Football has 221 at Canton.
 
The trick for golf is figuring out how to recognize the past without forgetting the present.
 
A few years ago, former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and former Royal & Ancient secretary Michael Bonallack were selected through Lifetime Achievement. Still missing from the Hall of Fame are the likes of golf course architect Alister MacKenzie and equipment pioneer Ely Callaway.
 
Those who have come in through the Veteran's Category in recent years include Tommy Bolt, a curious choice since he won 15 times with only one major championship. The Hall of Fame does not include Willie Park Sr., who won the first British Open in 1860 and wound up with four Open titles.
 
Park is the only player with four majors not in the Hall of Fame.
 
Even the PGA Tour and international ballots - voted on by golf writers, Hall of Famers, the board of directors and an advisory panel - make for some difficult choices.
 
Relatively fresh faces who have come up short of the 65 percent of the vote needed to be elected include Curtis Strange, Tom Kite and Larry Nelson. Newcomers on the ballot this year include Davis Love III and Vijay Singh.
 
They are mixed in with Wood, Picard, Shute, Ken Venturi and Doug Ford, whose careers are vague memories to most. Some people make fun of Ford for showing up at the Masters to play one round (if that) and collect $5,000, but his record is no joke: the '55 PGA Championship, '57 Masters, 19 victories on tour, four Ryder Cup teams.
 
Another element unlike other sports is that golfers are eligible for election while still competing. Bernhard Langer was inducted two years ago. He was tied for the lead briefly in the final round of the Masters last week.
 
'It's not as simple as baseball, where you're retired for five years,' Peter said.
 
Finding a solution is not simple.
 
Peter said the board met last week and assembled a committee to review an election process created only 10 years ago. The Hall of Fame, much like the game it represents, is constantly evolving.
 
'We're trying to build Cooperstown,' Peter said.
 
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