Hall of Fame needs separate wing for golf's ultimates

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ATLANTA – There was mild outrage in some circles when it was announced Wednesday that Fred Couples will become the newest inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Not from me. I voted for the guy. In my opinion, Freddie's impact on the game transcended his statistical record. His presence brought more fans to tournaments and in turn helped to grow the game.

But I can understand the other side, too. Couples has 15 wins and one major title. His buddy, Davis Love III, has 20 wins and a major, but hasn't been voted in yet. If you look solely at the numbers, the guy nicknamed “Boom Boom” may have needed a little more bang-bang to be a no-brainer.

All of which leads to the crux of the argument for those dissenters. Their contention is that Couples doesn't belong amongst the likes of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.

So here's my idea: Don't put 'em together.

No, I'm not suggesting stripping Couples of the honor before he's even inducted. I'm proposing that others be elevated to another level.

Allow me to present … The Legends Wing of the World Golf Hall of Fame. 

What would it be? Exactly what it sounds like. While the Hall of Fame is reserved for the best of the best, the Legends Wing would be home to the best of the best of the best. In golf terms, it would separate the game’s all-time greats into an A flight and a B flight.

“We’ve had different ideas of how to reorganize and recreate story ideas,” said Jack Peter, COO of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “But nothing quite like that.”

Well, it’s time. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The game’s all-time greats no longer have to suffer in the company of menial underachievers with a meager two or three major titles to their names.

The fans are afforded an opportunity to celebrate these legends all over again, not only figuratively but literally within the confines of the museum.

The HOF itself becomes more relevant and – dare I say it – even groundbreaking, perhaps serving as a forerunner for similar separation in the halls of other sports.

“One of the immediate questions I have is the separation,” Peter explains when posed the idea. “I don’t know how you separate Hall of Fame members from Hall of Fame members. It gets back to the conversations we’ve always had. How do you compare eras? Was it harder? Easier? More difficult to achieve victories? It would be an interesting exercise to bat that around.”

Therein lies the best part of this entire idea. It would inspire debate amongst the masses of golf fans worldwide.

Let’s say the inaugural class features a foursome of legends – golf’s edition of Mount Rushmore, if you will. Who gets the call? Nicklaus? Hogan? Jones? Could Tiger Woods skip past the regular HOF and go straight into the Legends Wing? Or would we need to give a nod to an original like Old Tom Morris instead?

It would serve as an endless source of conjecture and examination in 19th holes everywhere.

And isn’t that exactly the purpose of a Hall of Fame? It should honor those who were the best in their field, but also provide a forum in which the rest of can celebrate their careers and scrutinize their place in history.

Does Gene Sarazen get through the doors into the Legends Wing? How about Billy Casper? Lee Trevino? You want some real adamant debates? Here’s one more name to ponder: Phil Mickelson.

Of course, I’m just the idea man. I don’t deal in logistical issues. As Peter points out, it would be difficult to procure the funding for such a project and create space within the current museum.

Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy. It will be worth it, though.

Just think: Arnold Palmer could be part of a “re-induction” ceremony. Gary Player could hold court when he’s part of a similar process.

The game of golf does such an excellent job of celebrating its heroes and remembering their place in history. This would be one more way of continuing that tradition.