The King and I are smiling out from a cherished photograph in a beautiful frame that hangs above my computer. It was snapped a few years ago during a discussion I had with Arnold Palmer when the Royal Canadian Golf Association celebrated his win at the 1955 Canadian Open a few years ago.
Like countless others, I recognize the contributions that the King made over his storied career in turning golf into a major league sport if it wasn’t already thanks to his charisma and television presence, not to mention his success.
Having said that, I cringed with a recent rumour that Palmer was about to be inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Thankfully, saner heads prevailed.
It isn’t a new rumour, but the latest installment came shortly after this country celebrated the accomplishments of native Canadians at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and just a couple of months after the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada got ripped for honouring Gary Player with a lifetime achievement award.
As it was with Player, nobody wants to be perceived as being the dark cloud over an all-time great such as Palmer, but as mentioned above, the RCGA honoured him a few years ago and a statue was unveiled at Toronto’s Weston Golf and Country Club on the 50th anniversary of his Canadian Open win.
Those are nice honours for somebody whose accomplishments are definitely global in nature, but not necessarily zeroed in on this country, where Palmer also won a Canadian PGA Championship.
A year ago, the decision to put Mike Weir into the hall was criticized for being premature. If the Palmer nomination went through, it would seem like a desperate attempt to induct a marquee name from outside of Canada.
The Palmer induction could possibly be a debate for the future, but this year, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame stayed on course with the commendable selections of Graham Cooke, Ben Kern and Brent Franklin as this year’s inductees.
Cooke, who has won seven national mid-Amateur titles and four Canadian Senior titles, will be inducted as a player although he is also renowned as a golf course architect.
Also being inducted as a player is Franklin, who won six consecutive national titles, the first five being of the amateur variety including the 1983 and ’84 junior crowns before taking three consecutive amateur crowns and the 1988 Canadian PGA Championship.
The late Ben Kern will go in as a builder after organizing the first International Teaching and Coaching Symposium that brought world-renowned instructors to Canada in 1990. Kern, who also served on the Canadian PGA board of directors and coordinated its teaching manual, also helped lay the groundwork for what is now the Future Links program.
Cooke is still active, but Franklin and Kern were far enough removed from the spotlight that their names could have faded into history without the proper recognition of their efforts.
Recognizing the contributions of amateurs and builders is of primary important for the Hall of Fame, rather than importing Americans unless they’ve made a direct impact on the game here as Chicago-born Dick Grimm did in his days of building the Canadian Open into one of the premier events on the PGA Tour.