I haven’t talk to him personally since this year’s Canadian Golf Hall of Fame inductees were announced last week, but by all accounts, Dick Zokol was magnanimous about not being included in the Class of 2010.
Zokol is known to have very strong opinions about the way golf should be run in this country, but having said that, he is also a classy dude with a sense of humour and a strong focus right now on Sagebrush, the new British Columbia course he’s involved with that, by all accounts I’ve heard, is incredible.
Not all were as laid-back as Zokol about him not going in this year. I was worried about the blood pressure of media colleague Robert Thompson who went over the top after the announcement:
“I wonder who Richard has pissed off at the ultra-political HOF and the RCGA. After all, he had two PGA Tour wins, was a long-time PGA Tour pro, led the NCAA champion BYU team, and won a Canadian Amateur. And this is the organization that kept Moe Norman out of its HOF for a long period of time before begrudgingly admitting him. Zokol has been outspoken — often about the RCGA — so I wonder if that keeps the door shut for him.”
If Zokol is concerned, and he probably has other things on his mind these days, he should be confident in the fact that he will be named sometime soon, probably in the next couple of years.
As for Thompson, he and I have sparred regularly in good humour about Hall of Fame selections, most recently the induction of Mike Weir.
It’s not that Thompson felt Weir didn’t belong, just that it seemed premature with some potentially good years ahead in his career while I felt Weir’s selection illustrated his incredible impact on the game in Canada, which makes him exceptional.
The positive thing about such debate is that people care about who is being recognized for their contributions to Canadian golf. I don’t know of any Hall of Fame in any sport that doesn’t cause controversy about who’s going in or who isn’t going in whenever a group of inductees is named.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, or any provincial golf hall of fame, often finds themselves in awkward positions. While most people automatically think of tour pros and former tour pros such as Weir or Zokol for induction, they must also consider amateurs and builders of the game.
That’s what I liked about this year’s inductees into the Canadian hall and two of them, Brent Franklin and the late Ben Kern, could just have easily slipped through the cracks if they didn’t go in this year. Graham Cooke, the other 2010 inductee, is still active as a player and course designer.
Mind you, Kern did play on the PGA Tour, but his biggest achievements were realized behind the scenes with his work as a club professional, a member of the Canadian PGA and a promoter of junior golf programs.
All three of this year’s inductees are deserving and thankfully, Franklin and Kern didn’t get overlooked, but that possibility illustrates the importance of the golf industry getting involved in nominating potential inductees for their contributions, either to the provincial or national halls of fame.
A tour pro is obvious as a candidate, but those working within the industry often see the contributions of unheralded people who may deserve consideration, not only for hall of fame induction but other honours as well.
That’s why I was particularly pleased to see an innovator and administrator such as George Clifton inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame last year.
With halls of fame, each has its own nomination process that is easily attainable. With the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, they may deem somebody’s impact as being more regional in nature than national.
There will always be people who disagree with you, but as frustrating as it may get, consideration for such an honour for the individual starts with the nomination. It’s like a lottery ticket – you don’t win a cool million unless you buy the ticket first.
For that reason, the golf industry, with its ability to spot enormous contributions away from the spotlight, is perfectly suited to start the process for people who deserve such an honour.