ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Just about the only thing Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie had in common was a golf swing good enough to trust for a lifetime.
Couples became the first American to reach No. 1 in the world and won the Masters by a blade of grass that kept his ball from trickling into Rae’s Creek. Montgomerie found fame on the European Tour, where he won the Order of Merit a record seven times in a row, though he never won a major, a glaring hole in his credentials.
Couples sauntered down the fairways, the essence of cool. Montgomerie walked with his head down, so intense he never looked like he was having much fun.
They shared the stage Monday night when both were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with three others in the Class of 2013. The others were former U.S. Open champion and broadcaster Ken Venturi, former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield and two-time British Open champion and architect Willie Park Jr.
That brings the Hall of Fame to 146 members.
Couples talked about his childhood in Seattle, when his mother gave him $5 a day in the summer to play at Jefferson Park. He couldn’t afford to buy a glove, and Couples still plays without one. He got choked up when he mentioned watching a PGA Tour player to put on a clinic in town when Couples was 14.
“I wasn’t really the person who said, `That’s what I want to do, I’m going to be a PGA Tour player.’ But I knew I wanted to really, really get involved in golf,” Couples said. “And the gentleman’s name was Lee Trevino, who has been a mentor and someone I love.”
Couples didn’t look at his notes or used the teleprompter in the back of the room. He rambled at times, as he always does, talking about his journey from Seattle to the University of Houston, where he first met CBS announcer Jim Nantz, turned pro and won 15 times, including that 1992 Masters and the green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin with Nantz. They had rehearsed that moment in college.
He was overcome with emotion at the end of the long night, reading two sentences from a piece of paper.
“Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the Hall of Fame,” Couples said as his chin buckled. “This is the coolest night of my life.”
He walked off the stage in tears, thrusting both arms in the air.
The election of this year’s class was not without some debate.
Couples was elected on the PGA Tour ballot ahead of Mark O’Meara and Davis Love III, both of whom either won more tournaments or more majors. Couples received only 51 percent of the vote, a record low for the PGA Tour ballot. It takes 65 percent to get elected, though there is a loophole that if no one gets 65 percent, one player is elected provided he receives at least 50 percent.
Montgomerie won 31 times on the European Tour, the most of any British player, and he was a stalwart in the Ryder Cup. The Scot played in eight of them and never lost in singles (6-0-2) while competing on six winning teams. He also was the winning captain in Wales in 2010.
He never won on the biggest stage, however. Montgomerie lost the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 PGA Championship in a playoff. He was second to Ernie Els again in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. And the most painful of all came in 2006 at Winged Foot, when he made double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway and finished one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
“That’s the one that hurts,” Montgomerie said of Winged Foot, noting another Hall of Fame member, Phil Mickelson, also made double bogey on the 18th. “The four or five others, really, somebody happened to beat me. The 2006 Winged Foot, I beat myself. And that’s where it hurts most. So that has taken the most to recover from.”
Montgomerie is the fourth player in the last four years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without having won a major. The others were Jumbo Ozaki, Jock Hutchison and Christy O’Connor Sr. A fifth would be Peter Alliss, who won 23 times on the European Tour, though he was recognized more for his work with the BBC.
“I’ve enjoyed thoroughly my exploits in major championships,” Montgomerie said. “I just haven’t been fortunate, or whatever it takes. I’ve never, ever stood up and made a winner’s speech and said I was unlucky. Never. I never will. There’s always a time where a bit of fortunate comes your way, whether it be for you or against your opponent at the time, and it just so happens that I just haven’t been so-called fortunate to walk through the door. The door has been ajar many a time. I just haven’t been able to walk through it.
“So at the same time, if you’re talking about regrets of any part of my golfing career, I have none. Absolutely none,” he said. “I’ve done exactly what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried 100 percent on every shot, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Montgomerie also received 51 percent of the vote on the International ballot.
Venturi was a premier amateur out of San Francisco, leading the 1956 Masters until an 80 in the final round. Venturi captured the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional, in such stifling heat that he suffered from severe dehydration and nearly collapsed before he finished. When carpal tunnel syndrome ended his career, he moved to the broadcast booth and enjoyed 35 years of distinguished service to CBS Sports.
Venturi later became Presidents Cup captain in 2000.
He has been hospitalized in Palm Springs, Calif., for the last two months and could not attend the ceremony. Nantz accepted on his behalf, and then brought out on Venturi’s two sons, Matt and Tim, saying, “We need to put the crystal in the hands of the Venturi family. We need the fingerprints on the crystal.”
Schofield, also selected through Lifetime Achievement, was head of the European Tour from 1975 to 2004. He rode the presence of Europe’s “Big Five” — Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam — to get the tour onto a global stage. The tour went from 17 events when he started to 45 events when he retired. He also paved the way for the tour to go beyond continental Europe, and to include the continent in the Ryder Cup.
Park joins his father in the Hall of Fame, and the son probably should have been enshrined already. He won the British Open in 1887 and 1889, and then broadened his influence on golf by building clubs, golf courses and writing. His book in 1896, “The Game of Golf,” was the first written by a golf professional. He later wrote “The Art of Putting” that was published in 1920.
Among the golf courses he built were the Old Course at Sunningdale outside London, Maidstone on Long Island in New York and Olympia Fields outside Chicago.MORE IN Sports Wire
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