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Inductees in the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame

Tommy Armour

The World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame was founded in 1998 by Golf Magazine to ensure that the theories and philosophies of the game's greatest instructors live on. It is the only hall of fame of its kind, honoring those teaching giants who have demonstrated an unfailing dedication to their students, have created new knowledge that has shaped the way the game is taught and played, and have furthered the professionalism and importance of golf instruction. The four charter inductees were Tommy Armour, Percy Boomer, Ernest Jones, and Harvey Penick. The World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame now boasts 17 members.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Armour embodied the greatest melding of playing and teaching talent the game has ever seen. After immigrating to the United States in 1923, he turned professional and won the 1927 U.S. Open, the 1930 PGA Championship and the 1931 British Open — accomplishments that are all the more remarkable considering he lost the use of his left eye during World War I. After establishing himself as one of the game's finest players, Armour began to cultivate a reputation as a keen student of the swing and eventually as one of the game's most successful teachers. He was legendary both for his fee and the large sun umbrella he sat under, drink in one hand, golf club in the other. He charged $50 per hour, during the Depression no less; it was by far the highest sum commanded by any teacher at that time. For those who couldn't afford a lesson, Armour produced three well-received texts on the game and appeared in many magazines and newspapers. "How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time" sold an unheard-of 400,000 copies in 1953, the year it was printed. Armour, who was prematurely gray, became known as "The Silver Scot" on the banquet circuit, where his talent for telling stories and his magnetic personality became legendary. His students ran the gamut from the greatest golfers in the world to celebrities and politicians. Folks from Bobby Jones to Richard Nixon spent time next to Armour's umbrella. Read more on Tommy Armour.

Kirk Bell was the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame. Born in 1921, Kirk Bell earned a degree in education from Rollins College and was one of the most decorated amateur players of her generation. She turned professional in 1950 and became a charter member of the LPGA, but she never won a tournament as a pro. After marrying in 1953, she and her husband purchased a share of the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, a Donald Ross design in Southern Pines, N.C. Kirk Bell began teaching at the club and discovered that she loved it. She started the first women's golf school at Pine Needles, and another of her inventions was the Golfari, a golf school vacation that has become hugely popular. In 1994, Kirk Bell purchased the Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club, also in Southern Pines. She has written two books, one an instructional tome and the other an autobiography.. In 1990, she received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor given for distinguished sportsmanship in golf.

Teaching and golf were in Percy Boomer's blood. His father was the village schoolteacher in Grouville, on the isle of Jersey, off England's Southern coast. Among those the senior Boomer taught to read and write were golf legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. Percy also taught school for a while, giving it up to become a professional golfer in 1896. He won the Swiss, Dutch and Belgian Opens during the 1920s but soon turned his attention to teaching. Among those who sought his advice were his childhood friends Vardon and Ray. Based at the exclusive golf club at St. Cloud, on the outskirts of Paris, Boomer built a reputation as a fine teacher. He advocated learning by "muscle memory" — the feel of a correct action. "I try to teach by the pupil's sense of feeling," explained Boomer, "rather than his understanding of mechanics." Boomer was one of the first instructors to eliminate negatives from his teaching. He never told the student what he or she was doing wrong, instead focusing on what the student should feel during the motion. In the 1930s he was one of the first to employ stop-action photography to dissect what was really happening during the swings of both the average golfer and the game's champions. Besides a three-article series in the British magazine Golf Monthly in 1941 and his book, "On Learning Golf," published in 1942, Boomer wrote little. But "On Learning Golf" received much attention even during the war and quickly sold out its first printing. It remains a ground-breaking text and is widely considered among the best books ever written on playing the game. Read more on Percy Boomer.

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