Every year, when the new crop of inductees is announced, the World Golf Hall of Fame trumpets the corresponding vote percentages, which give the process an air of democracy. This is clever propaganda. About 100 voters do cast ballots to elect contemporary players, but numerous inductees (like Bush and Schofield) have come from the lifetime achievement category, in a shrouded process that seemed inspired by papal conclaves. The induction protocols have generated so much criticism in recent years that in October it was announced there would be no class of 2014; the Hall's brain trust will conduct a thorough review of how it decides who deserves a place alongside the likes of Ouimet.
It remains unclear whether Lowery will be helped or hurt by the new system. He had been discussed off and on for years under the lifetime achievement category but never garnered a recommendation from the vetting sub committee. No wonder. One member of the committee (to whom we have granted anonymity out of pity) says, "I don't know who he is." After a little play-by-play he allows, "When you mention the 1913 U.S. Open it jogs my memory a bit, but that's all I know about him."
Undeterred, this would-be golf expert still opined on Lowery's unworthiness for the Hall of Fame, which has yet to find room for a single looper: "I have great affinity for caddies, but I don't know one caddie who has hit a golf ball in competition. They can be a good sidekick, but ultimately it's a test of nerve and skill, and a caddie has nothing to do with that. I don't think it's enough just to caddie for one victory, no matter how significant it was."
Another member of the committee, Rand Jerris, oversees the USGA Museum and has a keen understanding of Lowery's place in the game. He declined to comment on any Hall of Fame machinations but was happy to dispel the notion that the USGA is opposed to Lowery's candidacy. Says Jerris, "What happened with Ward was an unfortunate incident, but that was a long, long time ago. I can say unequivocally that the USGA has no resentment or ill feeling. We're grateful for his contributions to the U.S. Open, to the executive committee and to the game at the grassroots level. We would be delighted to see Lowery recognized and celebrated for his many achievements in golf."
Whether or not Lowery ever gets the call, it's hard to know what he would make of all the fuss. He was a complicated man, and some of his closest friends never heard him mention the 1913 U.S. Open. For all his wealth and glittering memberships, Lowery's final resting place is modest and unassuming. He chose to be buried in El Carmelo cemetery, which abuts the municipal golf course in Pacific Grove, Calif. It is known as "the poor man's Pebble" for its cheap green fees and lovely views of Monterey Bay. The plaque on Lowery's grave is small and simple, recessed into the grass, bearing only his name and the years he was born and died. All around the unmistakable sound of golf balls being struck echoes through the ghostly cypress trees. It is surely a sound that Lowery enjoyed during his long golfing life. May he rest in peace.