Couples’ Hall of Fame career began with what he calls ‘dumbest decision I ever made’

Fred Couples was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday night.
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Fred Couples was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, a journey that began with what he called “the dumbest decision I ever made.'' It was one that, like so many other things in his life, turned out just fine.

Couples lost to eventual winner Hal Sutton in the 1980 U.S. Amateur and was headed to Houston for his final year of college.

For reasons he can't explain or remember, Couples instead went to Los Angeles and spent a week with friends of his parents. He became bored after a few days and asked if there was a golf course nearby. So he went down the street to El Dorado.

“We drive into the parking lot, and I knew something was going on because there was a big banner that said, `Queen Mary Open,''' he said.

Couples couldn't play or even hit balls because the course was booked, but a man he met in the pro shop, Larry Benson, invited him to play that afternoon. When they finished, Couples asked if he could enter the Queen Mary Open as an amateur before going back to school.

“Jokingly he said, `No, but if you turn pro we have a spot for you,''' Couples said. “I went back, had dinner with these people, the next morning drove back to the course and turned pro. Why? I have no idea. I didn't have a manager or an agent or a lawyer or a chef or a masseuse or a trainer or a cellphone or anyone to call. I made what was probably at the time the dumbest decision I ever made. Turned out to be the greatest decision.''

Couples tied for eighth with a former U.S. Amateur champion named Mark O'Meara, earning $1,800.

The hard part was calling home.

Couples said his mother kept calling Houston, and his then-roommate, CBS announcer Jim Nantz, kept telling her, “He's not in right now.'' Couples finally called her and she was OK with the decision. Then she handed the phone to his father.

“I said, `Hey, dad, I just made $1,800.' And he hung up on me,'' Couples said.

That's not the end of the story.

Couples at first thought he could play as a pro for the Queen Mary Open and then go back to school. Good thing he ran into Tom Lamore, a buddy from Houston, who shed some light on the situation.

“He says, `You realize tour school applications have to be postmarked on Friday,''' Couples said. “I didn't know what `postmarked' meant, and I had already borrowed $200 to enter the Queen Mary Open. I borrowed $500 from Tom Lamore's uncle. They got it in, I went to the regional, qualified. I went to Fresno and qualified. And then two months later, I was on the PGA Tour.''


HOLIDAY OR US OPEN?: With his runner-up finish in the Wells Fargo Championship, David Lynn of England all but assured himself a spot in his first U.S. Open. He moved to No. 42 in the world, and the top 60 in three weeks are exempt from qualifying.

One problem. Lynn already booked a vacation the week of the U.S. Open, and he has no plans to postpone that.

“I need a holiday, to be honest,'' he said after his playoff loss at Quail Hollow. “So I'm going to do that.''

He does need a break.

Lynn earned his PGA Tour card by virtue of his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship last summer. In his first year playing both tours, he already will have reached his minimum 15 events on the U.S. tour at The Players Championship. If that sounds like a lot, consider that he has reached the minimum in 17 weeks. The Players will be his eighth straight tournament.

Lynn is headed back to England after this week and said he would not return to America until the PGA Championship the second week in August. More valuable than his world ranking was what his runner-up finish did for his standings in the FedEx Cup. He moved to No. 25. Not only does that assure him a spot in the playoffs, he's probably safe for at least the first two events.


MONTY IN AMERICA: After all these years, Colin Montgomerie is coming to America to play a full schedule – on the Champions Tour.

Montgomerie was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night on the strength of winning the Order of Merit eight times on the European Tour. And while he never won a major, another gap in his resume is that he never won a PGA Tour event. Montgomerie reached as high as No. 2 in the world, and one question about his career is what would have happened if he had ever played a full season or more in America.

“I was tempted very often,'' Montgomerie said. “I was asked numerous occasions by Deane Beman to start with and also by Tim Finchem to come over here and play full time in the States, whether it be one season or more, and family commitments kept me in Europe. I was very happy and comfortable at home.''

He also was able to collect plenty in appearance money by staying in Europe, where he was the top player on that tour for most of the 1990s.

“I was very happy in Europe and I was comfortable in that position, and therefore I stayed there,'' he said. “If it's not bust, you don't fix it, and that was why I really didn't come over here. But I look forward now in many ways to starting a chapter of my life to come over here now, where the children have grown up. My wife and I are looking so much forward to coming over here and playing the Champions Tour.''

Montgomerie turns 50 next month. He is eligible for the senior circuit as a Hall of Fame member.


POOR SHOWING: One of the more awkward moments at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony came at the start, when members in attendance were introduced on stage. Only eight of them showed up, all of them women – Nancy Lopez, Donna Caponi, Judy Rankin, Beth Daniel, Carol Mann, Hollis Stacy, Louise Suggs and Canadian amateur Marlene Stewart Streit.

That remains one trouble area for the Hall of Fame – getting support from those already in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame always has been viewed as more of an achievement on the LPGA Tour than the men's tours, and it shows at every induction ceremony.


DIVOTS: Bo Van Pelt and Geoff Ogilvy are among those playing the World Match Play Championship next week in Bulgaria. … USA Golf, recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as managing the men's and women's Olympic teams for Rio, named six people to its board of directors. Kerry Haigh from the PGA of America and John Bodenhamer of the USGA will be co-chairman. The other directors are PGA Tour senior vice president Ross Berlin, LPGA senior vice president Heather Daly-Donofrio, and players Paul Goydos and Allison Duncan. … Oregon golf coach Casey Martin shot 69 at Portland Golf Club to advance to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 146 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, 47 percent of them have been inducted since 2000.


FINAL WORD: “I've had the greatest playground for 33 years.'' – Fred Couples.

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