The Hall calls: Billy Payne, Retief Goosen, Jan Stephenson headline five-person World Golf Hall of Fame class of 2019
Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne are getting gold busts, and they headline the five-person Hall of Fame Class of 2019, which was announced Wednesday morning.
Joining them are LPGA great Jan Stephenson, motivational speaker Dennis Walters and the late teaching legend Peggy Kirk Bell.
Payne served as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament from 2006-17, when he stepped down and was replaced by current chair Fred Ridley. During his tenure, Payne sought to grow the game in new places and in creative ways. He helped create the Asia-Pacific Amateur, the Latin America Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.
But he may be most remembered for approving Augusta’s first two female members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore, who each joined the club in 2012. Payne also greatly expanded coverage of the Masters, particularly online. Before Augusta, Payne was a successful businessman who was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to Atlanta.
“When anyone’s placed in the environment of being chairman of Augusta National, with all the wonderful infrastructure and intellect of the staff and incredible membership, to be quite honest it’s really not difficult to do some good things if you try hard,” Payne told Golf Channel Wednesday morning. “My job was to have a good idea every now and then and then turn it over to the staff. I’m very proud of what they then did.”
Goosen has 33 professional victories and won the European Tour Order of Merit in 2001 and ’02. The stoic South African is best remembered for his two U.S. Open titles in 2001 and ’04. In that ’04 event at Shinnecock, he fended off Phil Mickelson and a series of baked out, unplayable greens to win the title. Goosen was also selected for six Presidents Cup teams.
“I got a phone call from Gary Player last night saying congrats, well done, you’ve made it. I didn’t sleep all that great last night,” Goosen told Golf Channel. “It was a little bit of a shock. You sort of forget what you’ve done in the game over the years. I’m glad that what I’ve done for the game worldwide has put me in this position.”
Stephenson won 16 times on the LPGA Tour, including three majors. She was the tour’s rookie of the year in 1974. The Australian is also known as one of the game’s first female sex symbols — a role she embraced. The image of her posing nude while submerged in a tub of golf balls is arguably one of golf’s most famous photographs. She’s also considered to be the first female Tour pro to get into the course design business.
“I was crying so hard, I said, ‘Say that again!'” Stephenson said of her phone call. “I didn’t know what do. It was just amazing. I haven’t slept at all.”
And the photo?
“Back then I got paid a lot more money than the tour was worth,” she told Golf Channel. “I look back now and in some ways I do regret it, but it did help the Tour.”
Once a promising amateur golfer, Walters was paralyzed in a freak golf cart accident in 1974. For more than 40 years he’s crisscrossed the country doing dozens of golf exhibitions each year, which include trick shots and motivational speeches. (YouTube is filled with his greatest hits.) He’s met three presidents, and conducted clinics with the biggest stars in the game, including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Bell, who died in 2016, was a charter member of the LPGA Tour in 1950. She became the first woman admitted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame and owned Pine Needles Resort in North Carolina.
The class was selected by a 16-person committee (photo, above), led by Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam. Each honoree needed 75% approval (or 12 votes) from the committee.
The newcomers will enjoy quite an induction ceremony. It’s set for the Monday of the men’s U.S. Open, June 10, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif.