The World Golf Hall of Fame has announced five inductees for the class of 2019, including two time US Open champion Retief Goosen and former Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne.
Joining them in the official ceremony at Pebble Beach next June will be Peggy Kirk Bell, Jan Stephenson and Dennis Walters, having been chosen from a group of 15 finalists that included Graham Marsh, Corey Pavin, Hal Sutton, Susie Maxwell Berning, Beverly Hanson, Sandra Palmer, Dottie Pepper, Jim Ferrier, Catherine Lacoste and Calvin Peete.
Both Goosen and Stephenson were chosen through the male and female competitors, while the other three of Bell, Payne and Walters were nominated through the lifetime achievement category.
The official induction ceremony is June 10, 2019, the Monday prior to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Who are the inductees for the 2019 World Golf Hall of Fame?
Retief Goosen is a South African professional golfer who claimed two U.S Open titles in 2001 and 2004, and topped the European Tour Order of Merit for two consecutive years (2001 and 2002). Goosen also remained in the top ten of the Official World Golf Ranking for over 250 weeks, has five other PGA Tour wins and 12 other European Tour titles.
“It was a little bit of a shock,” Goosen said about the honour. “You forget maybe what you’ve done over the game through the years, and I’m glad that what I’ve done for the game has gotten me into this position.
"It was very unexpected when Jack rung me a week ago and said, oh, you've reached a final -- how can you say -- the final four of the class, and that the final four was going to be yesterday and so yeah for a week, it was playing on my mind quite a bit and you're thinking what you've done, what you've not done, you're thinking of the other guys, you're competing against Corey Pavin, Hal Sutton and they are all great figures in the game.
"Yeah, funny enough, yesterday I was standing on the putting green hitting a few putts and then this number rings which I didn't recognize, but thought maybe I'd pick it up, and it was Gary Player on the phone. It's always great hearing Gary's voice, but he sounded extremely excited, and when he told me, yeah, I sounded very excited.
"So it was a great moment, and I felt shaky after that. Missed a lot of putts, but it was very exciting. We can't wait for the actual day to come around, and getting to that great place, the Hall of Fame."
Jan Stephenson is an Australian golfer and multiple major champion, winning the 1981 du Maurier Classic, 1982 LPGA Championship and 1983 U.S Women's Open. She burst on to the scene in 1974, earning rookie of the year honours, and made a name for herself on and off the course. Among her success on the golf course was her major titles and 16 wins on the LPGA Tour, while off the course she brought attention to the women's game as she posed for magazines - one of her most infamous shots being when she posed for naked in a bathtub covered by a pile of golf balls. Stephenson was inducted in to the World Golf Hall of Fame in the female competitor category.
"I'm so emotional," Stephenson said. "I was crying when Nancy Lopez called me yesterday because I knew she was going to tell me I didn't make it again, and I didn't hear her when she said I made it because when she started the conversation the same way, you know, two years ago, she said, "I know you've worked so hard for the LPGA but you didn't make it.
"So she started exactly the same way yesterday, "I know you've worked really hard" and so I started crying. And then she said, "But this time you've been recognized and you've made it.
"What did you say"
"I've been crying, goosebump, couldn't sleep. It was like winning the U.S. Open all over again."
Billy Payne served as the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club from 2006-2017, before being succeeded by Fred Ridley. Payne welcome the first female members to Augusta National and was responsible for developing several grow-the-game initiatives such as the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship and amateur tournaments in Asia and Latin America.
"Of course, overjoyed," Payne said. "I think in my particular case, this honor is a salute to the collective contribution of the members of Augusta National and our really terrific staff.
"I guess I was the messenger and proud to do our best to attempt to grow the game, put on the world's best tournament, and we did so as best we could for those 11 years and I'm looking forward to more great things from chairman Fred Ridley in the future."
Peggy Kirk Bell
Kirk Bell, who passed away in 2016, was also honoured in the lifetime achievement category alongside Payne and Walters. She won a major title in 1949 but she was far more well known more for her strong advocacy of women’s golf. In 1990 she received the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, the organization’s highest honor, and in 2002 she became the first woman voted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
Walters was paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 following a golf cart accident in 1974, and has since become a renowned trick-shot artist from his wheelchair while also working as an ambassador and spokesman for The First Tee. He was the only USGA Bob Jones Award and PGA Lifetime Achievement Award winner not already in the Hall of Fame, and is one of 11 honourary lifetime PGA of America members.
"Feels great," said Walters. "I'm still a little numb. It hasn't really sunk in, but I also got a phone call yesterday and it was from -- popped up on my cell and I knew it was Jack Peter. He goes, "Hi, Dennis, this is Jack Peter."
"Immediately, "Hi, Dennis, this is Jack Nicklaus."
"Immediately after that, "Hi, Dennis, this is Gary Player." And I knew it was going to be good news (laughter) I said, they are not going to call me and say, sorry.
"So they all chimed in in a chorus, "Congratulations, Dennis, you've just been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame," and I started crying. And I'm not a big cryer, but this made me cry. I've had a lot of tears of sorrow in my life but these were tears of joy, and so when I composed myself, I said to Jack and Gary, I said, "Man, you two guys must have done some sales job because laugh these people probably never even heard of me."
"Jack said, "No, no, no, they have all heard of you, but they know a lot more about you after we got done with them."
"You know, I can't walk, but when I got that call, I felt like I could fly. Just amazing. Honestly, I can't believe it. I want to congratulate all my fellow inductees and Retief and the family of Peggy Kirk Bell.
"Everybody has a story of how they got here, but I think my story is probably the most unlikely journey to get to any type of Hall of Fame that anyone's ever done. I was laying in a hospital bed 44 years ago and I never thought I was actually getting out of that bed. I've done so many things I've never thought were possible, but it also gives me the opportunity to show others what's possible.
"I'm hoping that this platform will help me reach other people and encourage them to reach for their dreams, strive for excellence and do something in their lives that they didn't think they could."