2019 Golf Hall of Fame: Stars shine; Retief Goosen relives Lightning Strike

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, CA - JUNE 10: Retief Goosen and Jan Stephenson pose for a photo before the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on June 10, 2019 in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)
CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, CA - JUNE 10: Retief Goosen and Jan Stephenson pose for a photo before the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on June 10, 2019 in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images) /

There are now five new World Golf Hall of Fame members officially enshrined, bringing the total to 160. The 2019 inductees, which were actually announced last year, included some all-time greats.

The new 2019 Golf Hall of Fame inductees include Retief Goosen in the PGA Tour category, Jan Stephenson in the LPGA category, as well as Billy Payne, the former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, Dennis Walters, paraplegic trick shot artist, and the late Peggy Kirk Bell, a distinguished amateur. The latter three were in the Lifetime Achievement category.

In their induction speeches on an uncharacteristically warm afternoon at the Carmel Cultural Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea, each offered a few gems about their lives and careers, particularly, Goosen and Stephenson.

Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open winner, recalled growing up on a golf course that had grass if it rained and sand if it didn’t. He could his bike ride from one side of town to the other in 30 minutes.

Like many young boys, he played all sports. Unlike most people, he was struck by lightning while on the golf course.

"“Golf started for me when I started caddying, especially ( for) my brother, Francois, and I caddied for him many times, and now he says he’d like to caddie for me,” Goosen explained. “That’s how I learned the game.”"

Goosen became a fan of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus’ book Golf My Way.

"“Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player golf books were lying in the house, and I started copying what was in those books,” he said. His father – also an avid golfer – had set up a mirror in the back yard to work on his own game, and soon Retief used it to compare his own swing positions to the greats of the game."

One day in 1995, he and a friend named Henry decided to bike to their local course and play nine holes after the local men were finished teeing off. It started to rain when they were on the 5th hole, and they took shelter. But the rain stopped shortly thereafter, and they resumed their rounds.

“We got on No. 7, a long par 4, and we both hit bad drives down the right. And we just started wandering off in that direction,” Goosen recalled.

Henry was about 20 yards ahead of him on the course. Then came the bolt of lightning.

"“He (Henry) said he turned around, and there I was lying, smoking away, no clothes, blood coming out everywhere, burned black, head to tail,” Goosen recalled."

Henry ran for help.  Luckily the group ahead of them on the course included a doctor.

"“The guy was literally there in a few minutes and brought me back to life,” Goosen added. “When I woke up, I was in the hospital covered with bandages from head to tail, looking like a mummy.”"

Goosen is donating the shredded clothes to the World Golf Hall of Fame for his display.

"“I think the lightning sparked something in me. After that I really started playing some good golf,” he quipped. “I started winning quite a lot of tournaments, amateur tournaments, South African Amateur. I even won one professional tournament as an amateur. So, my game really took off from there, and that’s when I knew golf was going to be my thing.”More from Pro Golf NowGolf Rumors: LIV set to sign Masters Champion in stunning dealFantasy Golf: Grant Thornton Invitational DFS Player SelectionsBrutal return leaves Will Zalatoris looking towards 2024Stars You Know at World Champions Cup Starts Thursday at ConcessionFantasy Golf: An Early Look at the 2024 Masters Tournament"

Jan Stephenson remembered how family weekend trips introduced her to the game.

"“Every weekend growing up, my parents would take us to a weekenders about 60 K north of Sydney,” she began. “We were supposed to be going to the movies on Saturday afternoons while our parents played this new, fantastic sport called golf. Instead, we would sneak up to Tuggerah Lakes Golf Club, and I would emulate golf swings and collect golf balls, and my brother would catch poisonous snakes, and we’d sell the venom to the local reptile park.”"

After that, could three-footers have bothered her?

Once her parents knew how interested she was in golf, they supported her.

“Dad worked night shifts just so he could take me to golf before school and after school, and mom worked two jobs, one as a bookkeeper and then in a dress factory just so she could make my golf outfits at night,” Stephenson said.

When Stephenson turned professional and came to the U.S., she had early success on the LPGA Tour and was rookie of the year in 1974.  Then, the new LPGA commissioner, Ray Volpe, changed her life by asking for her help in marketing the women’s tour.

"“He asked me to be the face of the LPGA and lined up meetings with potential sponsors. Consequently, we signed many multi-year contracts to sponsor LPGA tournaments,” she noted. “I was front and center, resulting in a lot of controversy. These were tumultuous and exciting times. And it certainly launched my career in a slightly different direction than I perhaps had imagined.”"

Over her career, Stephenson had 20 professional victories including three majors, the 1981 du Maurier, the 1982 LPGA Championship and the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open.

Billy Payne is the well-known former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.  While he was head of the organization, the club brought in women as members and created several grow the game initiatives, including the popular Drive, Chip and Putt.

While he was perhaps better known in Georgia for bringing the Olympics to Atlanta, he also championed innovation at Augusta National. He oversaw the creation of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur Championship and Drive, Chip and Putt, all grow the game initiatives.  Payne was also instrumental in opening Augusta National membership to women.

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, and one of the current women members at Augusta National the club was on hand for the induction.

Payne took little credit for any accomplishments and said simply, “My friends brought me here tonight.”

Billy Walters, at one time a very good golfer, was paralyzed from the waist down in a golf cart accident in 1974. But he decided not to give up playing golf because of his injuries, which sounded ridiculous at the time. However, he persisted and found a way to play while strapped to a seat of a golf cart.

Since then Walters has given thousands of inspirational golf clinics and performances for thousands of disabled golfers and others to encourage them to learn to play and to ask them not to give up on their dreams.

“I’ve performed with Jack, Gary, Arnie, and I’ve done 30 shows with Tiger. Can you believe I’m in the World Golf Hall of Fame before Tiger Woods?” Walters said.

Walters is a national ambassador for The First Tee; received the PGA Distinguished Service Award; was the Golf Writers 1978 winner of the Ben Hogan Award; and received the USGA’s Bob Jones Award.

While the World Golf Hall of Fame got one thing right with the 2019 induction, one thing was mysteriously wrong.

What was right was that many past inductees to come to the ceremony.  Some said it was because the USGA was having a past champions dinner at Pebble Beach. Regardless, the small auditorium in Carmel-by-the-Sea was filled with people most golf fans know.

Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, Johnny Miller, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Mark O’Meara, David Graham, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Sandy Lyle highlighted the men in attendance. Not a bad crowd, when you think about it.

Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Patti Sheehan, Donna Caponi Byrnes, Amy Alcott, Judy Rankin, Meg Mallon, Karrie Webb, Hollis Stacy, Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel, Sandra Haynie and amateur Marlene Stewart Streit among the women. An equally strong group compared to the men.

However, this location begs the question, could it be that the World Golf Hall of Fame is moving from St. Augustine,, the country’s oldest city, to the west coast? Or elsewhere? Why else move the ceremony 3000 miles from the actual Hall of Fame building where inductees and their families could see displays created to honor their careers?

Of course, recent ceremonies have also been in far-flung locations like New York City and St. Andrews, Scotland, also not close to the actual Hall of Fame.

Next. U.S. Open 2019: Dark Horse candidates for Pebble Beach. dark

Does the Baseball Hall of Fame have their ceremony in Los Angeles or Fort Lauderdale?  Or baseball-crazy Japan? No. It’s in Cooperstown. People and enshrinees show up for the ceremonies, see old friends and get another chance to have a day in the sun. Lately, the World Golf Hall of Fame has seemed to want to be anywhere except its actual headquarters. And it just doesn’t make sense.