The World Golf Hall of Fame’s membership grew to 160 on June 10 as Dennis Walters, Jan Stephenson, Peggy Kirk Bell, Retief Goosen and Billy Payne received golf’s highest honor during the 2019 Induction Ceremony at the Sunset Center in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.
Just three days before the 119th U.S. Open Championship kicked off in nearby Pebble Beach, past champions and 28 fellow Hall of Fame Members returned to celebrate the Class of 2019 Inductees including the co-chairs of the Selection Commission, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
“We send our sincere congratulations to the esteemed members of the World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2019,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of World Golf Foundation. “It is a special evening with so many returning Hall of Fame Members as we kick off the 119th U.S. Open Championship.”
In addition to the Hall of Fame Members and World Golf Foundation board of directors, other notable guests included Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, and former Secretary of State and Augusta National Golf Club member Condoleezza Rice.
First to receive the Induction Crystal was Dennis Walters, presented by his longtime friends Jack and Barbara Nicklaus. Walters, who was paralyzed at age 24 after a golf cart accident, gave an emotional speech about his journey to become the inspiration he is today, which was further accentuated with an awe-inspiring moment when Walters rose out of his wheelchair and walked to the podium to give his induction speech.
“On the day competitive golf was taken away from [Walters], that’s the day his legacy began,” said Jack Nicklaus, World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 1974. “Dennis took what most of us would view as a weakness and made it a strength. After tonight, Dennis will be remembered by one more honor to add to those he’s already received — World Golf Hall of Fame Member.”
Next up was Australian icon and golf legend, Jan Stephenson. The “Glamour Girl” of the LPGA in the ’70s and ’80s, Stephenson was presented with a video tribute from friend and actress, Jane Seymour. Stephenson reminisced about the moment her career took off when then-Commissioner Ray Volpe asked her to become the face of the LPGA. From 1974 to 1987, Stephenson was a force on the Tour, winning 16 times including three Major Championships.
Shortly after, Peggy Kirk Bell’s family paid tribute to her legacy in a video played for the audience. Bell, who was a Charter Member of the LPGA Tour, amateur champion and winner of the 1949 Titleholders Championship, is being celebrated for her lifetime of achievements as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Bell’s two daughters and son accepted the Induction Crystal on her behalf.
Gary Player took to the stage next to introduce fellow South African and two-time U.S. Open Champion, Retief Goosen. Goosen joins Ernie Els and Player — who were both present at the Induction Ceremony — as well as Bobby Locke as the fourth South African to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Goosen remarked on his golf career, sharing his love for the game from early on in his life. He recalled the time when he was struck by lightning on the golf course at the age of 15. He beat the odds after quickly recovering and returning to the golf course just a few weeks later, going on to win two U.S. Opens among his 33 worldwide wins.
Last to the podium was Chairman Emeritus of Augusta National Golf Club, Billy Payne, who received the Induction Crystal from his close friend and current Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley. Chairman Ridley acknowledged Payne’s “enthusiasm for life, his total commitment to excellence and his passion for our sport [which] has been a great inspiration.” After receiving his Crystal, Payne congratulated his fellow Inductees and Hall of Fame Members.
“Every single one of you is a personal hero of mine, and I’m honored to share the stage with you tonight,” said Payne.
For more information, visit WorldGolfHallofFame.org.