CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. – The World Golf Hall of Fame’s membership grew to 160 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 June 10.
Just three days before the 119th U.S. Open Championship kicks 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 include Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, and former Secretary of State and Augusta National Golf Club Member – one of the first female members under Payne’s tenure as Chairman – Condoleezza Rice.
Emceed by well-known TV reporter Terry Gannon, the ceremony was broadcasted live on Golf Channel with additional streaming on SiriusXM’s PGA TOUR Radio.
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 [Dennis], 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 by 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 – 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.
ABOUT THE INDUCTEES:
Lifetime Achievement Category
Dennis Walters is an elite golfer who was paralyzed from the waist-down at the age of 24 following a golf cart accident. He has since dedicated his career to sharing life lessons and inspiring fans and disabled golfers of all ages through golf clinics and special performances at more than 3,000 worldwide appearances. Former spokesperson and national ambassador for The First Tee, his message is to always continue hoping and dreaming. He is one of only 11 honorary lifetime members of the PGA of America. Walters was also honored with the 1978 Ben Hogan Award and was a 2018 recipient of the USGA’s Bob Jones Award.
Female Competitor Category
In her first season on the LPGA Tour in 1974, Jan Stephenson was named LPGA’s Rookie of the Year. She went on to lead an impressive career with 20 professional victories, including 16 on the LPGA Tour. She is a three-time Major Champion with wins at the 1981 du Maurier, 1982 LPGA Championship and the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open. Her impact on the game extends outside of her play as one of the founders of the Women’s Senior Golf Tour. She is involved with golf course design and has made many charitable contributions including being an honorary chair of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stephenson was also honored with the Order of Australia Medal in 2018 for her contributions to the game of golf.
Peggy Kirk Bell
Lifetime Achievement Category
Margaret Anne “Peggy” Kirk Bell took up the game as a teenager, making a name for herself as an amateur star. She went on to become a charter member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950 after winning the 1949 Titleholders Championship and participating on the winning 1950 Curtis Cup team. She received the PGA of America’s First Lady of Golf Award in 2007 and was an avid supporter of the game as a top 100 golf instructor, becoming the first woman selected into Golf Magazine’s World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
Male Competitor Category
Known affectionately as “The Goose,” Retief Goosen sat within the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 10 for more than 250 weeks from 2001 through 2007. His 33 worldwide wins include two U.S. Open Championships in 2001 – the same year he was named European Tour Player of the Year – and 2004. Goosen led the European Tour Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002. He also played in six consecutive Presidents Cups from 2000 to 2011 as part of the International Team.
Lifetime Achievement Category
During his 11 years as Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament from 2006 to 2017, William Porter “Billy” Payne oversaw a number of significant achievements. He originated Drive, Chip and Putt with the USGA and PGA of America in 2013 and established the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur Championships, each offering guaranteed Masters’ invitations to the winners. Named the recipient of the GWAA’s William D. Richardson Award, Payne also received the Olympic Order of Gold after serving as president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games from 1992 to ’96. Continuing his legacy and involvement with the Olympics, Payne was a key figure in the successful return of golf to the 2016 Games.