Bobby, Gary, Ernie ... and now Goose steps into Hall of Fame
Retief Goosen, winner of two majors, joins famed SA trio. He tells how he got the good news, and how he felt
Two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen will become SA’s fourth inductee to the World Golf Hall of Fame next year. On Wednesday Goosen was named by the PGA of America as one of five new members to be inducted at a ceremony in June next year for the class of 2019 induction.
Goosen, 49, winner of seven events on the PGA Tour, 33 tournaments worldwide and two majors, joins Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Ernie Els as Hall of Famers from SA. He was the European Tour’s Golfer of the year in 2004 and won that tour’s order of merit in 2001 and 2002 while he also played on six consecutive President’s Cup teams from 2000 to 2011.
A week ago Goosen heard from the legendary Jack Nicklaus that he was under consideration for the accolade and on Wednesday he received a call from a childhood idol to relay the good news.
“It was very unexpected when Jack rung me a week ago and said, oh, you’ve reached the final four of the class, so yeah for a week it was playing on my mind quite a bit,” Goosen said.
“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.
“I was standing on the putting green hitting a few putts and then this number rings which I didn’t recognise, 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. I 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.”
Former Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne, the late Peggy Kirk Bell, three-time major winner Lady Jan Stephenson and disabled golfer Dennis Walters will be inducted at the same time.
Payne was instrumental in allowing female members at Augusta during his 11 years as chairman, and a major force in driving golf’s reintroduction at the Olympic Games in 2016.
Walters was paralysed from the waist down following a golf cart accident when he was 24. He has since become a major spokesman for disabled golfers everywhere. Nicklaus and Player spoke to him simultaneously to break the good news.
“[They said] ‘Congratulations, Dennis, you’ve just been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame,’ and I started crying,” Walters said.
“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: ‘Man, you two guys must have done some sales job because 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. It was just amazing. Honestly, I can’t believe it.
“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 lying 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.”