Thursday, February 26, 2015

St. Augustine Fl: World Golf Hall of Fame, World Golf Village, Bob Hope and Golf History

     Welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame just north of St. Augustine, Florida.  

     The Hall of Fame was originally created in Pinehurst NC in 1974.  Since then, two other major museums have merged with it and it changed ownership from a privately held project to a world-wide foundation.  

     That body is the World Golf Foundation which oversees the Hall of Fame, the First Tee Foundation and Golf 20/20.  The World Golf Foundation is supported by many organizations, including the PGA, the USGA, the LPGA and a couple dozen others.

     Helping us get started at the museum is Dave Cordero.

     Before taking over as the director of communications here, Dave worked in public relations for Taylormade Golf in Carlsbad California.  Dave and Dr. Tony Parker spent several hours with us today discussing the multitude of exhibits in the museum.

Dr. Tony Parker

     Every once in a while we meet someone who is clearly doing exactly what they were cut out to do.  Tony is one of those guys.  After going to the University of Georgia for a masters degree in history, Tony received his doctorate degree at The University of St, Andrews in Scotland.  

     There, after serving as director of School of American Studies at the University of Dundee, he served as the Curator of Golf  Collections at the University of St. Andrews which began his career as an avid golf historian.  Tony's stars aligned with the Hall of Fame last year when COO  Jack Peter announced that the Hall of Fame was setting out in a new direction.  The Hall of Fame aims to become an even better repository of golf history with a special emphasis on research and education.  Already this year nearly 50,000 school students have visited here for special programs.  Tony's enthusiasm and work ethic show - all of the volunteers that I interacted with after our interview sang unsolicited praises of Tony's dedication and knowledge. 

     That photograph of Dr. Parker was taken on the catwalk atop the central spire of the museum.  

     190 feet above the ground is a cupola that contains the most valuable trophies in the Hall of Fame's collection.  Spiraling down from a large skylight atop it is a swirl of crystals than hang in a pattern meant to represent the perfect golf swing.

     Each individual crystal took 40 man hours to create and there are 162 crystals.  Also visible from the catwalk is the 18 hole putting course that visitors can play as part of the $19 admission price.  (Tickets are good for two days.)   Visitors can also take a swing at landing the island green in the middle of the lake - an exact replica of the famous par 3 17th hole at nearby TPC Sawgrass.

     This is the highest honor in golf.

     This is the trophy given to inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame.  And you don't have to be a golfer to be inducted - you just need to have some great positive impact on the game and be over 40 years of age.  Currently there are 146 inductees including writers, broadcasters, golf course designers and even a couple of US presidents are members.  


     A large amount of museum space is given in honor of Bob Hope.  In 1939 Bob was on a cruise ship named The Queen Mary and was asked by the captain to entertain the guests for a while.  It seems everyone was very tense with the German submarines about.  Bob rose to the occasion, and out of that grew the United Service Organization whose mission it is to lift the spirits of United States service men and women stationed around the world.  65 million people watched Bob's 1966 Christmas show from Vietnam, for which he won this Emmy Award.. Bob was really the driving force behind the charitable interests we see so prevalent in the golfing world today.

     Bob did much to get the game of golf into the public's awareness.  He played golf with 11 presidents.

     Here he watches Richard Nixon taking a swing, presumably being careful to not hit the tape recorder stashed under the desk.  In recent years it has become popular to criticize presidents for playing the game, but back in Bob's day it seems it was almost expected.

     The museum has many great exhibits detailing the history of golf.  In this picture from the 1500's, golfers are depicted getting busted by clergy for playing the game on Sunday.

     The game was banned a few times, once because the king thought the men should be practicing archery to defend the country rather than hitting a ball around.  But when the wartime passed the king was among the first in line to buy some clubs.

     There were a number of "stick and ball" games that were played over the past millennium - among them was a game called "Kolf."

     The first time Kolf is known to have been played is in 1296.  Players would strike a ball over long distance courses aiming at landmarks such as doorways or posts.

     Another game was Chole.  Chole was a team game in which teams would strike the ball toward a distant target - sometimes as far as twelve miles distant.  The opposing team would strike it back toward the other goal.  

     There were some other related games, including a game called Pall Mall and similar games from China and Chile.

     The rules of golf have changed over the years, as has the quality of the courses it is played upon.  It used to be that if you hit a ball in the water you had to play it from the water.  Hence these old clubs that were designed for water play.

     Often merchants and farmers would pull wagons across the course leaving big ruts.  This club was designed to extract the ball from these hazards.

     Whenever possible, the museum has their collections of old clubs exhibited in front of enlarged photos of folks playing with those clubs in the corresponding time era.

    There is also an extensive history of the balls that have been used over the years.  Here museum volunteer Jim Massad shows a visitor an old ball called a "feathery."  The feathery was simply feathers wrapped up tight inside of a sewn leather sleeve.

     Jim served 35 years as a high school chemistry teacher in Syracuse New York.  He says he thrived in his work until the last few years when it became overly political.  He, like the dozens of other volunteers, has a deep passion not only for the game of golf and its history, but also an abiding desire to connect with his fellow human beings.  

     Here is a replica of the most famous bridge in golf at the Saint Andrews course in Scotland.

     St. Andrews is considered the home of modern day golf, and many famous photographs have been taken of various golfers crossing this bridge to the 18th green.

     Each year a large oil painting of that year's inductees is commissioned.  It is interesting to see the different artist's styles in their presentation.

     And then there are the trophies.  There are as many different types of trophies as there are types of folks that love this game.  This one is the player's trophy from The Masters Tournament played each year in Augusta, Georgia..

     It is interesting to note that the players have to BUY their trophy if they want a replica.  The trophy they hold up when they win belongs to that particular tournament.  I was told that a silver trophy like the one above can run to the tens of thousands of dollars.

     Many of the trophies are works of art in crystal.

     Some are incredibly life-like bronzes.

     Some you aren't quite sure what they are.

     There are display cases featuring many of the golf greats.  Here is one of two cases that feature Curtis Strange memorabilia.

     Others are more subdued, like these money clips that are given to the Ryder Cup players.

     Some of the cases are huge - this whole display features various trophies won by Nancy Lopez.

     Then there is a long wall with bronze relief busts of all the inductees.

     This lady is interesting.

     Babe played many men's events - out driving many of her male competitors.  When asked how she did it she replied: "You just loosen your girdle and let 'er rip !!"

     Tony has been instrumental in several of the new displays at the museum, including a large section dedicated to the contributions of African Americans.

     There is a large sculpture that circles upward in the middle of the room that was designed to represent half of a DNA strand.

     There are 14 "rungs" on the ladder, and the first 13 each have a mini-sculpture of a prominent black player.  Tiger Woods is represented on the 13th - the 14th stands empty above him, awaiting the next great black golfer.

     There are two large putting greens inside.  The first one allows you to see what it was like to hit the old "feathery" balls with a wooden club.

     Another allows you to try to replicate three separate famous tournament winning clutch putts that have been made over the years.

     Also there is a large video screen that is hooked up to all manner of sensory cameras.

      The idea is to hit the ball, then the computer automatically projects the shot out onto the screen.  It also gives a full analysis of scores of different bits of data - ball spin front to rear, ball side spin, club head speed, ball speed, etc etc.  I am told that good players marvel at how accurate the machine is.  Amateur players not so much - it seems amateur players tend to think their shots were better than what was depicted.

     There is also a large "locker-room" where each inductee is allowed to put whatever items he or she would like on display.  

     This was my favorite area of the museum. Many of the items were personal and clearly have meaning outside the arena of golf.  Here are three random lockers side by side -

     George H.W. Bush, Frank Chirkinian and Ernie Els.  A president, a broadcast producer/director and a pro who is known for his charity work on the autism issue.

     Here is Pete Dye's locker - he is a well known course designer.

     His locker has a pair of muddy boots, seemingly signifying what one goes through trying to explore a tract of land and get it molded into the shape required to be a viable golf venue.

     Here is Curtis Strange's locker.

     He was a great player who became a broadcaster.

     Here is a piece of history from Anika Sorenstan.

     This was her scorecard the day she became the first LPGA player to post a score of 59 - a golf score that is beyond excellent.  Another player had nothing in her locker but a bible open to the book of Titus, another had a doll that her father gave her as a gift after a win.

     Here is President Eisenhower's golf cart:

     And on it goes.  There are tens of thousands of exhibits here, and I cannot begin to do it justice in this short article.  Suffice it to say that as museums go, this is one of the best we have visited on several fronts.  First, it gives a comprehensive and easily understood display of the game's history, then it honors individual giants in this arena, and finally it gives an intimate glimpse into the psyche of each of its inductees.  And, as museums go, if you have interest in golf or not it is a great pleasure to visit.

     Today's "Faces in the Crowd: photo:

     This photo was taken in an adjacent restaurant that honors the movie "Caddy-Shack."  It seems to catch the frustration many golfers deal with.

     And today's parting shot, taken from the same restaurant:

EMAIL me if you like, DONATE if you can, ReadToday's Meditation if you have time, but whatever you do be sure to Have an Awesome Thursday !!

David Emch 

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