Golf

Padraig Harrington, Sandra Palmer lead Class of '24 inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame

It was the largest World Golf Hall of Fame class since 2008.

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Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington was among six inductions into the World Golf Hall of Fame, closing out his acceptance Monday night by citing a line his late swing coach Bob Torrance always told him when they starting a practice session.

“These are the happiest days of our lives,” Harrington said.

It was all so fitting. No one could claim to work harder than Harrington, even at 52 still searching to get better. He remains willing to try just about anything, and yet he mentioned the constants in his career that allowed to lead the way in Irish golf.

His wife of 34 years. The same equipment company, Wilson, and manager, Adrian Mitchell, for his entire career.

“I have a deep sense of satisfaction and validation," he said.

Harrington, whose 21 worldwide wins include the British Open in 2007 and 2008 and the PGA Championship in 2008, joined 19-time LPGA winner Sandra Palmer as the only living inductees.

“This really feels like a dream,” Palmer said, who thrust both arms in the air when she was introduced to the 29 other members of the Hall of Fame in attendance.

LPGA great Beverly Hanson, former British Open champion and golf course architect Tom Weiskopf and former U.S. Open champion Johnny Farrell were inducted posthumously.

Also being inducted were the remaining seven founders of the LPGA Tour — Alice Bauer, Bettye Danoff, Helen Dettweiler, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Sally Sessions and Shirley Spork — who will be going in as a group. The other six founders previous were inducted on their own.

Michelle Wie West, who won the U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, introduced the founders of paving the way for other females sports.

It was the largest World Golf Hall of Fame class since 2008.

This was the 50th anniversary of golf's Hall of Fame, and it came full circle. It was created in 1974 at Pinehurst — President Gerald Ford attended — and later was run by the PGA of America until attendance lagged and it closed. A new one began in 1996 in St. Augustine, Florida.

Now it's back at Pinehurst, a practical move made possible when the USGA established a second office in Pinehurst Village, and the Hall of Fame now occupies the second floor of the “Experience Building” on its new campus. It is operated by the World Golf Foundation, with a board of leaders from golf's biggest organizations.

Harrington grew up in Ireland dreaming more about claret jugs and the Wanamaker Trophy than the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is largely an American thing, though Harrington fully understood that it was a label attached to the very best. That was the case particularly on the PGA Tour Champions when he heard the “Hall of Fame” reference to so many of his peers, from Bernhard Langer and Vijay Singh, from Ernie Els to Fred Couples.

“You kind of look at these guys and and you want to be one of them. You want to be part of it,” Harrington said last week. "And many of the guys on the Champions Tour, their careers were a little bit ahead of me so they were actually guys I would have looked up to when I was turning pro. They're guys I would have watched on TV at pro events.

“So it's nice to be part of that crowd.”

He got his first big breakthrough at Carnoustie in 2007 when he overcame a double bogey on the final hole to beat Sergio Garcia to win the British Open. A year later, he won the Open at Royal Birkdale and a month later became the first European winner of the PGA Championship in 78 years.

He had three other wins on the PGA Tour, 12 other wins on the European Tour and five other on circuits around the world. He also played on six Ryder Cup teams and was captain in the 2021 matches at Whistling Straits.

Palmer was a two-time major champion among her 19 LPGA victories. She went seven years before winning her first LPGA event in 1971, and then she won with alarming regularity. Her first major was the 1975 U.S. Open.

Weiskopf, who died in August 2022 of pancreatic cancer, won 16 times on the PGA Tour and captured his lone major at Royal Troon in the British Open. His contributions extended to golf architecture and candid, unfailingly accurate commentary on television. His design work was known for the short par 4s, among the most exciting and enjoyable holes.

Hanson was renowned not only for what she won but whom she beat. The North Dakota native won 17 times on the LPGA Tour and three majors. She won her first event as a pro by beating Babe Zaharias, and she won two of her majors by beating Louise Suggs.

Farrell previously was a member of the PGA Hall of Fame in Pinehurst before it moved. A 22-time winner, he was famous for his one-shot victory in a 36-hole playoff against Bobby Jones in the 1928 U.S. Open. He spent the second half of his life as a club pro at Quaker Ridge and Baltusrol.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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