Bill Elliott Golf Blog
While in Florida recently, I thought it would be rude not to call in and take a gander at the World Golf Hall of Fame. After all, I’ve been on this august institution’s international voting panel for many years now, so why not look at what all this voting caper has encouraged?
Halls of fame are a curious invention to those of us who meander the British Isles. We’re not entirely comfortable with the theory. Indeed, I suspect many of us would plump for a World Golf Stocks of Infamy if given the choice, the prospect of slipping one of our over-inflated heroes into these things before pelting them with old tomatoes proving inescapably delicious.
Americans, with their instinct for worship of almost anything, think differently, and who’s to say they’re wrong. If there is a litany of criticism to be made about that sprawling country, charging them with a lack of enthusiasm would be like accusing Nick Faldo of having a properly refined sense of humour.
Anyway, it turns out that the ‘WGHoF’ is impressive. Jack Peter is the man in charge, and he’s a very good man indeed. He admits that it has a potential problem, because its main sponsor – it’s a non-profit-making institution – Shell, is coming to the end of a multi-year contract. It would be malicious to suggest the oil giant won’t renew, but in this climate, you can never be sure.
I hope things turn out well for Jack, his co-workers and the small army of eager volunteers who man the museum. This is really worth a visit.
When I visited, there was a brilliant display illustrating Bob Hope’s love for the game. The black and white photos are worth the entrance fee alone.
But there’s much more. A mock-up of the Swilcan Bridge and its surroundings at St Andrews was realistic enough to make me suddenly feel chilly, although that might have been the air-con. You can also wander through a history of the game, with various artefacts and much else besides.
The bit I liked best, however, was the members’ locker room. This is where inductees have the chance to illustrate their CV with personal items. There’s the inevitable “clubs what I won The Open with” stuff, but many have been more imaginative than this.
My favourites were Carol Mann’s and Sandy Lyle’s. Carol’s was dominated by a wonderful scarlet sequin dress, while Sandy’s included a kilt and a photo of him doing what he likes best, driving a JCB on his land in Scotland.
Faldo’s was a shirt and a few clubs, typically abrupt and to the point I felt. Pride of non-place, though, went to Lee Trevino, who had what looked like a single sheet of A4 paper in his glass-fronted locker. I couldn’t be bothered to put my glasses on to read it.
To be fair, Trevino was inducted when the Hall of Fame was in its infancy, not in St Augustine, and not housed in such a splendid building. Still, ‘Super Mex’ could have revisited. This year’s inductees – the ceremony is in May - include former European Tour supremo Ken Schofield and Colin Montgomerie. Do you think Monty has a sparkly top to put in his locker? I do hope so. I know Ken does.
But there’s much else to enjoy at this facility. Situated in the centre of the World Golf Village – yes, you can retire there – are two terrific golf courses, a decent hotel, plus condos for rent and several restaurants. My favourite was Caddy Shack, a place owned by Bill Murray. His brother Andy runs it with a firm eye and a relaxed air, as befits a Murray sibling.
So if you find yourself in north-east Florida, do yourself a favour and call in at Jack’s place. Then, afterwards, head into St Augustine itself. This is the oldest inhabited town in the United States. Founded by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, it’s a fascinating place to wander around for a day, and trumps the Founding Fathers. Who knew?
Incidentally, a few days after my visit the World Golf Village was taken over by Bill Murray for his annual golf charity weekend. This, apparently, consists of a wee bit of playing golf and an awful lot of drinking.
I was invited to stay on and participate. Sadly, I had to decline as I had to move on to Augusta and the Masters. Mind you, it was a very, very close call, and I’m still not sure I made the correct one.