AUTHOR : ALEX BLAIR
Alex Blair joined the Texas Links staff in 2007 after graduating from the University of Texas. At Texas, he covered sports and served as associate editor of The Daily Texan, one of the state's largest daily newspapers.
He has been a fan of golf ever since he watched Payne Stewart sink an improbable putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. When he's not pounding the pavement for the magazine, he reads any golf book he can get his hands on and enjoys playing his own 9-hole pasture golf course in Hallettsville...affectionally known as "Hallettsville National."
He brought the skills, enthusiasm, love for the game and work ethic that it takes to help us put out the nation's best local golf magazines, but in 2010 Alex decided to go back to school to get his law degree at Notre Dame.
In this issue of DFW Links, you will read about the sad saga of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Located at The Woodlands, it was a preeminent golf museum and learning center that had much to teach about the history of golf in Texas.
Now that is all gone, and some of the Hall's valuable holdings are missing and knowledge has been lost. Possibly forever.
It's a natural human response to look to blame someone for this state of affairs, but that would be missing the point. What we need to do is recognize that we, as golfers, need to start caring about golf history because right now we don't. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame wouldn't have been allowed to be shelved.
"Most golfers don't even think about it," said former PGA of America President Joe Black, who is leading the effort to resurrect the Hall. "I think most of them would feel that responsibility if it was brought to their attention. The history of the game is as much part of the game as the act of playing it."
Golfers already have a tradition of being history-minded. After all, in no other sport are you as intimately connected to the past as golf. In Texas, can play the same courses where Hogan, Nelson and many other legends once walked the fairways. You can hit the same shots they did.
Yet, history has to be actively protected. In the past year, for instance, the city of Houston considered a plan to turn its oldest golf course—the original Houston Country Club built in 1908—into a soccer complex. Golfers finally spoke loudly enough to stop the project, but not everyone realized how unconscionable it would be to bulldoze one of the most historic courses in the state.
People have been golfing in Texas just as long as they've been playing football. Think about that. Texans have won more major championships than the state's professional and college sports teams have won titles in football, basketball or baseball. People moved to Texas and carved courses out of the ground using teams of mules to lay the foundation for what is now a multi-billion dollar industry that employs nearly 100,000 people.
Some you may ask why this should matter. Some of you may look at golf as a business like any other and think that we should focus on the present instead of the past. That's a great point. But one of the things that makes golf so special (and so marketable) is that connection to its past.
Do you think Augusta National would be so special without the ghost of Bobby Jones walking around Amen Corner? I'll bet a lot of baseball fans can't name a player from the mid-1800s, but most golfers know about Old Tom Morris, and a lot of them pay for trips to Scotland to play the courses he played. That's why we have to preserve the past as best we can and educate ourselves.
A few years ago the USGA released a DVD called The Spirit of the Game. It was a nationwide campaign to emphasize etiquette and an adherence to the Rules, which many felt hadn't been underscored enough in the game's expansion in the last decade. Etiquette, they said, is so important that it's in the rules itself.
Responsibility for preserving golf history likewise should be important. There should be more emphasis at every level on respecting and learning about history. As much as I love Boo Weekley, he set a bad example when he proclaimed at the British Open that he doesn't much care about golf history or any of that stuff. Y'know, I'm just gonna improve my lie here. I really don't care about the rules or any of that stuff. Next time you're out on the course with your kid or another youngster, clue them in on what you know. I'm not asking you to lecture or anything, but the next generation needs to feel that mystique that makes the game what it is.
As far as the Hall of Fame goes, it looks like we're back on the right track. A statewide non-profit has been incorporated with representation by all the major statewide golf associations in Texas. They will own the Hall of Fame from now on. It never should have been the responsibility of The Woodlands. It is a business. Nor should it have been the HGA's sole responsibility to care for the Hall. They should be allowed to focus on raising money for charity and making a difference.
Now the job of preserving and caring for the Hall doesn't fall to any one entity, it falls to all of us. Where it should have been all along.