PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Fred Couples was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, a journey that began with what he called “the dumbest decision I ever made.” It was one that, like so many other things in his life, turned out just fine.
Couples lost to eventual winner Hal Sutton in the 1980 U.S. Amateur and was headed to Houston for his final year of college.
For reasons he can’t explain, Couples instead went to Los Angeles and spent a week with friends of his parents. He became bored after a few days and asked if there was a golf course nearby. So he went to El Dorado.
“We drive into the parking lot, and I knew something was going on because there was a big banner that said, ‘Queen Mary Open,’” he said.
Couples couldn’t play or even hit balls because the course was booked, but a man he met in the pro shop, Larry Benson, invited him to play that afternoon. When they finished, Couples asked if he could enter the Queen Mary Open as an amateur before going back to school.
“Jokingly he said, ‘No, but if you turn pro we have a spot for you,’” Couples said. “I went back, had dinner with these people, the next morning drove back to the course and turned pro. Why? I have no idea. ... I made what was probably at the time the dumbest decision I ever made. Turned out to be the greatest decision.”
Couples tied for eighth with a former U.S. Amateur champion named Mark O’Meara, earning $1,800.
Couples at first thought he could play as a pro for the Queen Mary Open and then go back to school. Good thing he ran into buddy Tom Lamore, who shed some light on the situation.
“He says, ‘You realize tour school applications have to be postmarked on Friday,’” Couples said. “I didn’t know what ‘postmarked’ meant, and I had already borrowed $200 to enter the Queen Mary Open. I borrowed $500 from Tom Lamore’s uncle. They got it in, I went to the regional, qualified. I went to Fresno and qualified. And then two months later, I was on the PGA Tour.”
TIGER ON VIOLATIONS: Tiger Woods, who was issued a two-shot penalty during the Masters Tournament after being involved in an unusual rules situation, said he if saw a violation on television, he would not call it in.
Television viewers – in the case of the Masters, it was David Eger, a respected rules expert – have been calling in what they think are rules violations for years.
“I don’t ever see myself calling in and saying that Kobe (Bryant) traveled or things like that, or an offensive lineman held,” he said. “But it’s our sport. “
And that’s what we’ve done and we’ve accepted. Certain groups are going to get more heat than others just because they’re on TV. It is what it is.”
MONTY IN AMERICA: After all these years, Colin Montgomerie is coming to America to play a full schedule – on the Champions Tour.
Montgomerie was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night on the strength of winning the Order of Merit eight times on the European Tour. And while he never won a major, another gap in his resume is that he never won a PGA Tour event. Montgomerie reached as high as No. 2 in the world, and one question about his career is what would have happened if he had ever played a full season or more in America.
“I was tempted very often,” Montgomerie said. “I was asked numerous occasions by Deane Beman to start with and also by Tim Finchem to come over here and play full time in the States, whether it be one season or more, and family commitments kept me in Europe. I was very happy and comfortable at home.”
He also was able to collect plenty in appearance money by staying in Europe, where he was the top player on that tour for most of the 1990s.
“I was very happy in Europe and I was comfortable in that position, and therefore I stayed there,” he said. “If it’s not bust, you don’t fix it, and that was why I really didn’t come over here. But I look forward now in many ways to starting a chapter of my life to come over here now, where the children have grown up. My wife and I are looking so much forward to coming over here and playing the Champions Tour.”
Montgomerie turns 50 next month. He is eligible for the senior circuit as a Hall of Fame member.
POOR SHOWING: One of the more awkward moments at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony came at the start, when members in attendance were introduced on stage. Only eight of them showed up, all of them women – Nancy Lopez, Donna Caponi, Judy Rankin, Beth Daniel, Carol Mann, Hollis Stacy, Louise Suggs and Canadian amateur Marlene Stewart Streit.
That remains one trouble area for the Hall of Fame – getting support from those already in the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame always has been viewed as more of an achievement on the LPGA Tour than the men’s tours, and it shows at every induction ceremony.