|Hail to the Chief!
|By Tom Landers |
World Golf Hall of Fame to Induct its First U.S. President Member
One man deserves credit for motivating millions of individuals to try golf for the first time – not because he was a world-renowned player, but rather because of the tremendous efforts he made to be an ambassador for the game. The quote above, from a letter written to the Detroit News in 1953, is proof positive.
So in November, the World Golf Hall of Fame will embark upon a “first” when it welcomes a former U. S. President into its membership. The late Dwight D. Eisenhower was selected for induction by the World Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors this summer, and will officially be part of the Class of 2009, posthumously joining Christy O’Connor, José Maria Olazábal, and Lanny Wadkins.
A best friend of “Ike” on and off the course, Hall of Fame member Arnold Palmer, commented on his selection this way: “One would be hard pressed to find any single person who did more to popularize the game of golf, not only in the United States but throughout the world. His visibility, coupled with his passion for the game, were the inspiration for literally millions of people picking up the game for the first time. Those involved in golf today owe him a great debt of gratitude.”
Born in 1890 in Denison, Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas, West Point graduate Eisenhower was called to Washington for a World War II assignment following the Pearl Harbor attack. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in 1942, and was Supreme Commander of the troops invading France on D-Day in 1944. After the war, he became President of Columbia University, then left in 1951 to assume supreme command over the new NATO forces. He successfully ran for U.S. President in late 1952, serving until January 1961.
In 1948, Eisenhower made his first trip to Augusta National Golf Club; he visited the club a total 45 times, often for lengthy stays. After the 1952 election, a group of Augusta National members built a cabin for him, complete with space for Secret Service agents on the bottom floor. The club’s most famous member eventually had several spots on the grounds named for him, including Ike’s Pond and Ike’s Tree.
During and after his years in the White House, Eisenhower was the figurative face of golf in the public eye. His efforts succeeded: According to Don Van Natta, Jr., author of “First Off The Tee”, 3.2 million Americans played golf in 1953; by 1961, that number had doubled.
“President Eisenhower is among a small group of extremely important, high profile figures in history who contributed mightily to the health and growth of the game of golf,” said Jack Peter, Senior VP/COO of the Hall of Fame. “We look forward to sharing the captivating stories of his love of golf and his important role in the sport’s past.
Eisenhower will be honored at the World Golf Hall of Fame’s ceremony on Monday, November 2 in St. Augustine, FL. He also will be given a permanent place in the Hall, with his own exhibit and member locker full of personal artifacts.
For more information, visit www.wgv.com.