ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – About the only thing Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie had in common was a golf swing good enough to trust for a lifetime.
Couples became the first American to reach No. 1 in the world and won the Masters by a blade of grass that kept his ball from trickling into Rae’s Creek.
Montgomerie found fame on the European Tour, where he won the Order of Merit a record seven times in a row, though he never won a major, a glaring hole in his credentials.
Couples sauntered down the fairways, the essence of cool. Montgomerie walked with his head down, so intense he never looked like he was having fun.
They shared the stage Monday night when both were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with three others in the Class of 2013 – former U.S. Open champion and broadcaster Ken Venturi, former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield and two-time British Open champion and architect Willie Park Jr.
That brings the Hall of Fame to 146 members.
Couples talked about his childhood in Seattle, when his mother gave him $5 a day in the summer to play at Jefferson Park. He couldn’t afford to buy a glove, and Couples still plays without one. He got choked up when he mentioned watching a PGA Tour player put on a clinic in town when Couples was 14 years old.
“I wasn’t really the person who said, ‘That’s what I want to do, I’m going to be a PGA Tour player.’ But I knew I wanted to really, really get involved in golf,” Couples said. “And the gentleman’s name was Lee Trevino, who has been a mentor and someone I love.”
Couples didn’t look at his notes or use the teleprompter in the back of the room. He rambled at times, as he always does, talking about his journey from Seattle to the University of Houston, where he first met CBS announcer Jim Nantz, turned pro and won 15 times, including that 1992 Masters and the green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin with Nantz. They had rehearsed that moment in college.
He was overcome with emotion at the end of the night, reading two sentences from a piece of paper.
“Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the Hall of Fame,” Couples said as his chin buckled. “This is the coolest night of my life.”
He walked off the stage in tears, thrusting both arms in the air.
The election of this year’s class was not without some debate.
Couples was elected on the PGA Tour ballot ahead of Mark O’Meara and Davis Love III, both of whom either won more tournaments or more majors. Couples received only 51 percent of the vote, a record low for the PGA Tour ballot. It takes 65 percent to get elected, though there is a loophole that if no one gets 65 percent, one player is elected provided he receives at least 50 percent.
Montgomerie won 31 times on the European Tour, the most of any British player.
Venturi was a premier amateur out of San Francisco, leading the 1956 Masters until an 80 in the final round, and captured the 1964 U.S. Open.
When carpal tunnel syndrome ended his career, he moved to the broadcast booth and enjoyed 35 years of distinguished service to CBS Sports and later became Presidents Cup captain in 2000.
Schofield, also selected through Lifetime Achievement, was head of the European Tour from 1975 to 2004.
Park joins his father in the Hall of Fame. He won the British Open in 1887 and 1889, and then broadened his influence on golf by building clubs, golf courses and writing.