USGA champions Laura Davies, David Graham and Mark O’Meara, along with late legendary course architect A.W. Tillinghast, whose layouts have hosted dozens of USGA championships, have been chosen for enshrinement into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015.
All four will be formally inducted on July 13 at the University of St. Andrews, just blocks from the Old Course, which will host the 144th British Open Championship later that week. It is the first class to be elected by the Hall of Fame Selection Commission, which voted on 16 finalists. All four inductees received the required 75 percent of the vote from the 16 committee members.
The Selection Commission was co-chaired by four Hall of Famers: two-time U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Nancy Lopez, 1960 U.S. Open champion Arnold Palmer, three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam and 1965 U.S. Open champion Gary Player. It also included members of the World Golf Foundation board of directors and other at-large members.
“Laura, David, Mark and A.W. will be outstanding additions to the Hall of Fame family,” said Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “The announcement is the culmination of a year of exciting changes that we believe will continue to raise the long-term profile of the induction ceremony and the institution. We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2015 and extend our hearty congratulations.”
Davies, of England, owns 70 worldwide victories, including four major championships. Her 1987 U.S. Women’s Open triumph at Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club was considered a breakthrough for international players. Prior to that victory, only two international golfers had claimed the championship, but since Davies’ playoff win over Ayako Okamoto, of Japan, and the legendary JoAnne Gunderson Carner, international golfers have won 14 of the past 27 Women’s Opens.
Davies’ Women’s Open victory came when she was only 23 years old and a relatively unknown golfer who competed primarily on the Ladies European Tour. She later claimed the 1994 and 1996 LPGA Championships and added another major title at the 1996 duMaurier Classic.
She represented Europe a record 12 times in the Solheim Cup, playing in every competition from 1990-2011.“It is a wonderful honor,” said Davies. “I am especially looking forward to the induction ceremony at St. Andrews in 2015. It really will be a special event.”
Of Graham’s 20 world victories, the Australian’s biggest came in a pair of major championships: the 1979 PGA at Oakland Hills Country Club in suburban Detroit and the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Graham’s final-round, 3-under-par 67 at Merion is considered one of the best final rounds in major-championship history, even meriting a post-round phone call from Ben Hogan, who won the U.S. Open at Merion 31 years earlier.
Graham is one of just four golfers, including five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin, 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer and 1965 U.S. Open champion Gary Player, to win on six continents. He represented Australia in three Dunhill Cups and two World Cups, winning the 1979 World Cup with Bruce Devlin. He also was the International Team captain for the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.
“Clearly, to be accepted into the World Golf Hall of Fame is the icing on the cake on what has been a nice career,” said Graham. “It is a great honor for me, my wife, my kids and all of my friends.”
Most people remember O’Meara for claiming a pair of major titles in 1998: the Masters and British Open. But long before he went on to professional success, O’Meara captured the 1979 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland, defeating defending champion John Cook in the 36-hole final, 8 and 7. O’Meara went on to register 20 worldwide victories and represent the U.S. in five Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.
But 1998 was O’Meara’s magical year, when he birdied the final two holes at Augusta National Golf Club to defeat Fred Couples and David Duval by one stroke. Then he outlasted Brian Watts in a four-hole playoff to win the British Open at Royal Birkdale to make the 41-year-old the oldest player to win multiple majors in one year. He was named the 1998 PGA Tour Player of the Year.
“Thanks go out to my family and friends on this incredible day,” said O’Meara. “To have the great honor of being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame is a dream come true.”
Tillinghast, who once took lessons from Old Tom Morris and was an admirer of St. Andrews, went on to become one of the game’s iconic course designers. Venues such as Winged Foot, Baltusrol and Bethpage State Park’s Black Course have hosted the U.S. Open, while Quaker Ridge, Somerset Hills and San Francisco Golf Club have hosted other USGA championships. He died in 1942.
Material from the World Golf Hall of Fame was used in this story.