The Podium: A Vote For Bob Goalby
THE 1968 MASTERS WINNER DESERVES A PLACE IN GOLF’S HALL OF FAME
THE WORLD GOLF HALL OF FAME is a beautiful and prestigious place in St. Augustine, Fla. If you are a golfer, or just a general sports fan, you feel the history oozing from its walls.
If you are a true golf fan, a real student of the game and its lore, you will also sense something missing — a hole in the wall, if you will.
That would be the name Bob Goalby. You may have to be a senior citizen to get an instant jolt of name recognition there. But if you play the game and watch the proceedings of early April every year amid the azalea blossoms of Augusta National, you will know Bob Goalby. The name will produce a quick and memorable summary: The Masters, 1968; Goalby and Roberto DeVicenzo finish tied, but DeVicenzo signs an incorrect scorecard. Instead of a Monday playoff, Goalby, who shot 66 in that final round, is accorded the win. Those are the rules at the Masters. If it happens again this April, the same procedures will be followed.
Suffice it to say, that ’68 Masters became one of the most dramatic and memorable of all time. Every 10 years, or even every five, journalists all over the world pick up the phone and call Goalby, hoping for fresh angles or new memories. They are almost always satisfied.
“Every 10 years, on the eights,” he says, “the calls start coming.”
Oh, yes. Goalby is still alive. Not only alive, but, at age 90, still getting out on the driving range occasionally and looking forward to his 62nd trip to Augusta and the Masters this coming April.
The Hall of Fame thing is not something that Goalby whines about, or even ponders that much. When somebody brings it up, he smiles and shrugs. He is, after all, already in the St. Louis Hall of Fame, the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame and the Belleville (Illinois) Walk of Fame. Belleville is where he was born and raised, where he sneaked over the fence of a nearby country club for 15 years to learn the game — “they never once tossed me out,” he says — and where he lives now, except for some winter months he spends in Palm Desert.
Indeed, in many ways, Goalby’s absence from the World Golf Hall of Fame is its loss more than his.
The Hall currently inducts new members every two years, so 2021 will be next. People in golf are inducted in four categories: Male Player, Female Player, Veterans and Lifetime Achievement. The current criteria for Male Player are at least two major titles or 15 wins in approved events. Goalby has one major (and two second places by 1 shot each in two other majors) and 13 titles. The Veterans category has no minimum wins, but the player has to have ended his career by 1980. In 1982, Goalby, then 53, finished 46th in the Masters. He played in the Masters through ’86.
That brings us to the Lifetime Achievement Award, which has been the entrance route for the likes of Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Billy Payne and Dan Jenkins, the last a legend who once wrote of Goalby:
“He was hard-working, durable and unpretentious.”
Lifetime Achievement honorees are in the Hall because they brought fame to the game. Goalby’s celebrated Masters, its enduring newsworthiness and his thousands of interviews about it certainly qualify in that regard.
This is a man so full of the game’s lore that those who plan Hall of Fame programs should put him in a comfortable chair on a stage in a room full of golfers and golf lovers and hand him a microphone. This is how they can hear about the letter he has, and cherishes, from Bobby Jones, telling him that the 3-iron he hit on No. 15 that led to an eagle on the final day of that ’68 Masters was “the finest shot I ever saw on that hole.” He can talk about seeing Jones a short while later and shaking the legend’s hand while Jones said, “What happened was fortunate for you, and unfortunate for Roberto.”
If for no other reason, Goalby should be in the Hall because DeVicenzo is.
The 1968 Masters is no longer controversial. It has outlived that, and is now celebrated.
So, too, should be its remaining survivor.