Every World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony is different. I've been to all of them since the new facility opened in 1996. Today's included one of the most loved golfers in Fred Couples, as well as one of the most polarizing golfers in Colin Montgomerie.
We found out a few new things, including that superstars sometimes cry in public.
And here's a news flash: "Monty," as he is known on the other side of the Atlantic, is going to charm the socks off US golf fans if they give him a chance. He has stories from playing around the world that are fascinating, and he tells them in an exuberant way.
One recollection was about traveling to the Philippines to play with President Ramos. Just as he was heading to the course, his agent told him that the president was the "most shot-at" in the world.
"I was there to open a hole that the president had designed on his new golf course. It had a hill in it, and he had named this hole Mound Go Merry," Montgomerie explained with a smile. "The problem was, I had to stand beside him for a series of photos." He said the photos weren't particularly good because he was glaring at his agent the entire time, no doubt waiting to dodge bullets.
Montgomerie became a professional rather by accident. After graduating from Houston Baptist University with a degree in sports management and a minor in pre-law, he was being interviewed for a position with IMG in Europe.
He took a golf cart out to the lighthouse at Turnberry where he was to play the inward nine with two staffers at IMG. He wasn't really paying attention to his score, and he posted a 29. The guys at IMG said that instead of Montgomerie working for them, they would like to work for him.
Earlier in the day, meeting the media, Montgomerie admitted that the only major championship that stung was the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot, where he was on the fairway and only needed a par to win.
"I know Phil Mickelson, a fellow inductee now, can say the same. He double-bogeyed the last hole, and so did I just minutes before him, and we threw that one away. That's the one that hurts. The four others or five others really, somebody happened to beat me," Montgomerie added. "The 2006 Winged Foot I beat myself, and that's where it hurts most. So that has taken the most to recover from."
On the other close calls, he's taking the stance which he says Gary Player suggested: Ties count as a win.
We knew that Colin Montgomerie would play the Champions Tour, but he sounds like he's all in. He's committing to it.
At the end, when Monty said his "major" was creating a cancer center in Scotland named after his late mother, he teared up. And with that, he left the stage.
Fred Couples was probably how people who think they know him expect him to be. But most people really do not know him, although they would like to, and sometimes when you watch a guy play enough golf, you feel like you know him.
Couples was a little self-deprecating, very honest and particularly humble for a guy who PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said was one of the players who "moved the needle."
Couples moved needles, pins, hearts and minds and made for a lot of excitement on the golf course in his heyday. Still does. But now in his early-50s, he has learned to take his celebrity in stride, even though it is not anything he ever sought. Victories? Those he sought. Money? That was important. But fame was not something he wanted. It came to him.
By now, everyone knows the story about Jim Nantz, Blaine McAllister and Fred Couples being on the golf team at Houston. They know that Nantz practiced interviewing Fred, pretending that Couples had just won The Masters. "Dream big" is their suggestion to people who think it can't happen.
Couples recalled how his sister was mad at him when he was young because his mom gave him $5 a day in the summer, which he would spend for a round of golf at Jefferson Park and a hamburger and a Coke. His sister, Cindy, got an $8-a-week allowance. He got $35—$5 at a time. No wonder she was upset!
He admitted that when he was young, he did not have enough money for a golf glove, so he played without one. Still does.
When talking about the golfers he admired growing up, he mentioned Lee Trevino, who he saw at a clinic once in Seattle, and Tom Weiskopf.
Ten years or so after that, he made the cut at the US Open in Toledo at Inverrary and was paired with Trevino, who took to calling him Cupcakes. That's your new call sign for Couples. He's opened the door. Cupcakes it is.
A telling fact is that three caddies who worked for Couples were in attendance, including the two who toted for him most of his career, Linn Strickler and Joe LaCava.
Few caddies have come to previous inductions. It would be unwise to say never, but it's not in recent memory. That is a tribute in a way to the kind of human that lies under the outward superstar. A caddie spends more time with a golfer than anyone else, including family. When they show up, you know the guy is special in a way that is hard to define.
Couples made the caddies feel part of the team, part of the effort, part of the victory, part of the defeat, part of the ordeal, part of the trip. Maybe that's what Couples does best. He includes people from time to time in ways that make them feel special, as he did in his speech, remembering his fourth roommate at Houston, John Horn.
He also noted those he considered friends among PGA Tour players like Mike Donald, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, two PGA Tour Commissioners—Deane Beman andTim Finchem—his agent, Lynn Roach, and others.
When he had thanked everyone he needed to thank, he read a few words and then choked out, "Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him into the Hall of Fame. This is the coolest night of my life," and left the stage crying.
What the outsiders see is Fred Couples, who is to golf what Marilyn Monroe was to movies. He's the It Guy. What Couples insiders see is the guy who can't believe he's in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and it's moved him to tears. Cupcakes just earned himself another million fans without even trying.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, All quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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