PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Nov. 13, 2015) – Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart, Charlie Sifford and Tommy Bolt, a foursome that left a historic impact on American golf, headed a class of seven inductees that were enshrined Thursday evening in the PGA of America Hall of Fame.
The 2015 class, honored before an audience of more than 600 at the PGA’s 99th Annual Meeting in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, also featured 2013 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Michael Doctor of Camillus, New York; 2014 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Ray Cutright of Macon, Georgia; and legendary University of Texas Coach George Hannon.
“We mark 75 years since the PGA of America Hall of Fame was established,” said PGA of America President Derek Sprague. “It is an amazing walk through history, a remarkable assembly over the years. Tonight, we celebrate legends, major champions, those who defied the odds, and accomplished PGA Professionals who have made an everlasting mark on their profession.”
Lee Trevino, who was championed by PGA Master Professional Bill Eschenbrenner of El Paso, Texas, to gain PGA Tour eligibility, praised PGA leadership for supporting him as he made the transition from PGA club professional to a full-time player. “This [his career] is living proof I didn’t let them down.” Forty-eight years after he was elected to PGA membership, Trevino arrived in the PGA Hall of Fame.
“Let me tell you what the Hall of Fame means,” he said. “It means that you went way beyond the call of duty; that you have worked extremely hard. You are elected by your peers. There’s no better election. They know how hard you worked, the sacrifices that you’ve made.”
When Trevino captured the 1974 PGA Championship, his fifth of eight career major championships, he said that it had special meaning. “I felt like it was payback. [The PGA of America] took a chance on me, and I fulfilled my commitment. It was very gratifying. They were the ones who trusted in me.”
Payne Stewart, a two-time major winner, was widely known for his stylish knickers and passionate play, enabling him to become one of the most popular players in the game.
“I’m very honored and so proud,” said his wife, Tracey Stewart, to NBC Sports’ Jimmy Roberts, the Master of Ceremonies. “This is not an award about how many victories. It’s an award about Payne’s special qualities and his character.”
Charles Sifford Jr., accepted the PGA Hall of Fame honor for his late father, who had broken the color barrier in golf in the early 1960s. Charles Sr. passed away last February, but not after receiving such honors as the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barak Obama; a World Golf Hall of Fame induction in 2004; and a 2006 Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
“It showed that he was recognized by the world outside of golf,” said Sifford Jr., who recalled his father talking about becoming the first African-American on the PGA Tour. “He once talked about quitting, but my mother, Rose, would lift him up and kept him following his dream.”
Tommy Bolt was one of the most flamboyant players to play the game. A two-time Ryder Cup team member and the 1958 U.S. Open Champion, Bolt was taken under the wing of the legendary Ben Hogan. “My father loved the game,” said his son Thomas Bolt. “He played during a time when everybody helped each other…So, he turned to Hogan and Tom Weiskopf. They helped each other out.”
PGA Master Professionals Michael Doctor and Ray Cutright both obtained the highest possible educational designation among PGA members, a feat achieved by approximately one percent of the Membership. They also comprised the two previous PGA Golf Professionals of the Year, the PGA’s highest annual honor.
“I never considered this hard work. I never considered it a sacrifice…Any time I can help a fellow PGA member, I do so…I love it. I thrive on it, and I still do it,” said Doctor, who has served Skaneateles (New York) Country Club for 31 years.
“I am so blessed to do what I do every day,” added Cutright, who runs an extensive junior program at Idle Hour Golf Club in Macon, Ga. “They’re a big reason why I do it every day.”
Former University of Texas Coach George Hannon, who led the 1971-72 NCAA Championship teams, coached the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, and inspired 60 students to PGA membership, said he had a simple coaching success formula. “It was a great thing for me and the kids to have a groups of guys together that were really fine players—and who loved the game almost as much as I did,” said Hannon. “We would make it kind of a family affair. We had a lot fun.”
Originated in 1940 at the suggestion of famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, the PGA of America Hall of Fame was relocated in 2005 to the PGA Museum of Golf at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The PGA Hall of Fame honors and recognizes individuals who through their lives, careers, service and support have made significant and enduring contributions to the PGA of America in its mission to grow the game of golf.
Inductees include PGA Golf Professionals, Tour Professionals or Ambassadors, who throughout their lives have supported and elevated the image of the PGA Golf Professional, the PGA of America and the game of golf.