Golf Hall did its homework

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

What stands out about this year's inductees into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame is that two of the three picks easily could have slipped through the cracks.

But whoever nominated them, and the selection committee, didn't let that happen.

As usual, the pre-announcement speculation was focused on touring pros such as Jim Nelford, Richard Zokol, Jerry Anderson and Gail Graham -- all worthy of consideration.

One rumour that has popped up frequently is that Arnold Palmer is also under consideration, but while just about everybody adores the charismatic king, isn't his induction into a Canadian institution a reach?

Palmer, who won both a Canadian Open and Canadian PGA title, has already been honoured several times, including the unveiling of a statue at the Weston Golf and Country Club, celebrating his Open title in 1955.

The induction of Palmer would be infinitely more bizarre than Mike Weir's last year, when critics called that move premature because the 2003 Masters champ was in some potentially prime years of his career.

From this vantage point, Weir's induction illustrates the massive impact he's had on the game in Canada and how exceptional he has been. He was a slam dunk, anyway, so why wait? Others will have to, but that's the way it is with any Hall of Fame.

Two of this year's inductees have been waiting longer than the touring pros mentioned above, Graham Cooke being the exception.

Cooke is still active as a renowned course designer, but he'll go in as a player and, like Weir, could add to his impressive resume after winning seven Canadian mid-amateur championships, four national senior titles, one Ontario junior championship, four Quebec amateur crowns and two senior titles in that province.

The two people who will go into the Hall with Cooke are the ones who could have been overlooked, but weren't, thanks to nominators with long memories.

Now working as a coach and teacher at the University of Colorado, Brent Franklin took six consecutive national titles, including the 1983-84 Canadian junior championships and three consecutive national amateur titles from 1985-87 before winning the 1988 Canadian PGA Championship.

Besides earning a scholarship to Brigham Young University, Franklin also won a slew of provincial championships, was 1988 Canadian Tour player of the year and a member of the World Team champions in 1986.

"I think for me it came as a surprise because it's a part of the game I left behind a long time ago," Franklin said. "Since I've played a round that counted, it's probably been 10 years.

'IN ITS PLACE'

"I think that you enjoy (playing) at the time, then you kind of put it in its place, then you move on to other aspects, other areas of your life and that's what I've done," he added. "It never even occurred to me until I got the phone call that this was even something that was possible, so it came as a huge surprise to me."

The same goes for the family of Ben Kern, who did play on the PGA Tour, but is being inducted posthumously as a builder after a career as a highly respected club professional at places such as The National and Devil's Pulpit.

Kern's career was devoted to teaching, coaching and junior programs, having worked on the Canadian PGA teaching manual and laying the foundation for what is now the successful CN Future Links junior program.

"Certainly, it was a huge surprise to us, Ben having passed in 2002, but one that we're really thrilled with," said his wife, Janet. "Ben put his heart and soul into golf, he loved golf. It was his life and we're so happy that he's being recognized in this way."

For however many tour pros that are on the list as possible inductees, there are many more standout amateurs and builders of the game whose accomplishments and contributions behind the scenes shouldn't be overlooked, either.

HUTCHGOLF@NETZERO.COM


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