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Golf News: - Posted 18th May 1998

Faldo and Miller inducted into Hall of Fame

Associated Press

St. Augustine, Florida. - Golf didn't even have a Hall of Fame when Johnny Miller started banging golf balls off a piece of carpet into tarps that his father hung in the basement of their San Francisco home.

It didn't have a shrine this spectacular when Nick Faldo went in search of the perfect swing and settled for one good enough to produce six major championships.

On Monday, Miller and Faldo were inducted into the World Golf of Fame, joining 71 previous members who were ushered into their new home at the $350 million World Golf Village.

"This surpasses any week's moment," said Miller, who won the U.S. Open and Open Championship during his domination of golf in the mid-1970s. "This is a career."

Miller and Faldo each battled their emotions at the podium on a sweltering afternoon. Behind them sat 23 members of the Hall of Fame, representing just about every tour and every generation -- Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead, Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez, Tom Watson and Hale Irwin.

"That is an awesome group of men and ladies there," said Faldo, who won three British Opens and three Masters. "I think I was more in awe than at Augusta. I mean, Augusta is great -- that's an exclusive bunch of guys. But this one tops it."

Golf had been without a Hall of Fame since 1994, when the one in Pinehurst, N.C., closed after 20 years and the World Golf Village, backed by virtually every golf organization, slowly came to life.

Miller was elected on the PGA Tour ballot in November 1996. Faldo was elected last year on the international ballot along with Seve Ballesteros, who deferred his induction until next year.

The only other player who qualified for the Hall of Fame the past four years was Betsy King, who won her 30th LPGA event in 1995.

Men and women, Americans and foreign players, journalists and architects, all of them are honoured with crystal cones that bear their images and signatures in granite slabs around the Walk of Champions.

"This is finally something that is going to make golf even more recognizable that it already is," said Arnold Palmer, who received a standing ovation when he took his seat.

Miller and Faldo each credited their parents -- Miller's for teaching him the game of golf, Faldo's for letting him drop of school at age 16 to pursue a professional career.

Miller was like a burning comet in the 1970s -- his play was brilliant, but didn't last very long. From 1973 to 1976, he won 16 of his 29 victories worldwide and both his majors -- the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, when he closed with a record 63, and the 1976 Open Championship.

He was so dominant that he won the 1975 Phoenix Open by 14 strokes, and a week later closed with a 61 to win in Tucson by nine strokes. But he began to reduce his schedule when the fourth of his six children was born in 1976.

"No amount of success can compensate for failure at home," he said on his induction video.

Miller choked back tears as he talked about how his father trained him to be a champion, putting a club in his hand when he was 5 years old and telling him stories "about how great golf was."

"The secret to this game is loving this game," Miller said.

Faldo recalled seeing a youth employment officer at age 16 and telling him he wanted to be a golfer.

"He said, 'Only one in 10,000 make it,"" Faldo said. "I said, 'OK, I'm the one.' I got the last laugh on him."

Faldo's passion was perfection. An accomplished cyclist as a kid, his parents gave him a racing cycle when he was 12. Faldo promptly dismantled it piece by piece to see how it worked -- and to see whether it had been assembled properly.

He did the same thing to his game in 1985. Despite winning 14 times in Europe, his failure in major championship caused him to seek out David Leadbetter to rebuild his swing.

Faldo responded with one of the great closing rounds in Open history -- 18 pars to beat Paul Azinger by one stroke in 1987 at Muirfield for his first major.

Of the 33 major championships this decade, no one has won more than Faldo -- the Open Championship in 1990 and 1992, and the Masters in 1990 and 1996. He also won the 1989 Masters.

"He had a work ethic that was quite unbelievable," said Player, who introduced Faldo.

Faldo became hooked on golf when he watched television of Jack Nicklaus winning the 1972 Masters. Looking over his shoulder, he said, "After getting going, it was the great players behind me that kept me going."

The idea of a new World Golf Hall of Fame was conceived 11 years ago by former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman.

It grew into a village covering 6,300 acres that includes a golf course, a hotel and convention centre, vacation villas and a museum containing everything from a replica of the Swilcan Burn Bridge at St. Andrews to hickory-shaft clubs to a video of the greatest moments in golf.

"Today we recognize the players who have been our idols, who have drawn us into this game," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

When the ceremony was over, the 25 Hall of Famers rode an elevator to the top of the 190-foot spire that overlooks the World Golf Village, a fitting end to a day when golf rose to even greater heights.