Inside The World of Golf Hall of Fame

Gary Player has said it best, “If you love golf, you have to go to St. Augustine and experience the World Golf Hall of Fame.”

The Hall of Fame is the ideal addition to America’s oldest city, where Ponce de Leon once searched for the Fountain of Youth in his New World and where the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum has now assured the immortality of the game for the entire world.

World Golf

The Hall of Fame is the centerpiece of the World Golf Village, a pre-eminent leader in the golf resort industry. The Village embraces the luxury of the Renaissance Resort and two of Florida’s most playable and challenging courses—Slammer & Squire and King & Bear—as well as many other forms of entertainment and dining, especially Bill Murray’s famous Caddyshack restaurant.

The World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum honors its 150 inductees both by telling their individual stories with personal memorabilia and by relating the history of their game with artifacts, photographs, hands-on exhibits, and video displays.

The Presidents Cup at Liberty National will be commencing at the end of September. The Hall of Fame will be inducting five more with its Class of 2017: Davis Love III, Henry Longhurst, Meg Mallon, Lorena Ochoa Reyes, and Ian Woosnam.

The man behind the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum is its president, Jack Peter.

Here is his story.

NEGM: Give us a little background. How did you get into golf? Current handicap? Your five favorite courses?

JP: I grew up in Glenview, Illinois on Chicago’s North Shore, and I was and still am a Cubs fan. I graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a degree in Political Science.

I’ve been playing golf my whole life because my father introduced me to the game as a youngster. In the summer, I would ride my bike with my clubs slung over my shoulders to Glenview Park Golf Course. I have played much too infrequently as of late, but my resolve is to play at least three to four times a month. My Index is 15 at TPC Sawgrass, but once I get on the course again, I should get down to around a 9 or so. I just thoroughly enjoy the game and the camaraderie, so I can’t wait to get back on the tee.

My five favorite courses are Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Old Course at St. Andrews, Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, Ireland, and Cabot Cliffs, the new Coore-Crenshaw design in Nova Scotia. The real answer, of course, is anywhere I score well!

NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome? An historical foursome?

JP: My father, Arnold Palmer, Bill Murray, and Annika Sorenstam—a fivesome. Is that OK?

Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

NEGM: What positions led you to the World Golf Hall of Fame?

JP: Disney World in Orlando is what brought me to Florida. I was not on the park side. I was on the production side producing a variety of films and television programs, mostly for the Disney Channel.  While with Disney in the early 1990s, I met the people at PGA TOUR Productions. The vision of the World Golf Village at that time was just that, a vision. Part of the vision was to build a TOUR production company and relocate it from New York City. Because of my experience in Chicago after Loyola with film and television and with building a studio up there, the TOUR was looking for someone to help design, build, and relocate the production company and staff to the World Golf Village.

I took the job with the PGA TOUR and moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1994. We opened the facility in 1997, and the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum opened in 1998. Three years later Commissioner Finchem, who liked the way I had organized the production company, asked me take over the Hall of Fame as its second president, as it was going through some management changes.

Jack Peter has a good reason to smile as his presidency has helped to catapult the World Golf Hall of Fame into international prominence. (Vicky MacKay)

NEGM: What has been your mandate as President?

JP: The World Golf Hall of Fame opened in St. Augustine in 1998. The original Hall of Fame in Pinehurst had closed in the late ’80s. Consequently, this gap arose where the Hall of Fame simply fell out of the consciousness of the golf fan, and, perhaps more importantly, out of consciousness of the Hall of Fame members themselves. So, my mandate was simple: to get the relationships in place with the current Hall of Fame members and then to build on those relationships. For two years, I met with all the members to introduce them to this new organization, to explain what our goals were, and then to get them on board with some of our programming and some of our story-telling activities.

World Golf

The World Golf Hall of Fame is the centerpiece of the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida.

NEGM: What important changes have occurred since you began your tenure?

JP: We’ve undergone one major change in the structure of the museum, a wholesale redesign of the entire guest experience—a real makeover, if you will, to better highlight the exhibits and the presentations and to make them more interactive and guest friendly.

Probably the biggest change was to the induction process itself. I introduced the new process at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March of 2014. We had two goals: first, to increase the globalization and worldwide reach of the institution; and second, to heighten the profile of the Induction Ceremony. The ceremony would now be conducted every two years, and it would now be tied into other major golf events. That’s why the ceremony in 2015 was in St Andrews during The Open Championship and why the induction in 2017 will be in New York City during the Presidents Cup. The 2019 event will be at Pebble Beach during the U.S. Open.

There has been a sizable change in how we induct people, especially with regard to the qualifications and to the committee who determines the Hall’s candidates. These changes have been positively received, and we have received great feedback everywhere we go.

World Golf

What memorabilia are in the lockers of Jack and Gary? The Locker Room exhibit is a captivating insight into the professional lives of the Hall of Famers.

NEGM: Who decides who will be enshrined?

JP: There is a 16-member Selection Commission. It is co-chaired by four Hall of Fame members with the current ones Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez, and Annika Sorenstam. Then we have the seven chief executives of the organizations that are represented on our Board: European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, The Masters, The R&A, and USGA. The golf media have three seats. The final two members are at-large choices and are currently the CEO’s of the PGA of Australia and the Ladies European Tour. A Selection Sub-Committee of 20 is responsible for submitting finalists to the Selection Commission. To be inducted, an individual must receive approval from at least 12 members of the Commission.

NEGM: What would you like your legacy to be?

JP: I have a very long-term view of the Hall of Fame. It will be around for hundreds of years. I have only been here for 20 and began my work during its infancy. I think I would like my legacy to be that I built an enduring foundation with its focus on growth, that I oversaw a viable process for induction, and that I set the bar high for “story telling.” Our guests want to know about the personalities behind the Hall of Famers—what makes them tick. All golfers who love the game, once they come here, will reconnect with both its history and the fascinating narratives of the people who have made the game great. I would hope that the Hall always remains a museum of meaningful stories.

(Unless otherwise credited, photographs are courtesy of the World Golf Hall of Fame.)