Fred Couples recalled his Seattle roots when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — About the only thing Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie had in common was a golf swing good enough to trust for a lifetime.
Seattle native Couples became the first American to reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and won the 1992 Masters by a blade of grass that kept his ball from trickling into Rae’s Creek at Augusta National.
Scotland’s Montgomerie found fame on the European Tour, where he won the Order of Merit a record seven times in a row, though he never won a major tournament, a glaring hole in his credentials.
Couples sauntered down fairways, the essence of cool. Montgomerie walked with his head down, so intense he seldom looked like he was having fun.
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They shared the stage Monday night when both were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with three others: former U.S. Open champion and broadcaster Ken Venturi; former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield; and two-time British Open champion and architect Willie Park Jr.
Couples talked about his childhood in Seattle, when his mother gave him $5 a day in the summer to play at Jefferson Park. He couldn’t afford to buy a glove, and Couples still plays without one. He got choked up when he mentioned he was a 14-year-old watching a PGA Tour player at a clinic in town.
“I wasn’t really the person who said, ‘That’s what I want to do, I’m going to be a PGA Tour player.’ But I knew I wanted to really, really get involved in golf,” Couples said. “And the gentleman’s name was Lee Trevino, who has been a mentor and someone I love.”
Couples rambled at times, as he often does, talking about his journey from Seattle to the University of Houston, where he first met CBS announcer-to-be Jim Nantz, turned pro and won 15 times, including that Masters and the green-jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin with Nantz. They had rehearsed that moment in college.
Couples, 53, was overcome with emotion when he read two sentences from a piece of paper.
“Thanks for taking a kid from Seattle and putting him in the Hall of Fame,” he said as his chin buckled. “This is the coolest night of my life.”
Couples walked off the stage in tears, thrusting both arms in the air.
The election of this year’s class caused some debate.
Couples was elected on the PGA Tour ballot ahead of Mark O’Meara and Davis Love III, who either won more tournaments or more majors.
Couples received 51 percent of the vote, a record low for the PGA Tour ballot. It usually takes 65 percent to get elected, though there is a loophole that if no one gets 65 percent, one player is elected provided he receives at least 50 percent.
“I barely got in here, but I’m in,” Couples said. “And it’s quite an honor.”
Montgomerie, 49, is the fourth player in the last four years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without having won a major tournament.
The Hall of Fame has 146 members.