Growing the game was undoubtedly the underlying theme of the Northern California Golf Association’s 2016 Hall of Fame.
On Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. CEO of the First Tee; the late Helen Lengfeld – champion of the game for girls and women; Charlie Seaver – late northern California amateur golf legend; and eight-time major championship winner Tom Watson – were inducted into the NCGA Hall of Fame at Poppy Hills Golf Course. Proceeds of the induction dinner were donated to Youth on Course.
Leading the event was Master of Ceremonies, Matt Ginella of the Golf Channel. Ginella, a Northern California native, discussed the impact of programs like The First Tee and Youth on Course.
“There are over 400,000 rounds of golf played to date because of Youth on Course – and that is absolutely incredible,” Ginella stated. Earlier this year, Ginella named Youth on Course as the top “Grow the Game Initiative” in golf on The Morning Drive.
“As you can see, I just can’t get enough of this program that is Youth on Course,” he said at the event, “Anytime I get the chance to talk about it, I tell everyone that Youth on Course is the program that will change golf.”
Continuing with the theme of advancing the industry, Derrell Biddy was awarded the Distinguished Service Award. Biddy joined the NCGA in 1972 through the Palm Lakes Men’s club. In 1990 he joined the NCGA Board of Directors and became President in 2000. During this time Biddy played a role in selecting Rees Jones as the architect who would build the second NCGA-owned course, Poppy Ridge in Livermore. In 2005 Biddy joined the Poppy Holding Board and became President in 2007. Biddy played a critical role in the renovation of Poppy Hills Golf Course which re-opened for public play in April 2014.
The event continued with Joe Louis Barrow, Jr’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Barrow undoubtedly has made a huge impact on the golf industry during his time as CEO of The First Tee, a youth development program that has now touched an estimated 12.2 million people.
“Northern California was one of the first places to truly embrace The First Tee program implementation,” Barrow said.
Perhaps that is why Barrow saw fit to create The First Tee Open in 2004, an event that features First Tee participants competing side-by-side with Champions Tour players. The event is hosted annually by Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course.
Following Barrow’s induction was the induction of the late Helen Lengfeld, a woman who changed the course of the golf industry for women in Northern California.
Lengfeld was not only an excellent player, she was a visionary. Lengfeld founded the Women’s Golf Association of Northern California in 1927 and the Pacific Women’s Golf Association in 1947. She was renowned as a golf philanthropist and would sponsor professional women’s tournaments – which would eventually lead to the creation of the LPGA. Langfeld also founded all of the California Women’s Amateur Championships – which includes the Girls’ Junior – a first-of-its-kind event for young amateurs.
There to accept the award on behalf of her Grandmother was Dede Meyer.
“Gran truly would have loved the Youth on Course program and all it stands for,” Meyer said. “She would be so honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and see all of this ‘fuss’ over her.”
The next inductee was Charles Seaver. Seaver has undoubtedly cemented his status in amateur golf history as one of the greatest of all time. While attending Stanford University Seaver went undefeated in both his singles and foursome matches as a member of the winning American Walker Cup team in 1932. In 1933 he won the California Amateur, the Northern California Amateur, and the Southern California Amateur to become one of only two people to win all three titles in the same year.
Following college Seaver moved to Fresno and continued to play golf. He played in what is now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 39 times. He served on the NCGA Board of Directors and was elected President in 1980. Seaver promoted amateur golf all of his life. His legend lives on through the biennial NCGA/SCGA Seaver Cup – a competition that features California’s best young amateur players.
Finally, 39-time PGA TOUR winner Tom Watson took the stage. The Kansas City native burst onto the golf scene upon his arrival to Stanford University in 1969. He played his first ever professional tournament at Silverado Golf Course in Napa Valley and went on to win back to back major championships in 1974.
The six-time PGA TOUR Player of the Year spoke of his love of Northern California. Watson is the only player to have participated in all six of the majors held in Pebble Beach. His sixth and perhaps most memorable Championship title came at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he chipped in to beat Jack Nicklaus on the 17th hole.
“This area means a great deal to me,” Watson said. “I have fond memories of Stanford and all the events I’ve played here.”
Watson continues to play on the Senior Champions Tour and find success.
In addition to his incredible golf career, Watson continues to cement his legacy in golf by promoting grow-the-game initiatives. He recently opened Watson’s 9 in Kansas City to help introduce kids to golf. Perhaps most importantly, Watson was integral in bringing Youth on Course to Kansas City, where the program is thriving after only one summer with nearly 1,000 participants and 20 courses.
“I want to thank the Northern California Golf Association for this great honor,” Watson beamed as he held his Hall of Fame trophy. For all the photos from the event, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/youthoncourse/