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May 20, 2009
VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance today. It's my great pleasure to welcome you to what is a very special afternoon for us at Wentworth Club.
One of the many great facets of the week of the BMW Championship is that, the Flagship Event of The European Tour affords us the opportunity to provide the perfect platform for wonderful occasions such as this World Golf Hall of Fame announcement. And so to get us underway, I would like to hand it over to Mr. George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour to kick us off. Thank you, George.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Thank you, Scott. Where is the invisible man? I assure he's somewhere, isn't he? (Looking at empty chair on dais).
SCOTT CROCKETT: I sincerely hope so.
GEORGE O'GRADY: I know I've just come back from Ireland, where we had another one of these announcements, and the great Christy O'Connor was inducted into the Hall of Fame; and I'm still recovering from the Irish induction, if that's not a message. And Jack Peter, the Chief Executive of the Hall of Fame was with us on that occasion, and I think it was a truly memorable Irish occasion last Wednesday.
If that was a great occasion in Ireland, this is I think a very significant occasion for us today, where JosĂÂ© Maria OlazĂÂĄbal is being only the second Spaniard inducted into the Hall of Fame. I think I don't need to tell anybody in this room about his achievements, and those of us lucky enough to be at our dinner last night would enjoy his introduction and performance with Angel Cabrera.
But I think to explain about the Hall of Fame and the world international players that have come into this category, you'll hear enough from me over the course of the week, so Jack, it's all yours.
JACK PETER: Well, thank you, George, and it is truly a pleasure to be here. We were in Ireland last week, the 3 Irish Open. Lovely weather you had on the weekend, a little bit like Florida.
We had a great week last week. I want to thank The European Tour, again, for their generosity and their hospitality over the last couple of weeks. It has been a real treat for me personally, and it has been a great platform for the World Golf Hall of Fame to come over to Europe and spread the word, the good word about the Hall of Fame.
I also want to thank BMW. As many of you know, we can't do any of this without sponsor help, and they have been a great supporter, and I wanted to thank them, as well.
And also, just to thank the Wentworth Golf Club, truly one of the best places on earth, and it's a pleasure to be back. So I just wanted to thank them.
We are here today to announce the results of the International Ballot, and before we do that, I just want to comment for a minute on the Hall of Fame and tell where you it's located in Florida and a little bit of about what brought us here today.
For those of you that don't know, the Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, Florida. It's along Florida's northeast coast; the key indicator there is it's about 20 minutes from Sawgrass. So those of you familiar with the TPC we are right around the corner.
Currently we have 126 members in the Hall of Fame that represent some of the best and brightest players, contributors to the game, and today's announcement will bring the number to 129.
There are five avenues into the Hall of Fame: Two of them are a ballot system, one is a PGA TOUR ballot, and we announced Lanny Wadkins was elected on the PGA TOUR ballot a few weeks ago. We are announcing the International Ballot today. Last week, as we discussed, we announced Christy O'Connor, who came in on the Veteran's Category. The LPGA has a points-based system which allows them entrance into the Hall of Fame, and finally there's a Discretionary Category, which is determined by the board of directors for lifetime achievement, primarily contributions from outside the ropes.
The Induction Ceremony is scheduled for this November, November 2; it's a Monday. I expect to see all of you over in St. Augustine helping us to celebrate.
But again, today we are announcing the results of the International Ballot, and he's a fine gentleman. I have recently got to know JosĂÂ© Maria, and it's been a real privilege for me to get to know him. Great guy. He's done and continues to do much for golf, he's a great ambassador for Spain, and he's a real deserving addition to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
So at this time, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, he's not invisible, please welcome JosĂÂ© Maria OlazĂÂĄbal. JosĂÂ© Maria?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: (Entering room to wide round of applause).
SCOTT CROCKETT: Jose Maria, if you would like to just kick us off with a few comments on how you are feeling about today.
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Well, I feel great. Obviously I feel excited about being inducted to the Hall of Fame. I do have a lot of respect for all of the people that is already there. I know that they have done great things, much greater things than I have.
And just being part of that group makes me feel really special, and I have to say that it's even more special because Seve is there. My relationship with him has been always a very special one. And just to follow in his footsteps and be part of that, you know, is truly something that I will really cherish for the rest of my life.
SCOTT CROCKETT: JosĂÂ© Maria, thank you for those comments.
Q. I'm just interested, what's the balance between, say, Ollie's Masters wins and his Ryder Cup achievements in his voting into the Hall of Fame?
JACK PETER: Well, the ballot system is a vote. There are roughly 200 to 225 voting members on the International Ballot. It's made up of golf writers, historians and some administrators in the game, and it's really up to their discretion as to how they weigh Ryder Cup appearances versus Masters victories versus other tournament victories.
So it really is a vote, and it's a sealed vote. So I can only speculate how people measure that.
Q. Would JosĂÂ© Maria be one of the youngest members?
JACK PETER: JosĂÂ© Maria would be one of the younger ones. Vijay Singh came in when he was the age of 43.
Some of the women have come in through their points system at a very early age; Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb have all come in this their 30s which speaks more to the points system than anything to do with the process.
(Turning to JosĂÂ© Maria): Are you young, or old?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: I feel old. (Laughter)
JACK PETER: I think you're just right.
Q. You've obviously been through a lot of adversity. Before your second Masters win, could you ever have dreamt that a day like this would come along for you?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Not really. When I first started playing golf obviously, I played golf just for the fun of it. I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed the challenge that the game offers.
No one day was the same as the one before. I never thought about those things. I just kept on trying to improve my game, try to get better, trying to win as many tournaments as possible, but it never came to me that I would be in the Hall of Fame or win events, but obviously we dream about that.
You know, it's really difficult to achieve those things. The older you get, the more experienced you get, it makes you realize that you know that to achieve those things was going to be difficult, but once you get older and you look back, you realize it was even more difficult than you really thought.
Q. Did it become an ambition after Seve was inducted perhaps?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Well, ambition, I wouldn't say that. I thought it was going to be out of reach to be honest, because I thought what Seve did, I cannot compare to Seve in any way. What Seve did for the game of golf and the way he did it, you know, there is no one else, that I know, that equals his achievements the way he did.
Obviously we do have great players like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, and they had great charisma when they played golf tournaments; Arnold Palmer. We do have Tiger these days.
But to come from a background where golf was an elite sport, where you didn't have any kind of help to practice the game; Seve, you all know that he had a 3-iron and he had to go to the beach Santander in Cantabria, and he had to develop all of his skills just by feel. To achieve what he has achieved, especially being so attractive to crowds; I know he was all over the park pretty much off the tee, but at the end of the day, he hit many good shots and he saw shots that no one else did, and I think that that made him special. And I can never compare myself to Seve. So it was out of reach for me.
Q. I think I'm right in saying that each member of the Hall of Fame has their own locker; yes?
JACK PETER: Yes.
Q. Where they put special things in the locker. I just wonder if there's something that you would like to put on the locker that is special to you.
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: I haven't think that far (laughing).
Q. Is there something that would at this point I five your game that you would want the public to know about, a putter or a wedge or a pair of shoes or hanky?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: I don't know. I guess it would have to be a putter or sand wedge to be honest. I think those two clubs have defined my career.
I would put the driver, also, but upside-down. (Laughter) I think that might be the right combination.
JACK PETER: Well, they are full length, so it will fit that way.
Q. There's a temptation with a number like this that it rounds up everything that you've done and achieved on the sport and puts the cap on the end; what is left for you to achieve out on the golf course?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Well, it's just personal challenges, I think to be honest; there have been in the past, and that's what has moved me to practice hard and keep on trying. That's what keeps me going still. It's personal challenges.
What are those challenges? You know, I'm going through a recovery process at the moment, and I see that the level of the game is raised. The younger players are playing better golf. They are hitting the ball much longer and they are scoring much better than we used to in tougher conditions.
And the challenge is just to be competitive these days, to give myself the better possible chance, yes, to stick my nose out there one week or two, you know, and hopefully win an event again.
You know, to be part of the major events, too. I do have to qualify to be able to play in those, and, you know, there are different challenges. As years go by, the challenges change. But they are still there and there is plenty of them.
Q. You are one of I think only three or four players to do the double of the Masters and then come here and win the BMW PGA. Thinking of that, how do you feel that Angel might do this week; do you think he could follow your example?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Actually, I think he can. He has proven through these last few years that this golf course suits his eye. He has won here. He has finished second twice I think. And I think it's a golf course that he likes.
The greens are small and firm, he is a long hitter of the ball and quite straight; I think he should do well. He has a good chance, yeah.
Q. I wanted to ask Jack, all Halls of Fame operate differently, baseball I think is a five-year waiting period after retirement. Is there a minimum age requirement?
JACK PETER: Yes, there is a minimum age of the men for 40 years old and we ten to look at it as a real plus. Now JosĂÂ© Maria marches off to victory here this week and throughout the summer, and he will carry the mantle of a World Golf Hall of Fame member, and we think that's a real plus for us and the sport.
Q. Is there a minimum for women?
JACK PETER: No, the women are based on a points system, which is why the women have come in at a younger age. If they win a certain number of points, they automatically gain entry.
So the Hall of Fame is a unique -- this World Golf Hall of Fame is a unique Hall of Fame of all Halls of Fames in that when we conceived it, the idea all along was to be very inclusive. And the trick there is to make it a worldwide institution, a, which is why we are over here this week and why we were in Ireland last week. But also to recognise women in the game; and to do that, as you know, with the multiple tours and the different tracks of achievements out there for players, it takes a bit of balancing from an administrative point of view.
But we think it's been a nice blend of recognition for the greatest players, and we are all of 11 years old in a sport that's 450 years old, so we think we are making good progress. We are catching up.
Q. What would you rate the greatest shot of your career, so far, and which one would you like again?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: I know the one I would like again. That's that tee shot at the 18th of Augusta in '91 when Woosie won that Masters.
Greatest shots, obviously you have to take into consideration the situation. I think I can say I've hit wonderful shots, but you know, maybe in the second round or the first round of an event, but the ones that really count are those that you hit really under pressure and when everything is at stake.
I think it would have to be between the putt I holed on 15 against Tom Lehman, or the 6-iron I hit on 16 in 1999 after Davis Love chipped in from the left-hand side of the green, one of those two shots. That gave me the cushion to play a little bit more relaxed the last two holes.
Q. When you started out in your career, did you want to be famous and make history through your achievements, was that something you wanted? And now, are you where you expected to be at this stage in your life?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: The first question is no, and to the second question, I think I have achieved bigger things than I have expected.
As I said before, I played for the fun of the game, for the challenges of the game, and I just wanted to compete against the best and see how good I was, so I didn't have any goals or I didn't want to be famous. I didn't play just for that.
I just played to put myself in a situation where I was competing against the best and see how good I was.
Q. Is it still fun?
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: Well (laughing) at times it is a lot of fun. There are some other times, obviously, that it's really frustrating, because you've played golf all your life, you think that by now, you should be able to control that white round thing more often, and it doesn't happen.
But it's still a lot of fun. I like being here playing the BMW PGA competing with, again, the top players. I still have that desire to go out there and score low and feel the pressure. I love that.
Q. Speaking of milestones in your career, have you ever been as cold and as wet as you were last weekend in Baltray, and will you be going back? (Laughter).
JOSĂâ° MARIA OLAZĂÂBAL: I will have to go really, way, way back. (Laughter) I remember playing in awful weather conditions in Holland, but without the rain. It was gale-force winds, but we didn't have to open the umbrella.
Sometimes in Scotland when we play the Dunhill Links, conditions are similar to those that we have played at last weekend. But it's been a long, long time.
To the second part of the question, of course I will be going back to Ireland. Ireland is a wonderful country. They do have wonderful golf courses, wonderful links and parkland golf courses, and the people, I have to say, they are wonderful. I will go back if I can, yes.
SCOTT CROCKETT: JosĂÂ© Maria, many congratulations, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts