World Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors has selected the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Nov. 2.
Eisenhower, selected in the Lifetime Achievement Category, will become the first President inducted into the Hall of Fame. Posthumously he will join Christy O’Connor, José Maria Olazábal and Lanny Wadkins as part of the Class of 2009.
On the selection of President Eisenhower, Arnold Palmer commented, “One would be hard pressed to find any single person who did more to popularize the game of golf, not only in the United States but throughout the world, than President Eisenhower. His visibility, coupled with his passion for the game, were the inspiration for literally millions of people picking up the game for the first time. Those involved in golf today owe him a great debt of gratitude.
“Since I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed a warm, personal friendship with the President, I had the opportunity to see firsthand his passion for the game and the impact he had on its broadening appeal worldwide.”
On behalf of the Eisenhower family, Merrill Atwater, great-grandson of the late president, said, “There is no doubt that being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame would have been both humbling and a tremendous honor for my great-grandfather. His personal interest in the game is evident throughout his career and among the many family stories shared through the generations.”
During and subsequent to his years in the White House, Eisenhower was the figurative face of golf in the public eye and, as a result, was a significant contributor to the game’s tremendous growth in the latter half of the 1900s.
Eisenhower is credited with motivating millions of golfers over the age of 40 to try golf for the first time. According to Don Van Natta, Jr., author of “First Off The Tee”, when Eisenhower took office in 1953, 3.2 million Americans played golf and by 1961, that number had doubled.
Through verbal addresses and written correspondence, there are numerous instances when Eisenhower extorted the virtues of the game he loved. In a letter sent to the Detroit News on May 1, 1953, he noted, “While I know that I speak with the partisanship of an enthusiast, golf obviously provides one of our best forms of healthful exercise, accompanied by good fellowship and companionship. It is a sport in which the whole American family can participate—fathers, mothers, sons and daughters alike. It offers healthy respite from daily toil, refreshment of body and mind.”
“It should be no surprise that President Eisenhower’s passion for golf influenced so many during his time in office,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A and Chairman of the World Golf Foundation. “He was a role model not only in the United States, but throughout the free world and his leadership during World War II brought hope when it was sorely needed. That such a man was devoted to golf did much to popularize and raise the stature of our sport.”
“President Eisenhower is among a small group of extremely important, high profile figures in history who contributed mightily to the health and growth of the game of golf,” said Jack Peter, Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Hall of Fame. “We look forward to sharing the captivating stories of his love of golf and his important role in the sport’s past.
In 1948, Eisenhower made his first visit to Augusta National Golf Club and is on record as having visited the club a total 45 times, often for lengthy stays. After his presidential election, a group of Augusta National members built a cabin for him, complete with space for Secret Service agents on the bottom floor. The club’s most famous member eventually became memorialized through naming of other effects on Augusta National grounds, including Ike’s Pond and Ike’s Tree.
Born in 1890 in Denison, Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower began his military career at the United States Military Academy at West Point. After holding various executive positions within the Army ranks, he was called to Washington for a World War II assignment following Pearl Harbor. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in 1942 and he was Supreme Commander of the troops invading France on D-Day in 1944.
After WWII, he became President of Columbia University, then took a leave of absence to assume supreme command over the new NATO forces being assembled in 1951. He successfully ran for President in 1952 and took office in 1953, the first of two terms at United States President. He died, after a long illness, on March 28, 1969.
The 2009 World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 2.