The LPGA Tour has confirmed to Golf Digest that the tour will announce today that it is removing its 10-year requirement for entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame. The first change to the hall’s rules since 1999 will open the door for 27-time winner Lorena Ochoa [pictured] to enter.
In addition, multiple sources told Golf Digest that the eight LPGA founders of the original 13 who are not in the hall will be announced as eligible as well – a move that would expand the number of members in the hall from 25 to 34. The LPGA declined to comment.
“There’s no question that she’s [Ochoa] worthy of being in the Hall of Fame,” LPGA Tour player Maria Fassi said, “and it makes me extremely proud and happy to know that all her work and dedication is paid off. Because I know this is something that was probably on her list of things that she wanted to accomplish. It’s also very inspiring, humbling for all of us Mexicans to know that we have one of our own in there.”
Currently, there are three objective requirements to earn entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame, which is a different entity than the World Golf Hall of Fame. First, earn 27 points as follows: two points for a Major championship win, one for a tournament victory, and one for earning either the Vare Trophy for season low-scoring average or Rolex Player of the Year. Second, a player must win at least one Major championship or a season-ending award. Third, a player must have 10 years of being an active LPGA member.
Only four players met the requirements since they were announced in 1999: Annika Sorenstam, who was inducted in 2003; Karrie Webb (2005); Se Ri Pak (2007), and Inbee Park (2016). There are four active players with more than 20 Hall of Fame points: Laura Davies (25), Yani Tseng (23), Cristie Kerr (22), and Lydia Ko (21).
Ochoa’s entry was held back because she played only seven years before retiring from full-time play in 2010 at the age of 28. Nevertheless, the former world No.1 dominated the tour, winning two Majors (2007 Women’s British Open, 2008, Kraft Nabisco Championship) and was a four-time Vare Trophy and Player of the Year winner. She earned 37 Hall of Fame points over her storied career and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017. Sources tell Golf Digest that Ochoa will be on hand at the Chevron Championship when the LPGA formally announces the change to its Hall of Fame eligibility.
The LPGA announced it would start reviewing the 10-year rule after the announcement of Ochoa getting into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and a 10-member review committee is being formed.
The only other current avenue into the LPGA Hall of Fame is through the veteran’s committee. The LPGA’s website explains that each year, the committee can nominate one player who meets these criteria: active player for 10 years, followed by five years of inactivity; one Major win or season-ending award; possessing an extraordinary career that significantly impacted the growth of the LPGA. Three players earned entry through the veteran’s committee: Judy Rankin (2000), Donna Caponi (2001), and Marlene Hagge (2002). In addition, Dinah Shore received honorary membership in 1994.
While not all remaining eight founders meet the veteran’s committee criteria, they certainly impacted the tour’s growth. Founders Alice Bauer, Bettye Danoff, Helen Dettwieler, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Marilynn Smith, Sally Sessions and Shirley Spork will be announced today as eligible for entry.
At 94, Spork is the only surviving founder not yet in the hall. She is still visible on the tour, including dancing on the first tee at Solheim Cups, and resides in Palm Springs, California.
“It is about expletive time,” 20-year LPGA veteran Christina Kim said. “I think it’s: one, the right thing to do; two, I am very, very, very… beyond thrilled to know that Lorena, along with the remaining founders, are going to be entered into the LPGA Hall of Fame, because, aside from what the qualifications are from points, there’s so much more that goes into it in the impact you leave on the golf world.”
The last time the tour updated the rules, it went from an even more stringent requirement to the 27-point system. The old requirements meant accomplishing one of three things to enter: 40 victories and no Majors, 35 victories and one Major, or 30 victories and two Majors. The ’99 update allowed Amy Alcott and Beth Daniel to become immediately eligible, while it also lowered the win threshold while expanding points opportunities with the inclusion of the awards.
As of now, the Rolex Rookie of the Year, the Rolex Annika Major Award, and the Olympics do not earn any points.
TOP/MAIN PHOTO: Miguel Tovar/Getty Images