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The Babe Factor

As someone who has been following the game since the invention
of the gutta percha ball, let me applaud the LPGA's decision to
finally alter the rules for entry into its Hall of Fame. As it
was, it seemed doubtful that many, if any, future players would
qualify, since the competition today is more intense than it was
in 1951 when the Hall was founded and Patty Berg, Babe
Didrickson, Betty Jameson and Louise Suggs were inducted.

The new system is based on points (page G8). However, there are
at least two serious flaws that make me believe the LPGA is being
self-serving. Both demand rethinking.

The first states that a player must be a member of the LPGA for
at least 10 years to qualify. This is plain stupid.
Hypothetically, a young player could join the tour, win four U.S.
Opens and 19 other events in her first five years and then quit
the game. She would qualify on points but be denied entry because
of longevity. Far-fetched? Maureen Connolly won three straight
Wimbledons and three straight U.S. Opens while still a teenager,
then suffered a career-ending injury. Do you think she's not in
the tennis Hall of Fame?

Didrickson won 31 times, including six majors, but played only
six years as a pro. Not long enough. Annika Sorenstam is three
points shy of the Hall going into her sixth season. Or is she?
What if she decided to devote herself to a family?

The other silly policy is that tournaments won before a player
was a member of the LPGA don't count. Laura Davies won the '87
U.S. Open, but since she wasn't yet an LPGA member it's as if her
victory never happened.

Before LPGA members vote to approve the new system on Feb. 5,
they should demand that these inequities be corrected.

Walter Bingham started covering golf for SI in 1963.

B/W PHOTO: CORBIS/BETTMANN Also-ran Didrickson wouldn't make the new Hall. [Babe Didrickson playing golf]