Kite joins some famous friends

Updated: April 30, 2004, 4:47 PM ET
By Cary Estes | Scripps Howard News Service

In a world filled with such giants as Palmer and Nicklaus and Watson and Woods, it is easy to overlook the heights Tom Kite once hit in his golf career.

I'm proud of a number of things I've done. The wins that I've had, being named captain of the Ryder Cup team (in 1997). But I really am pleased that I was able to build a game and be passionate enough that I'm still playing and having success this many years later.
Tom Kite

Beginning in November, there will be a permanent reminder.

Kite learned last week that he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in November. The HoF currently has only 100 members, and approximately a third of them are either female players or people who contributed to the sport (i.e. Deane Beman and Bob Hope).

That means Kite is now considered to be one of the 60 or 70 greatest male golfers to play the game. Ever.

"It's quite a nice feeling to be added to that list,'' Kite said earlier this week as he prepared to play in this week's Bruno's Memorial Classic at Greystone Golf Club. "You're talking about a small, small number of people who are in the Hall of Fame. So to be on that list, there is a lot of pride, for sure. I'm juiced about it.''

Kite never was an overwhelming presence during his PGA Tour career. He won 19 PGA Tour events, tying him for 36th on the all-time victory list. His lone major championship was at the 1992 U.S. Open, though he also won the 1989 Players Championship, which some people consider to be the PGA Tour's fifth major.

Where Kite truly left his mark on the game was in consistency and money earned. He won at least one tournament a season 12 times in a 13-year span from 1981-93. He finished near the top of the money list every year throughout the 1980s, winning the title in 1981 and '89.

Kite soared at a time when prize money was increasing dramatically. He took advantage of the big bucks being offered, becoming the first player in PGA Tour history to reach $6 million, $7 million, $8 million and $9 million in career earnings. He led the Tour in career earnings for nearly six full years, from 1989-95.

But money could not buy the honor Kite received in being named to the Hall of Fame. It was a moment he briefly feared would not happen.

"I had hopes when Ben (Crenshaw) got inducted two years ago, that I had a chance to get in,'' Kite said. "I looked at the things Ben had done throughout his career (19 PGA Tour victories, two majors) and compared them to the things I had done, and they're very, very similar.

"So when he went in, I had some hopes. Then when I didn't get in last year, I thought maybe I was going to get passed by.''

Only one modern-day PGA Tour player is inducted each year, and Nick Price received the most votes in 2003. This year, however, Kite was named on 69 percent of the ballots, giving him the honor over Curtis Strange and Larry Nelson.

"You have to have done some stuff over a long period of time (to be inducted into the Hall of Fame),'' Kite said. "You can't just do it for a short period of time and make it.

"I'm proud of a number of things I've done. The wins that I've had, being named captain of the Ryder Cup team (in 1997). But I really am pleased that I was able to build a game and be passionate enough that I'm still playing and having success this many years later.''

Since joining the Champions Tour in 2000, Kite has won six times and finished in the top-11 of the money list every season. But he is off to a sluggish start this year and is only 22nd on the money list. His last victory occurred nearly two years ago.

"I haven't played well this year. Not at all. Not nearly as well as I've played the last couple of years,'' Kite said. "That's been a disappointment. My ball striking is not nearly as good as it has been, and I've struggled a little bit with the putter. When you start by not hitting it well, then not putting well on top of that, it really creates a tough go.

"I feel I've started to swing the club a little better. I'm hitting more solid shots. So far, it has not been very good golf. But we're just starting to get into the season. It's been way too long since I've won that's for sure. I'm ready to win.''

Contact Cary Estes of the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama at http://www.postherald.com.

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