From The Sports Desk: Hall of Fame, it's a great idea

Moments after a sit-down interview with four golfing greats, one of them wanted to turn the tables.

"I have a question for you," Hale Irwin said at the Newport Beach Country Club Monday night. "What would you do to improve the Toshiba Classic?"

I couldn't think of anything. I just said that big names in the field always help. But then I thought, hey this doesn't hurt.

I was referring to the new Toshiba Classic Hall of Fame. The inaugural class was introduced at a special ceremony Monday night at Newport Beach Country Club.

Irwin, as well as Jay Haas, Gary McCord and Tom Purtzer showed up as inductees/representatives.

Whoever thought of this thing, what a great idea.

As I said, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a Toshiba Classic Hall of Fame. That's how far this senior golf tournament has come. It's found a home at Newport Beach Country Club, so it's only natural to have it there.

The Hall of Fame is on display on a wall beside the practice putting green at the club. The plan is to add to its membership with annual induction classes.

The Toshiba Classic's inaugural Hall of Fame class is comprised of past champions (chronologically, from the most recent champion to the first) Fred Couples, Eduardo Romero, Bernhard Langer, Haas, Brad Bryant, Mark Johnson, Purtzer, Rodger Davis, Irwin, Jose Maria Canizares, Allen Doyle, McCord, Bob Murphy, Jim Colbert and George Archer. Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. Chairman of the Board Atsutoshi Nishida and longtime Toshiba Classic chairman Hank Adler are also in.

For arriving to the dinner on time, I was rewarded with a sit-down with the Classic's Fab Four. Purtzer holds the tournament's single-round record with an 11-under-par 60. He expressed genuine gratitude for Jeff Purser, the tournament director, and said Purser plays a key role in making the event great for the players as well as the fans.

Haas, the 2007 champion who holds the Classic's scoring record at 19-under-par 194, says he's excited to play in this year's Toshiba Classic and going up against his friend Couples, the defending champion. He's missed the last two Classics because he was away to watch his daughter play in her high school state championship basketball games.

McCord, the 1999 champion, also made sure to thank Purser and his staff. McCord has helped greatly in making the Shot from the Top one of the highlights of Toshiba Classic week. But McCord passed the credit to Purser.

McCord made the crowd laugh, as usual, as he was featured in the ceremony Monday night. A snippet of his cameo in the movie, "Tin Cup," ran during a captivating video montage of the Toshiba Classic.

Irwin is the Classic's only two-time champion, in 1998 and 2002. During the ceremony, emcee Alan Beyer asked Irwin what it was like to play in the Ryder Cup in his time.

"There was great pride for playing for the best country in the world," Irwin said drawing cheers from the crowd.

For the most part, the senior golfers appear to enjoy playing on the Champions Tour. They also show that they look forward to playing in the Toshiba Classic.

The players like the Newport Beach area, obviously, but they also take pride that they're part of a charity. The Toshiba Classic is preparing for its 17th year, March 7 through 13. It's the 14th year in a relationship with Hoag Hospital. During the last 13 years, the Toshiba Classic generated more than $13 million for charity, the most on the Champions Tour, the 50-and-older tour.

And, now there's a Hall of Fame to pay tribute not only to the cause, but to a grand community event.

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