Harris County-Houston Sports Authority Inisder

New class of Houston sports Hall of Fame inductees announced

George Foreman heads the latest Houston Hall class. Gary Miller/Getty Images for Houston Sports Awards

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It was a perfect Saturday morning and the putting green at Champions Golf Club was packed. Some were getting in a little work. Others were waiting for a special moment.

In the middle of the green, Jack Burke Jr had his head down, showing a member how to stroke through the ball. He took another stroke and the ball slipped into the hole.

He turned around and - with Champions green and white balloons blowing in the wind - was welcomed to the 2019 Houston Sports Hall of Fame Class by Chairman of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame selection committee John McClain, and Harris County – Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke.

The 95-year-old Burke joins Houston Oilers Luv Ya Blue quarterback Dan Pastorini, two-time world heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman and A.J. Foyt, one of the best drivers ever to slip into a race car.

It's hard to top last year's inaugural class of Earl Campbell, Hakeem Olajuwon and Nolan Ryan – Houston's 34s – so we cast a wider net for the 2019 Houston Sports Awards and are celebrating a lifetime of Houston sports, one decade at a time, February 6 at the Hilton Americas.

And it just so happens that Burke, Foyt, Foreman and Pastorini highlight four of those decades as they mark anniversaries of some iconic milestones.

For Burke, who graduated from St, Thomas High School, that means celebrating the 70th anniversary of his first professional win – the 1949 Metropolitan Open. He went on to win 17 PGA TOUR events, including both the Masters and PGA in 1956. And it doesn't stop there. The World Golf Hall of Famer also played on five Ryder Cup teams, captained two Ryder Cup teams and Champions, the club he co-founded with Jimmy Demaret, hosted the 1967 Ryder Cup.

For our 60th Anniversary celebration, it was a no brainer as 1958 was the year that AJ Foyt Made his Indianapolis 500 debut. He would go on to win Indy four times, the first ever to accomplish that feat. He won at every level and is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Already a member or International Motorsports Hall of Fame, The Auto racing Hall of Fame, The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, and countless others, AJ Foyt was genuinely thrilled to recognized by his hometown.

"I'm glad to be in the Hall of Fame here,'' he said. "I was born and raised here and I guess this is where I'm gonna die, but it's great to be here and Houston's been a good town for me.''

50 Years, the golden anniversary. Fitting, since it was 1968 that a kid from the 5th ward in Houston would take home a gold medal at the Olympic games in Mexico City. That kid, George Edward Foreman, would go on to become a boxing legend. Foreman was a two-time heavyweight champion, and has been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Of course if you ask anyone under the age of 30, Big George is best known for his George Foreman Grill.

When Foreman was surprised with the Hall of Fame news, he admitted he wasn't sure he would ever amount to much, let alone become an iconic boxer and Hall of Famer.

"What a tremendous opportunity to have walked the streets of Houston, Texas, where I thought nothing much would become of me, I really didn't,'' Foreman said. "And now to be mentioned in the Sports Hall of Fame in Houston, it really is probably the most important award I've ever received."

It has been said many times that if Earl Campbell was the heart of the Luv Ya Blue Oilers, then Dan Pastorini was the soul.

The first-round draft pick in 1971, Pastorini was the charismatic leader of Bum Phillips' rough-and-tumble team that created an electric movement with its 35-30 win over Miami on Monday Night Football on November 20, 1978. His best season was in 1978 when he threw for a career-high 2,473 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"It means the world,'' Pastorini said of the honor. "Last year, when I had the opportunity to present to Earl it was quite thrilling for me because the 34s (Campbell, Olajuwon and Ryan) should be in there. But to represent the Luv Ya Blue years and our teams back then is very special to me. We don't really have an identity in this city, except for the love and the respect we have from the Luv Ya Blue fans and they keep us alive.

". . . This now gives us permanency in the city. It'll be something we can take our grandchildren to and say – We were here; we were part of this great history of the city of Houston."

Robert Brazile, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year, was the first to call and congratulate, just moments after Pastorini was notified. Both were very emotional and looking forward to reuniting in February.

# # #

If you love Houston sports, you might want to purchase a ticket for the 2019 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle.

There are only 500 tickets available and the winner will get a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Houston Dash and Rodeo Houston home games/events during the 2019-20 season. The winner will also receive tickets to two Texans home games and to the Academy Sports + Outdoors 2019 Texas Bowl.

Raffle tickets can be purchased for $100 per ticket and that enters you into the drawing for all the above-mentioned tickets.

All proceeds from Golden Ticket sales benefit Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Foundation and the winner of drawn at the Houston Sports Awards Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at the Hilton Americas. Winners do not need to be present to win. To enter go to https://houstonsportsawards.com/golden-ticket-raffle/

Masters.com

The big question for 2019: Will Tiger win a major this year? Showing no issues with his back, Tiger got stronger as the year went along in 2018. In fact, he closed out with a bang, winning the Tour Championship Tournament, proving he can compete with the young guns. What follows is my bold predictions for the Majors and other things to watch for in 2019.

The Masters-April 11-14: Rory McIlroy

Last year the golfing world cried when Sergio Garcia put the green jacket on Patrick Reed's shoulders. The fans will be happy to see anyone but Reed win this year at Augusta National, and no one will be happier to take the green jacket from Captain America than Rory McIlroy. Rory told the press that he will focus on playing more golf in the states this year, as well as playing the week before every major, something that he has never done before. And since he has changed to a spider putter, his putting, long a weak part of his game, has made tremendous strides. With just a decent week with the flat-stick, Rory will complete his career grand slam at the Masters.

PGA Championship-May 16-19: Matt Kuchar

A different look for the PGA Championship this year, as it changes from the last major of the year to the second. The tournament is headed to the big apple, where Bethpage Black hosts the tournament for the first time. Bethpage Black was the host of 2 US Opens (2002, 2009) as well as the Barclays (2012, 2016).

With massive crowds likely on hand, the prediction here is that they will be chanting KOOOOOCH on Sunday. Mr. calm, cool and collected will finally break through to win his first major.

Kuchar's great ball-striking and tremendous putting are a good fit at Bethpage, where the fairways and greens are relatively small. Kuchar has already won twice this season, with a win in Mexico at the Mayakoba Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii, so he looks to be in good form already. If that form keeps up, it will be Matt Kuchar hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on May 19th.

US Open-June 13-16: Tiger Woods

Pebble Beach hosts the US Open this year, and the scoring should be much lower than last year's debacle at Shinnecock Hills. Pebble Beach plays into the games of two of the most prominent golfers in the world: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tiger looks to get his first major win since 2008. In the 2010 US Open Tiger finished T-4 here and won in 2000 by 15 strokes. Pebble sets up for Tiger's game, and there is no better time for Tiger to show he is back than at a course which he eats up. Tiger's "frenemy", Phil Mickelson, also loves the coast of Cali and is looking to breakthrough for his career grand slam on his birthday. It would not be a shock to see Tiger and Phil battling it out on Sunday just like old times. No one is better at closing tournaments than Tiger Woods, and if he has the lead going into the back nine on Sunday, Tiger looks to add another major win to his milestone.

The Open Championship-July 18-21: Xander Schauffele

This is going to be the year of Xander Schauffele. He already won the first tournament of the year at Kapalua and really has no flaws in his game. He hits it long and low along with a phenomenal short game. Last year at The Open, Xander finished 2nd to Molinari and in 2017 had a top-25 finish. Granted, Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale are different from Royal Portrush, but Xander enjoys taking the trip across the pond and playing links style golf. The Irish will be all over the home favorite Rory McIlroy, so Xander will be under the radar going into The Open. Do not be shocked to see Schauffele taking a sip out of the Claret Jug by the end of the weekend.

Other:

A new year brings along new rules for the 2019 PGA Tour season. One major rule change includes keeping the flagstick in while putting. Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few golfers who is using the new rule change to his advantage. We'll see whether the science in DeChambeau's head has gone too far, as the former SMU golfer looks to add on his 6th career win.

Another question mark going into the new year is what will happen to Jordan Spieth? Jordan had his first "human" year on the PGA Tour in his short but phenomenal career. Will he bounce back or will the yips haunt him for another year? 2019 is in store for some wild finishes and controversy, but with so much talent brewing, it could be the best year in golf history.

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