The Late Frank Hannigan Spoke His Mind

The Late Frank Hannigan Spoke His Mind 1
Frank Hannigan (USGA)

FRANK HANNIGAN, THE FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the United States Golf Association (USGA), died last weekend at the age of 82. Hannigan was employed by the USGA in 1961 and became executive director in 1983, serving in that capacity for five years. Hannigan said one of his proudest achievements was bringing the U.S. Open back to Shinnecock Hills in 1986.

There will be a memorial service for Hannigan on April 26 in Saugerties, New York.

The USGA man was famous for speaking his mind. “Frank” was a fitting name for the former newspaper columnist. Here are a few excerpts from an April 2013 GOLF WORLD interview by Bill Fields.

Getting the job

“I was interviewed by Joe Dey at USGA headquarters at 40 E. 38th Street. He asked me if I knew the Rules of Golf. I said, “Sure.” I had been endorsed by two big newspaper writers, Lincoln Werden of the Times and Dana Mozley of the Daily News. Mr. Dey told me very quickly I was hired.”

Growth fallacy

“Contrary to what people may think, the USGA has no responsibility to grow the game. There has never been a successful attempt by any entity that really caused more people to play golf.

“The country has changed dramatically. There was a time on Saturday morning the father of the house would throw his clubs in the trunk at 8 o’clock and say, “See you for dinner.” Not now, because the wife has worked all week too.”

USGA’s greatest success?

“I think of the Rules of Golf as probably the USGA’s greatest success. They have no power to enforce anything. All they can do is make sure the rules are used at their national championships. Everybody else can do whatever the hell they want. The fact that they don’t speaks well for the USGA.”

Hannigan also called Byron Nelson “the sanest golfer I’ve ever met.”

Maybe that was because Byron was smart enough to retire from this crazy game when he was 34. Once he had earned enough money for that ranch, he was gone.

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

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