Frank Hannigan, the former USGA executive director whose razor-sharp wit and blunt-speaking style led to a second career as a television golf commentator for ABC, died Saturday morning. He was 82.
Born on Staten Island, New York, Hannigan rose from being a caddie to writing a golf column for the local newspaper to working for the USGA to becoming its executive director, a position he held from 1983-88.
Hannigan never lacked for opinions. He took on anything and everything in the game that he had issues with.
Some samples, from a 2013 interview in Golf World:
“The USGA adheres to a structure that is totally out of date. All power is granted to the volunteer executive committee. It is absurd to say the president, who has a full-time job and may live 2,000 miles away from Golf House, is the chief executive officer.”
“Who the hell ever heard of an organization where the CEO is regarded as a great success, and he’s gone after two years? It’s nutty.”
“The spring-like effect (in clubfaces) would have been very hard to handle, but the USGA should have been willing to risk big-time litigation.”
“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.”
Although he never hesitated to criticize the USGA, he was also a staunch defender of the organization on some issues. Again, from the Golf World article: “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.”
“Frank Hannigan made contributions to the USGA and the game of golf that were truly immense,” current USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “Frank was such a neat and straight-forward person. His passion for the association and the game leaves a lasting legacy at the USGA.”
"Frank was very instrumental in my getting a chance to work the men's U.S. Open for ABC in '85 at Oakland Hills," NBC/Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin said from the JTBC Founders Cup LPGA tournament in Phoenix. "Without his encouragement and support, it wouldn't have happened. It was one of the great opportunities of my life. "
"We spent a lot of time together, and he taught me a great deal in the job I did on the golf course. He poured so much of himself into the game of golf."
GolfChannel.com Senior Writer Randall Mell contributed to this article.