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The Loop

Former USGA executive director Frank Hannigan dies

March 22, 2014

Former United States Golf Association Executive Director Frank Hannigan was opinionated, cantankerous at times, unafraid to step on toes, even those with which he was intimately familiar.

"Never, in the history of USGA championships, has rule 6-7, calling for a penalty for 'undue delay,' been invoked," he wrote last April.

"Observation: Sigh."

This appeared in a story he wrote on behalf of his former employer, the USGA, that appeared on its website as part of its "While We're Young" campaign against slow play.

Hannigan, who was executive director from 1983 through 1989, died on Saturday. He had undergone surgery of an unknown nature earlier in the week. He was 82.

A newspaper columnist, Hannigan was hired by the USGA in 1961, as its public information manager, and edited the USGA's publication, Golf Journal. He later became its tournament director, and in 1983, he succeeded Harry Easterly Jr. as executive director. Hannigan was credited with bringing the U.S. Open back to Shinnecock Hills, the site of the second U.S. Open in 1896, and a course not part of the U.S. Open rota.

After leaving the USGA, ABC sports hired him as its rules experts on golf telecasts.

He was not averse to offering his opinions, and they were often aimed at the USGA. In Golf World's Words from the Wise issue (April 1, 2013), he said this: "The USGA adheres to a structure that is totally out of date.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."

In the same interview, he said that the '86 Open at Shinnecock Hills "was a huge success. I'm enormously proud of that. They had an absolute disaster at Shinnecock in 2004. I simply don't understand what happened. You water the damn golf course."

A memorial service for Frank Hannigan will be held April 26 at 1 p.m. at Cantine's Island Cohousing Community in Saugerties, N.Y. In lieu of flowers, the Hannigan family says donations can be made in Hannigan's name to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or a no-kill dog shelter in your community.