Paul Harney, the most accomplished professional golfer to come out of Massachusetts in the modern era with seven PGA Tour wins, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 82.
Harney, Worcester-born and -bred, played full-time on the PGA Tour from 1955 to 1962. In 1957, he won the Carling Open and the Labatt Open two weeks apart and was named Golf Digest's "Most Improved Golfer" for the 1957 Tour season.
He fulfilled a promise he made to his new bride, Patricia, when they married in 1957, that when their first child started school, he would take a club professional position and play the tour part-time. Thus, despite being considered among the top echelon of Tour players at the time, he accepted the position of head professional at Sunset Oaks in northern California in 1963, in the prime of his competitive career. He played anywhere from five to 14 tournaments a year between 1963 and 1973.
Playing part-time, however, did not keep Harney, among the longest drivers of his day despite a lean frame of 5-10 and 160 pounds, from the winner's circle. He won back-to-back Los Angeles Opens to kick off the 1964 and 1965 seasons and won his final tour event at the 1972 Andy Williams-San Diego Open, worth $30,000. He shot 13-under 275 (68-71-66-70), edging Hale Irwin by one stroke.
When Johnny Miller, no longer considered a contender, came out of nowhere to win his 25th and final tour title in 1994 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he proclaimed, "I pulled off a Paul Harney," in salute to the Bay Stater who had won under similar circumstances 22 years earlier. Golf World magazine used that headline on the cover of its issue the following week.
-- Gary Larrabee