Ex-amateur golf star Frank Stranahan dies

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Frank Stranahan always marched to his own beat.

Frank Stranahan (center) won two British Amateurs and played in the Masters Tournament 12 times. His invitation to the 1948 Masters was rescinded after a run-in with chairman Clifford Roberts. Stranahan, who later turned pro, died Sunday at 90.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Frank Stranahan (center) won two British Amateurs and played in the Masters Tournament 12 times. His invitation to the 1948 Masters was rescinded after a run-in with chairman Clifford Roberts. Stranahan, who later turned pro, died Sunday at 90.

Whether it was lifting weights before fitness in golf became fashionable or his run-in with Masters Tournament chairman Clifford Roberts, the golfer did it his way.

Stranahan, who played in 12 Masters and tied for second in 1947, died Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 90.

The heir to the Champion Spark Plug fortune played much of his career as an amateur, and he turned pro in 1954. His biggest professional win came at the 1958 Los Angeles Open.

As an amateur, Stranahan won the 1948 and 1950 British Amateurs and was a fixture in golf’s biggest events.

At the 1947 Masters, Stranahan closed with 68 to finish two shots behind winner Jimmy Demaret. No amateur has ever won the Masters, although Charlie Coe, Ken Venturi and Billy Joe Patton all had close calls.

The following year, Stranahan crossed paths with Roberts, Augusta National Golf Club’s stern chairman. The dustup involved a rule about playing a second ball to greens during practice rounds.

While he was still playing the second nine, Stranahan was asked to leave the course and that his invitation had been withdrawn.

Stranahan’s protests fell on deaf ears, and Roberts’ decision was final.

“So I bought a ticket, and I stayed there,” Stranahan said in a 1998 interview with Sports Illustrated.

The amateur did return the following year to Augusta, and he competed regularly in Augusta through the 1950s. He turned professional after losing to Arnold Palmer in the finals of the 1954 U.S. Amateur.

“He was my old buddy,” Palmer said Tuesday from his office in Latrobe, Pa. “We were pretty close for a lot of years. He always thought I would be one of his guys and do the muscle thing and all that. And of course, we played against each other a lot. He was a great guy, a good friend. He played some very good golf.”

Stranahan also was runner-up in two British Opens, in 1947 and 1953, but he was best known as the golfer who was exceptionally strong thanks to his weight-lifting regimen.

While most golfers frowned on lifting back then, Stranahan embraced the training and even carried his weights with him on the road. That sometimes led to amusing adventures.

“He used to carry his weights in a suitcase,” Palmer said. “He’d get the bellman to carry the luggage to his room, but it was so heavy they couldn’t lift it.”

According to Stranahan’s son Lance, the golfer remained active and was still going to the gym three times per week up until recently.

“I would say my greatest accomplishment as an amateur was having the opportunity to play in so many of those wonderful golf tournaments,” Stranahan said in a 2001 interview with the Toledo Blade. “At every tournament, they put me with the winner from the week before. So I was always playing with Demaret, Snead, Locke, Hogan and other tremendous champions. I was playing the best courses with the best players, and it was very satisfying to do well in those situations.”

Quattlebaum Funeral Home, which did not disclose his cause of death, said a memorial service was planned July 2.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 06/26/13 - 06:45 am
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An amazing life!!!

What an interesting person he must have been. An amazing life!!!

David Parker
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David Parker 06/26/13 - 04:02 pm
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Glad I caught this one too.

Glad I caught this one too. The experiences he had must've been pretty vast with all the matchings and such.

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