MEMBERS
Home Is Where The Golf Is June 5, 2018 By Alyssa Haduck, USGA

For Frank Walshe, the golf course is home. The 80-year-old Irishman grew up with the game and has been exploring its expansive international community ever since. From personal participation to watching some of the game’s most talented players, golf has provided Walshe with a continual source of camaraderie, entertainment and joy wherever he goes.

As the longtime USGA member prepares to volunteer at the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, he reflected on the game that has been with him since the beginning.

“I lived beside a golf course when I was young and caddied as a youngster,” he said. “My first experience of the game was so impressive, I believe, that I was hooked straight away.”

In Walshe’s hometown of Blackrock, County Louth, Ireland, summer was a time for sport. Just a half-mile away, Dundalk Golf Club – a seaside course on the eastern side of the island – would host one of Walshe’s first golf memories. Walter Carroll was set to face Mick Ferguson. Carroll had represented Ireland at the Home Internationals tournament (an annual competition among teams from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) in 1913, with Ferguson doing the same in 1952.

“Walter Carroll was, at the time, the elder statesman of the Dundalk [Golf Club]. Ferguson was the up-and-coming local and regional star player,” Walshe explained. “Ferguson won the match by two holes and Mr. Carroll shed a few tears. I believe he realized his time at the higher echelons of the game had passed.”

This local battle of Irishmen was not only Walshe’s introduction to the game, but the beginning of his golf education.

“Those days, we all learned to play by copying the best players,” Walshe explained. “Many copied Ferguson’s technique. He was our idol.”

Though the Carroll-Ferguson match ignited Walshe’s passion for golf, aviation was his professional calling. Walshe served in the Irish Air Corps and pursued a career in civil aviation, following in the footsteps of his family’s longtime military service to Ireland.

Frank Walshe (back left) was a member of the 1959 Irish Air Corps rifle team. Capt. Patrick Crehan (front center) carried the Irish flag at the 1948 London Olympics. (Frank Walshe photo)

 

Despite the differences between golf and aviation, for Walshe, the two went hand in hand. As his profession sent him around the globe, he found golf to be a constant connector, no matter the location.

“I worked in many parts of the world and always, if possible, gravitated toward the local golf club,” he said. “It was a home away from home, which helped me acclimatize to the new environment, meeting both native population and temporary residents.”

Walshe’s international lifestyle has not only allowed him to embrace golf and its players, but its institutions, too. He has been a member of seven golf clubs – two in Ireland, two in the Americas and three in Africa – as well as multiple associations, including the USGA.

Walshe was introduced to the USGA while accompanying a friend to the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Learning about the expansive efforts of the organization, he became a member shortly after.

“I joined the USGA for a further insight into the game,” he explained.

Interested in becoming more involved, Walshe attended nearly 50 major championships in various capacities, including as a spectator, a worker and a volunteer. Of all the golf events that he has frequented around the world, the U.S. Open is one of his favorites, and this summer’s event will be the 13th he has attended.

“It is a pleasure being part of the U.S. Open Championship. I believe the two Opens – U.S. and British – are the best tournaments in the world,” he said.

Beyond the prestige of the competition, Walshe contributes to these events because he feels he has a responsibility to do so, further motivated by a reciprocation of respect from the USGA.

“Serving the game is important to me,” he said. “I owe a lot to the game. It was one of my paths through life. I believe [the USGA] values and appreciates our volunteer participation.”

Though giving back to golf is important to Walshe, he has also gained from it.

“Golf is a game against yourself and, in that regard, it teaches discipline,” he said.

Frank Walshe (second from right) with some members of the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band at a Veterans Day celebration at McKee Barracks in Dublin, Ireland. (Frank Walshe photo)

With this drive, Walshe pursued higher education as a 70-year-old, earning a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in geography and a master’s in military history, both from Maynooth University in Kildare, Ireland. Having conducted research independently for more than 30 years, Walshe was motivated to legitimize his findings. His seniority and passion for his studies made him a valuable resource for younger students.

“I believe also that for many of the younger people – through class association, tutorials, or chatting over coffee or stronger liquid refreshments – [I] gave them a different perspective, besides considerable knowledge through my help or guidance,” he said.

Walshe also strives to assist the next generation through his backing of USGA programs. He hopes all golf participants find the support, inclusivity and fun in the game that he did as a child.

“The First Tee is a good and successful initiative,” he said. “It has made the game available to many who might not have had the opportunity.”

As for this era’s champions, Walshe has seen them all.  He notes that he has watched live nearly every great player of the last 60 years. Witnessing Northern Ireland native Rory McIlroy’s victory when serving as a 2011 U.S. Open volunteer is one of the championship moments that he’ll never forget.

“[McIlroy] strode past having hit his drives on the previous few holes virtually for miles down the middle of the fairways,” he recounted. “The lad from Holywood, County Down, had come of age winning his first major [title]. The air was electric. He has done great things for Irish golf and has since rejuvenated the Irish Open Golf Championship.”

In addition to McIlroy, Walshe also mentions Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros among his favorites.

“Had I missed seeing Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros both in their prime, I would have missed a lot,” he said. “Both were so charismatic, wearing their hearts on their sleeves.”

But traveling 3,200 miles to the 118th U.S. Open is about more than just watching the pros. Walshe looks forward to establishing new relationships and assisting others any way that he can.

“I meet many likeminded people and many others connected with the game,” he said. “I hear some interesting stories and do my best to help people outside my volunteer function.”

Alyssa Haduck is the content and storytelling intern for the USGA Foundation. Email her at ahaduck@usga.org.