A native of Staten
Hannigan was born on March 29, 1931, and was introduced to golf as a caddie. He
later wrote a column for the Staten
Island Advance before being hired in 1961 as the manager of public
information for the USGA, which at the time was headquartered in Manhattan.
His USGA career, and depth of knowledge of the Rules of
Golf, accelerated in 1969 when he became the tournament relations manager. He
continued to direct championships until 1978, when he became the USGA’s
director of special projects.
In 1983, shortly after that year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club,
Hannigan succeeded Harry Easterly to become the USGA’s fifth executive
director. Among his major accomplishments was his decision to bring the U.S.
Open to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1986. One of the USGA’s five founding
clubs, Shinnecock had not hosted the national championship in 90 years, and the
success of that U.S. Open, won by Raymond Floyd, led to three more U.S. Opens being
awarded to the historic club (including the 2018 championship).
Hannigan retired from the USGA in November 1988 and was
succeeded as executive director by David Fay, who recalled the man he considers
one of his two most important mentors.
“His knowledge of USGA core services was superb, as was his
writing,” said Fay. “He was amazingly bright, with a sense of humor to match.”
That humor, along with sharp and sometimes strongly worded
opinions, became an integral part of Hannigan’s post-USGA career. He was hired
by ABC Sports to serve as an on-air Rules of Golf expert, and his lively
explanations of rulings were some of the most entertaining parts of ABC
telecasts, which until 1995 included the U.S. Open.
In more recent years, Hannigan served as a contributing writer to Golf Digest. Whether he wrote about the
Rules of Golf, equipment technology or pace of play, Frank Hannigan never
stopped caring about, or commenting on, the game he loved.