Orlando, Fla. – Frank Ford III couldn’t tell you how many trophies can be found at his Charleston, S.C., home. He estimates there are around 150, many from club, state and regional competitions.
But there is one piece of hardware noticeably absent from the collection: a USGA gold medal.
The 58-year-old Ford would love nothing more than to achieve that feat this week at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, where on Tuesday he posted a pair of victories to reach the quarterfinal round for the third time in the last four appearances at the USGA Senior Amateur. His 4-and-2 triumph over Dave Ryan of Taylorville, Ill., vaulted Ford into a round-of-eight matchup against stroke-play medalist Pat Tallent of Vienna, Va., at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.
I feel a lot of gratitude, said Ford, who has competed in 20-plus USGA competitions, including two U.S. Senior Opens. Every match is so hard. It’s Russian Roulette when you come out here and play these matches. These guys are good players. You are just on edge the whole time.
Ford’s lineage to golf can be traced to the 1920s when his grandfather, also named Frank, was a legendary player in South Carolina. He won the state amateur seven times and often played with and against legendary amateur Bob Jones. The elder Ford, who only competed in one U.S. Amateur (1922 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.), honed his skills under the tutelage of well-known instructor Henry Picard at Charleston Country Club.
That love for the game was passed through the family. Frank’s dad was a fine player in his own right, winning a club championship before he passed away in a tragic Eastern Airlines crash near the Charlotte, N.C., airport on Sept. 11, 1974.
Not a day goes by where Ford doesn’t think about that day. Just mentioning his father brings emotional tears to his eyes and voice.
But the third-generation Ford has carried on the family golf legacy. He has won both the South Carolina Amateur and Carolinas Golf Association Amateur.
In fact, Ford’s greatest golf memory was the year he won the state amateur and his son, Cordes, claimed the CGA Amateur (1996).
Both Frank and Cordes played at Furman University, the former graduating in 1974. But when his father died less than a month after he got married and only 10 days after he began working in the family business, Frank’s world came apart. The family business suffered and Frank wound up taking a job under CGA Executive Director Hale Van Hoy in 1976. Four years later, at the age of 27, he landed the executive director position at the Georgia State Golf Association.
It may sound funny to you, but I loved everything about it except running golf tournaments, he said.
During that period, Ford didn’t play much competitive golf. He did qualify for a U.S. Amateur, but between starting a family and his job, there wasn’t much time to hone his game. He also became involved with the USGA in 1980 by joining the Regional Affairs Committee, a position he continues to hold. He received the USGA's Ike Grainger Award for 25 years of volunteer service in 2004.
Eventually, though, Ford chose to follow a different career path. The individual who handled the family’s investment portfolio hired Ford and he’s been at Morgan Stanley/Smith Barney for 27 years. He’s also found more time to play golf, especially since turning 55 in 2007. That year, he advance to the semifinals of the Senior Amateur at Flint Hills National before falling to Sam Farlow of Birmingham, Ala., 2 and 1.
With a bronze medal in his wardrobe, Ford set out to win gold in 2008 at Shady Oaks Golf Club. Again he reached the semifinals and again the result was familiar – a 2-up defeat at the hands of eventual champion George Buddy Marucci of Villanova, Pa.
Last year at Beverly Country Club, Ford made an early exit from match play.
This year, Ford hasn’t won any tournaments, but he did qualify for last week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Atlantic Golf Club, where he missed the cut. So he came to Lake Nona with some confidence in his game.
Does he finally feel due?
I hope so, he said. But there’s one very hard match to play tomorrow morning before I can even think about it. I still need to win three more and they aren’t going to get any easier.