Grant Spaeth was born to serve the game. That is one of the first lines of his bio when he was part of the inaugural class inducted in the Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
The past USGA president, who died on July 28 at the age of 88 from pneumonia, was introduced to golf in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his father had been stationed. Later, when his family moved to Palo Alto, Calif., he caddied for members of the Stanford University men’s golf team before enrolling there and helping Stanford to the 1953 NCAA title.
"'Biggie' was a terrific person and will be sorely missed," said USGA CEO Mike Davis. "Even after his stroke a handful of years ago, he would call me to chat. [He] loved golf and was bigger than life."
Spaeth graduated from Stanford and Harvard Law School before a brief stint in the U.S. Army, later establishing a law practice in Palo Alto. He also devoted a good deal of time to public service. He served as the deputy secretary for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1978-80, and was a Palo Alto city councilman.
As a member of the USGA Executive Committee and then the Association’s president in 1990 and 1991, Spaeth was instrumental in creating the U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championships and the USGA’s Regional Affairs department, while also guiding the Association through some turbulent times.
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During his USGA presidency, Spaeth confronted the issue of segregation at golf clubs stemming from Shoal Creek hosting the 1990 PGA Championship. This led to a significant policy change barring USGA championships from clubs with exclusionary practices. Just prior to Spaeth’s election as president, the USGA settled a lawsuit with Ping over the size and shape of golf-club grooves.
C. Grant Spaeth was born June 27, 1932, in Oxford, England, and spent part of his childhood in South America when his father was stationed in Uruguay. His dad, a Dartmouth College graduate, was a golfer and the fact that there was a course across the street from his house helped Spaeth gravitate to the game.
“There were none of the American sports,” said Spaeth, “and so no football, baseball or basketball. For a couple of years [that] we were down there … I played every day. There was a wonderful pro at the course.”