The Strafaci family was of modest means as well. Frank and his four brothers grew up on a small farm owned by their father, Joseph, in Brooklyn near Dyker Beach Golf Course. The siblings were exposed to the game as caddies and they all became competitive amateur golfers, especially Frank.
“Little Frankie Strafaci,” as New York sportswriters often called him, stood only 5-feet-6, but had a complete game. Strafaci won the Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur a record seven times between 1938 and 1954, the Long Island Amateur five times, the North & South Amateur twice (1938 and ’39) and the 1937 Hochster Memorial.
“He was a little guy, but he made his presence felt wherever he was,” son Frank said of his father, who died in 1988. “My dad was a great storyteller who could light up a room. He loved the game late into his life. He was a dreamer who loved to practice and always believed he’d find the magic again.”
Frank settled in south Florida in the late 1950s and was the longtime director of golf at the Doral Resort, also serving as tournament director of the annual PGA Tour stop. He nicknamed the course the Blue Monster and had an idea to promote it during the tournament.
“He was going to put an inflatable dragon in the lake at the 18th hole and have it pop out of the water,” said Frank, “but the Tour didn’t want anything to do with it.”
The younger Frank also played in multiple USGA championships, and his wife, Jill, was a talented amateur who competed for the University of Florida in the mid-1970s. Tyler, one of their two sons, is currently a senior on the Georgia Tech golf team and well aware of his family’s golf heritage. When he was 14, Tyler and his dad traveled to Brooklyn and played golf at Dyker Beach with some of their Strafaci relatives.
An academic All-American, Tyler has professional ambitions but intends to remain an amateur with hopes of making the 2021 USA Walker Cup Team, a competition scheduled May 8-9 at Seminole Golf Club. “That’s 100 percent the goal now,” said Tyler, who was invited to the practice session for the 2019 Walker Cup. “Before I turn pro, I really want to make the Walker Cup Team, something my grandfather never did. He had a really good chance, but didn’t get on a team.”
Frank Sr. died a decade before Tyler was born. But Tyler has seen the record book and heard the stories, much the way Marc Turnesa did at Knollwood Country Club, where his grandfather, Mike, was the head pro for 44 years.
“If I grow up into what I think I can be, it’s going to be pretty special,” said Tyler. “I’m trying to fill some big shoes. Hopefully, I can catch up to Grandpa Frank’s standards.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.