Far Hills, N.J. (Oct 6, 2006) – Harry McCracken of Westwood, Mass., a longtime member of the United States Golf Association’s Regional Affairs Committee and one of New England’s most dedicated golf representatives, has been named the recipient of the 2007 Joe Dey Award.
Given since 1996, the Joe Dey Award recognizes an individual’s meritorious service to the game as a volunteer. The 81-year-old McCracken will receive the honor Feb. 3 at the Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The award is named in honor of the late Joe Dey, who served as USGA executive director for 35 years, from 1934-69, and was later commissioner of the PGA Tour.
“It came as a complete shock,” said McCracken of the announcement. “I’m overwhelmed by it.”
McCracken fell in love with golf when his father introduced him to it at the age of 11 at Charles River Country Club, which has been his home club for the past 70 years.
Although he played for the Bowdoin College golf team, McCracken discovered that his game wasn’t quite good enough to win championships. So he turned to being a volunteer.
In 1969, he became Charles River’s club representative to the Massachusetts Golf Association, serving on the MGA Executive Committee in various capacities until he became president (1984-85). In 1987, he became involved with the New England Golf Association, which serves the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as secretary/treasurer.
As the de facto executive director, McCracken not only is the official in charge of the NEGA’s three major competitions (Amateur, Senior Amateur and Junior Invitational), but he also conducts two executive meetings each year that include guest speakers from the USGA and New England Golf Course Superintendents Association. He also coordinates two annual meetings that combine the professional staff from all six New England associations.
“[Harry] is the consummate professional,” said Scott Cooke, president of the Rhode Island Golf Association, in a letter to support McCracken’s Award nomination. “He gives more of his time to Massachusetts and New England area golf than any five people put together.”
McCracken became a member of the USGA Regional Affairs Committee in 1989 and his responsibilities include procuring qualifying sites for the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur. He also assists in landing sites for U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifying as well as assigning Rules officials to those sites while acting as the official in charge at most of the qualifiers.
Needless to say, the retired mortgage company owner keeps himself quite busy during the summer. McCracken estimates he puts 25,000 to 35,000 miles on his car annually, including the daily 50-mile round trip excursion from his home in Westwood to the MGA headquarters in Norton, where he keeps an office.
“My wife says you’ve got to cut it out,” said McCracken. “That’s what keeps me young. It keeps your mind active and your body active. You are running around all the time. I’ll probably do it until they drop me into the grave.”
In 2003, McCracken had the thrill of acting as a liaison for the USGA State Team Championship at his home course (Charles River). He served as a Rules official as well as assisting the USGA’s Jim Farrell and Tony Zirpoli in ensuring the biennial championship went smoothly, which it did.
“It was a wonderful experience, no doubt about it,” said McCracken.
Besides his duties with the various golf associations, McCracken also assists the New England Section of the PGA as a Rules official at its various competitions. He recruits Rules officials from around New England to volunteer at the prestigious Northeast Amateur, a premier men’s event that attracts top players from around the country and world.
From 1982-83, McCracken served as a trustee for the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, and he was involved with Ross-Wright, Inc., in working with architect Bill Flynn on restorations of George Wright Golf Club and Mt. Hood Golf Club in Massachusetts.
The MGA honored him in 1994 with the Frank Sellman Distinguished Service Award (the highest honor given to a MGA volunteer) and the New England PGA honored him in 1995 with the George Wensys Award for distinctive service to golf and serving as a friend and liaison to NEPGA and its members.
Since 1996, Charles River has hosted the McCracken Cup, a tournament named in Harry’s honor that brings together some of New England’s best low-handicap golfers.
Over the years, McCracken has had the pleasure of watching some of New England’s best players. He saw both Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade win the New England Amateur. And while not everyone goes on to that kind of stardom in the game, he still gets a thrill from witnessing great play on the course.
“It’s just a pleasure to get out on the golf course and see how well some of these people play,” he said. “I love it.”