Frank “Sandy” Tatum, a former USGA president and one of the game's most important ambassadors, died on June 22 at the age of 96.
Tatum was a friend to AmateurGolf.com and a cofounder of the Stocker Cup, an amateur tournament that honors his friend, the late Peter Stocker. His name is on the cup presented each year to the low senior golfer in that California event.
Tatum was involved in the game his entire life, having won the 1942 NCAA individual championship while at Stanford University and later serving as USGA president in 1978 and 1979.
Tatum was completely immersed in controversy in 1974, two years after he was invited to join the USGA Executive Committee, of which he was a member from 1972-1980. As chairman of the Championship Committee, he was involved in the course setup for the U.S. Open Championship that year at Winged Foot Golf Club. The difficulty of the course led Dick Schaap to author a book entitled “The Massacre at Winged Foot.”
Many years of U.S. Open envelope pushing have long put 1974 in the rear view mirror regarding Tatum's golf legacy. His lasting legacy includes leading the movement to restore his beloved Harding Park public golf course in his hometown of San Francisco.
“I had played Harding enough to understand and appreciate what special qualities it had,” Mr. Tatum said in a 2010 interview. “My regard for it had the added factor that it was, and happily still is, a muni where non-private club golfers can get a very special experience. …
Restoring a public course to host the President's Cup, American Express Championships, and the PGA is one thing. But what made Tatum proud was the day-to-day enjoyment that hundreds of thousands of amateur golfers get from Harding Park -- always a beautiful property but now a championship layout that can be enjoyed by all, including himself. He was a member of Cypress Point and San Francisco Golf Clubs, but enjoyed the San Francisco City Championship and municipal golf.
“Sure I am going to play Harding,” Tatum told Golf Digest. “What I really look forward to is the first City Championship after all the work. It will again be a premier amateur event. God, I loved playing in ‘The City.’”
By all counts, the Harding Park renovation has been a success, and earlier this year a successful fund raising effort by the tournament committee brought all championship flight match play to the course, with no further investment beyond the initial entry fee required of players.
Tatum won't be there to see TPC Harding Park host its first major (the 2020 PGA Championship) but will no doubt be looking down proudly on the beautiful course that sits across the lake from The Olympic Club, host of four U.S. Opens.
Tatum, born on July 7, 1920, and raised in the Los Angeles area, led Stanford to back-to-back NCAA team golf titles in 1941-42 (graduating Phi Beta Kappa) before accepting a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University. He later returned to Stanford to earn his law degree in 1950, and was admitted to the bar in California that same year.
He was a longtime partner at the Bay Area law firm Cooley LLP, spending much of his time on commercial law. He served as general counsel to the University of San Francisco and negotiated various deals as special counsel to the City and County of San Francisco, including those involving the University of California medical school, San Francisco General Hospital and the Moscone Center.
“There is infinitely more to be had in and from a life than making barrels full of money and having extravagant public exposure,” Tatum wrote in his 2002 book, “A Love Affair With the Game,” which had a foreword by longtime friend Tom Watson. “There is no price that can be put on the opportunity to develop fully as a mature and educated person.”
He played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for 20 years with his friend and fellow Stanford alum Watson. And he continued to keep his game sharp with a single digit handicap well into his 80s, competing in the Stocker Cup as a partner to a fortunate mid-am golfer for many years.
Tatum is survived by six children — Jeffery Anne, Timothy, Peter, Christopher, Victoria and Shelley — and 11 grandchildren. His wife of 67 years, Barbara (Snyder), died in February. Funeral arrangements are pending.
REACTIONS FROM THE GOLF WORLD
“All of us at the USGA are deeply saddened by the passing of one of the great individuals ever involved with golf,” said Mike Davis, executive director and CEO of the USGA. “Sandy Tatum certainly impacted the USGA in immeasurable ways, but more important were his countless and significant contributions to the game. He will long be remembered as one of the greats in golf.”
George Kelley - Greenway Golf CEO
"I remember qualifying for the Open in 1974. My mother knew Sandy from Stanford, and I was playing so we were right in the middle of things. Sandy was in charge of the course setup, and said the famous line 'we're not trying to humiliate the best players in the world, we're trying to identify them.'"
Pete Wlodkowski - AmateurGolf.com Founder
"One year we ran a qualifier for the Stocker Cup at Harding Park, and Sandy came out to watch every group tee off - he kept a very low profile but his presence was felt. I later wrote him a thank you note and he wrote me back, thanking me. I keep that letter proudly to this day."
Bo Links - San Francisco Writer and Golf Historian
“Golf lives and thrives in San Francisco because of Sandy,” Links said to the San Francisco Chronicle Thursday night. “And when golfers pass by Sandy’s Rock behind the first tee at Harding Park, they would do right to stop and say thanks. His work and his memory will live on forever.”