Sandy Tatum Q & A
NCAA champion, Rhodes Scholar, USGA President, golf historian and lawyer are just a handful of descriptors for Frank “Sandy” Tatum. The 90-year-old continues to be a force and respected voice in the game of golf. NCGA Golf sat down with Tatum to discuss his lifelong passion and recent induction into the Association’s Hall of Fame.
What is the significance of being inducted into the NCGA’s Hall of Fame?
It is quite an honor for me and one that is very seriously appreciated. Honor has many factors and the most important is the honoree and my regard for the NCGA as one of the more important operations in golf. Environment could not have been better, making the honor so impressive including those with whom I was so honored.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
When I was part of the USGA’s executive committee in 1972, we looked at arrangements for television. I was stunned to find that not much attention was paid to it. We got involved with rights and the TV commentary went from four towers to 18-hole coverage. It took a lot of innovation and ABC was responsive and we began to realize some money. The last contract I was involved with was put to bid and we separated out contracts for Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom and that generated a lot of money and coverage.
Who comprises your dream foursome?
Alistair Cooke, Bobby Jones and Tom Watson.
How important was it to restore Harding Park?
I had so much regard for it and experience that I couldn’t stand seeing it turn into a wheat patch. I needed access to the PGA Tour so I had dinner set up with Tim Finchem and the rest is history. The process has been more difficult than I thought but we got it done. It brings tears to my eyes to think of the restoration to the landmark course that now ensures affordable public access.
How has golf in Northern California shaped you?
I was a member of The Olympic Club and involved with the greens committee and setup for the 1950 Amateur. I gained insight into what a unique institution that is. I’ve also been involved with San Francisco Golf Club which is the consummate club.
Our city championship is played at municipal Harding Park. You can play with CEOs, plumbers, etc. I played for 40 years and loved every minute of it. On top of that the NCGA and all that it does to make golf so engaging and relevant here is tremendous.
How would you define the NCGA’s role?
The NCGA couldn’t be more important. The fact that the Association owns two courses and has multiple vehicles for outreach is priceless. I am thoroughly grateful for the role of the NCGA.
What do you think of the NCGA Foundation’s efforts?
The Foundation’s Youth on Course program is one of the most important developments in the process to try to find ways to expand access to the game. The potential has been demonstrated by what the Youth on Course program has done in Northern California.Youth on Course is a real game changer. The impact so far has been stunning. Look at the statistics, look at the courses available and the number of kids who have taken advantage of the program. Youth on Course has made a real impact on the grotesque problem of dropouts and could fundamentally change the demographics of golf.
What type of success can the Foundation’s Youth on Course program achieve?
Youth on Course can provide a resource that makes the First Tee ultimately effective. There is a big hole in the First Tee because it doesn’t go far enough. The full potential of Youth on Course can be realized with cooperation of the PGA Tour, allowing millions of kids to stay with the game.
Talk about your love for Stanford University.
My love for Stanford goes back a long way. My younger brother, who I idolized, went to Stanford and I stayed on campus and thought I had died and went to heaven. I focused on what could get me there and that was mostly my academic performance. I had a marvelous time at Stanford emotionally and socially and add to that my golf and it was a stunning experience.
To play golf at Stanford was a dream come true and to win the NCAA championship was very satisfying and a personal joy. I worked my way to be the #3 guy on the team and I was delighted by that.
How do you see the state of golf?
Almost desperate; the economy has devastated the game with facilities closing and people not having enough money to play consistently. You could see this coming with golf courses being built all over the place and the economy declining.
I thought about suggesting the USGA raise a couple of million dollars to buy courses from banks and promote access. I didn’t get anywhere and maybe it was impractical. The combination of the First Tee and Youth on Course can provide a game saver.