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Muscled Out of the Masters
John Garrity
April 06, 1998
Half a century after getting run out of the tournament, Frank Stranahan is still going strong
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April 06, 1998

Muscled Out Of The Masters

Half a century after getting run out of the tournament, Frank Stranahan is still going strong

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Stranahan's eyes stop for a moment. He's reached that 1947 passage from Collier's, the one describing him as "Golf's Bad Boy...the most egocentric, mono maniacal character who ever swung a niblick."

He stares at the passage. "The writer came to our house once and asked me and Dad a lot of questions. He promised to let us see the article, but that was a lie." He smiles. "Dad canceled $300,000 worth of advertising in the magazine."

(Note to editor: At this point Stranahan said some negative things about journalists. He fixed me with a stare and said, "Writers act like they care. Like you. You're pretending to be interested, but you just want me to say something I'm not about to say." When I lied that that was certainly not my intention, he smiled placidly and resumed reading.)

Now he's at the pertinent section, the pages covering the 1947 and '48 Masters. This is where the book relates how Stranahan, an amateur playing in his second Masters, shocked the sports world by finishing second in '47, tied with Nelson, two shots behind the colorful Jimmy Demaret. "I never really had a chance to win," Stranahan says. "I shot 68 or something in the final round. Made it look close."

(Note to editor: My brother, a onetime touring pro, has a vivid memory of Stranahan's golf swing. "It was not graceful or natural," he says, "but more like someone following a checklist of muscle movements. He took the club outside until his hands were eight or 10 inches in front of his right shoulder. Then he brought his hands back level with the ground until they were behind his shoulder. Then he came down to the ball. He hit it very well, but he was truly a mechanical man.")

I straighten a bit in my chair because now Stranahan has reached the shocking events of 1948, which saw him pulled off Augusta National during a practice round and kicked out of the Masters. To my amazement Stranahan gives this material the briefest glance, riffles the remaining pages, and puts the book down.

Well? What does he drink? He shrugs. "I didn't read it very closely," he says, "but it looks like he got every word I said."

(Note to editor: Stranahan seemed uninterested. He left the kitchen and came back with a couple of recent magazine articles that mention him in connection with Tiger Woods. Both pieces were about weightlifting—Tiger lifts, too—and one pictured Frank as winner of the over-70 division at the 1997 National Physique Committee Gold Cup Classic bodybuilding competition. Flexing in a photo, his body covered with oil and gleaming under stage lights, he looked bigger than he does in person. That may be due to his paleness. He leads a vampirelike existence, getting up at 3 a.m. to lift, often running five or six miles before daybreak (he's a former marathoner) and working out under artificial light at a commercial gym. One old friend claims that Stranahan's vegetarianism is not absolute. "I've seen him eat half a beef roast," she says, but allows that Stranahan's binges are offset by his 10-day fasts, which leave him weak and emaciated. "It would scare you to death," she says, "if you ever caught him on the ninth day.")

I ask to hear the story of the expulsion in his own words, and Stranahan obliges. It was April 1948, he begins. Masters week. He arrived at Augusta National for a practice round and found a rumor nursery instead. "They told me in the golf shop that they were out to get me," Stranahan says. "The pro told me they would do anything to get me out of the tournament."

The pro, Ed Dudley, was also the president of the PGA, and he warned Stranahan not to hit a second ball to any of the greens during practice rounds, which the amateur had done in '47, breaking a tournament rule. Stranahan took in the warnings and then went out by himself with a caddie—playing, he insists, just the one ball. He dropped additional balls on the greens and putted to spots, a practice permitted then as now.

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