JULY 9, 1956
While former Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Bob Friend has become a "golfaholic," as he puts it, give him credit for this: At least he's getting ripped on the good stuff. The list of elite courses he's played rivals that of a Tour pro, with rounds at such major championship sites as Augusta National, Baltusrol, Olympia Fields, Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills, plus Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Troon and St. Andrews in Scotland. His home course for the last 30 years, Oakmont Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh, has hosted seven U.S. Opens and three PGA Championships. "I used to be pretty good," says Friend, 73, who was once a six handicap and is now a 12. His best score at Oakmont, where he still plays three times a week, is a one-over-par 72.
Spending 15 of his 16 major league seasons with the Pirates, Friend had one 20-win season (22-14 in 1958), went to three All-Star Games (appearing on SI's cover, bottom left corner) and pitched in three games for the 1960 World Series champions. After he retired in '66 with a 197-230 record and a career 3.58 ERA, Friend, a native of Indiana, remained in the Pittsburgh area.
The following year, at the urging of Pirates co-owner Tom Johnson, Friend entered the election for Allegheny County comptroller. He was a Republican running in a heavily Democratic region, but he was a popular figure in the Steeltown area and won. He served two four-year terms, but the highlight of his political career was being selected as a delegate to the Republican conventions in 1968 (as an alternate), '72 and '80. He briefly met Ronald Reagan during the latter convention and over the years had several encounters with Richard Nixon, who was always ready to talk sports. "He kept up on different players and what they were hitting," Friend says. "I was really impressed with that."
After deciding not to seek a third term as comptroller, Friend sold insurance for 25 years before retiring in 2002.
Friend passed on his passion for golf to son, Bob Jr., who played on the PGA and Nationwide tours from 1990 through 2003. Bob Jr. won more than $1.5 million in career prize money, his best showing a second-place finish to Billy Andrade at the 1998 Bell Canadian Open. Father and son have golfed together regularly since Bob Jr. quit the Nationwide tour a year ago. "I think I've golfed with my son more lately than I did the last 15 or 20 years," Friend says. For a golfaholic, that makes for a very good year.