Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan was part of the first three U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and kindly answered a few questions on the eve of this year's event.
GS: It's hard to fathom today that it was a leap to take the Open to Pebble Beach in 1972. Was it really that risky?
FH: The USGA had played US Amateur Championships at Pebble Beach. The place was virtually empty. Odd, but it seemed remote and inaccessible. So we inserted a clause in the agreement stipulating we would get $250,000 as our share of admissions no matter what. In 1972 $250,000 felt like real money. The attendance turned out to be fine.
GS: Besides Jack's 1-iron shot Sunday, what else do you recall from the week?
FH: Bing Crosby's brother called to ask for a cart for the great man. Grace Kelly may not have been able to say no to Bing Crosby, but I could. On Sunday two anti-Vietnam war protesters chained themselves to a tree in the drive zone on 18. They just sat there.
A marshal on the tee with binoculars informed the players. So Arnold was seen on television using the binoculars and some idiot called in to say that Arnold was using an artificial device and should be penalized.
GS: In 1982 you were in the booth with Peter Alliss on 17 when Watson chipped in. Is that correct? And what was your role with the USGA at that point?
FH: I was then the assistant director, the #2 bureaucrat. I sat in a booth with Peter supposedly to say pithy things. Crazy. It was like putting a hack with one piano lesson to play with Horowitz.
GS: You were with ABC in 1992, what was that like when Monty came in and Nicklaus told him he had it won and just about everyone else thought he had the thing wrapped up?
FH: Nicklaus congratulated Monty on winning the Open while we were in a commercial and then Monty told everyone in the press tent what Jack said. Nearly half the field was still on the course. I did not regard it as a prediction but rather Jack sneering that everybody else was choking so badly that Monty's score might hold up.