Lifelong Amateur Frank Stranahan Passes

Before there were famed well-muscled golfers like Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, there was Frank Stranahan, One of the game's all-time great amateur players, Stranahan died Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla. His death, after a brief illness, was announced by his son Lance.

Stranahan won more than 50 amateur tournaments in the 1940s and '50s and six PGA Tour events. He was one of the first athletes from any sport devoted to muscle-building. Golfers especially shunned such conditioning as they feared they'd lose flexibility.

But not Shanahan, a player that Palmer, upon meeting him in 1949 at Pinehurst, N.C., called "Muscles."

Stranahan proved that being fit and well-proportioned wasn't such a bad idea. He was a two-time winner of the British Amateur when the tournament was a major, and was a runner-up once at the Masters and twice in the British Open. He was considered the world's top amateur golfer in the period between Bobby Jones in the 1930s and Tiger Woods in the 1990s.

Stranahan seemed to have it all. He was the son of Robert A. Stranahan, a Boston native who amassed a fortune with his company, Champion Spark Plug Company of Toledo, Ohio. He was handsome, healthy, wealthy and a world-class power-lifter.

Stranahan began his quest for physical fitness after he tried out for his high school football team. "His coach told him he was too small - he was probably 140 pounds - and we have a lot of burly kids," Lance Stranahan told the New York Times' Richard Goldstein in a recent interview. Frank Stranahan enrolled in the popular Charles Atlas fitness course, ate a lot of steak, reached 170 pounds and made the team.

He later developed a specialized physical-fitness program for golf, one that would minimize overdevelopment of his chest muscles and biceps.

Several golf notables recognized Stranahan's role in history after learning of his death. "We look at the athleticism of our players today and can say that Frank was truly before his time when it came to golf and fitness," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement.

In a Twitter post, another lifelong devotee of muscle-building, nine-time major winner Gary Player, called Stranahan "my fitness mentor, friend & inspiration."

Stranahan took up running after he retired from competitive golf in 1964. He competed in the New York and Boston marathons. He later eschewed meats and, instead, switched to a diet of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Stranahan fell 30 years short of a promise he made to The Palm Beach Post in 1999. "I feel I'm going to live a lot longer than most people dream of living," he said then. "I think it will be very easy for me to make 120."