John W. Harrigan has been named the 2013 Yancey Ford Award winner. The award is annually presented by Golfweek to an individual who has made significant contributions to senior amateur golf.
“I’m humbled to receive this award,” Harrigan said. “I can think of ten people who I feel deserve it more that I; it’s an honor to even be considered.”
Harrigan took up the game as a 12-year-old in Waterloo, Iowa, before moving with his parents to St. Paul, Minn. There he started caddying at Stillwater Country Club and White Bear Yacht Club.
“I was urged to become a caddie,” Harrigan said, “to keep me out of my mother’s hair.”
While playing on the Stillwater, Minn., high school golf team and working afternoons and weekends at the golf course, Harrigan achieved his first victory by winning the caddie championship.
“It was a great experience being a caddie,” Harrigan said. “I wish more people were able to do it. With the cost of college being what it is today caddying provides an opportunity for young men and women to become Evans Scholars.”
He went on to play on the golf team at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minn., from 1951-54 after which Harrigan spent three years in the Army. He then completed his J.D. at the University of Minnesota in 1959.
As Harrigan began to practice law, golf took a back seat. He spent 38 years in general practice rising to managing partner of Lowry-Hill, a position he held for 22 years. During his legal career, he also served as an administrative law judge and arbitrator-mediator.
In the true spirit of the Yancey Ford Award, Harrigan’s contributions to the game extend past the golf course and into the boardroom.
During the 1960s, he served as a board member of the Minnesota Public Golf Association before moving on to that states largest golfing organization, The Minnesota Golf Association. There he held the title of Director for six years and continues to serve as Alumni Director.
After making a seasonal move to Florida in 1993, Harrigan spent 12 years as a board member of the Florida State Golf Association where he still serves in an advisory capacity.
“I appreciated the time that volunteers gave when I started to play competitively,” Harrigan said, “and always felt it was the right thing for me to volunteer and give back to the game.”
Nationally, Harrigan spent nine years with The United States Golf Association serving on the Senior Amateur Committee.
Harrigan’s amateur-golf resume includes two top-five finishes in the Twin Cities Amateur, a top 10 in the Minnesota State Open and several weekend-event victories (among those, the 1953 Eastern Minnesota Open).
Perhaps most notably, Harrigan, 81, joined the Society of Seniors in 1987, rising to the leadership chair of Executive Secretary in 1999. In that capacity, Harrigan helped double the society’s membership and grew the competition schedule. He was also instrumental in helping develop the national ranking system and player-of-the-year award for senior amateurs.
Now officially retired from his Society of Senior duties, Harrigan expresses great pride in his tenure and in the organization.
“The best part of my golf career was the relationships I’ve developed with the people I met,” Harrigan said. “I’ve been close to the action with the best senior amateurs in the world and enjoyed every minute of it.”
Harrigan is married to Mimi Villaume and collectively, the couple has six children and nine grandchildren. Harrigan resides in Palm Beach County, Fla., but also maintains a residence in Edina, Minn.
“I hope to be able to help out more in the future – but just help,” Harrigan said. “The Society and the tournaments are in good hands now!”
Harrigan will be honored at a luncheon on Dec. 4, 2013, during Golfweek‘s Senior Tour Championship, which will be contested Dec. 2-4 at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.