Massachusetts great Harney dies at 82

Paul Harney, far right, after losing a playoff to Arnold Palmer, middle, at the Thunderbird tournament at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.

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There was never any question about his golf game. Even less of an issue, however, was Paul Harney’s devotion to his family.

It came first, even if his golf career took a hit.

And years later, how did that sit with him?

“No regrets. Not a one,” Harney told me back in 2001 when he blessed me with hours of his time for a feature story in The Boston Globe. “I was so very lucky. I enjoyed playing, and when I played well, which I did an awful lot of times, it was so enjoyable.”

Arguably the greatest Massachusetts-born golfer, Harney died Wednesday at age 82. No shock to those who knew Harney, but he left this world surrounded by those who made it very special for him: his wife, Patricia, and six children.

“A father should be with his family,” Harney told me, and never has a man lived up to his beliefs like this humble and soft-spoken gentleman.

Born in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester, Harney starred at nearby Holy Cross, and by 1955 was a member of the PGA Tour. Though he was one of the longest hitters and very best putters, Harney kept his word to Patricia. He became a full-time club pro and part-time PGA Tour player when their oldest child started school.

Though he never devoted all of his energies toward his PGA Tour career, Harney managed to win seven tournaments, including the L.A. Opens of 1964 and ’65. His final win, the 1972 Andy Williams San Diego Open, was remarkable because by then he was the father of six and a club pro in Massachusetts who hadn’t touched a club in weeks because of winter snow.

He also dominated the Massachusetts Open, winning five in all, including four in a row.

In 1964, Harney invested in an executive-style golf course in Falmouth on Cape Cod and by 1974 he had moved there to run the facility. He remained a fixture at the golf course, beloved by members and visitors, pampered by his children and grandchildren.

For good reason, too.

He was a very special man.

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