Frank Stranahan, the world's top amateur golfer in the decade following World
War II, is the subject of a display at the Manor House at Wildwood Preserve Metropark, the former estate of Frank’s father, R.A. Stranahan, co-founder of the Champion Spark Plug Company.
According to a Metroparks spokesperson, Frank competed in over 200 tournaments on three continents. In 1947, he shocked the sports world by finishing second in The Masters.
A champion power lifter during the same era, “Frankie” was known as the “Toledo Strongman.” Today, his story invites comparisons with another young, charismatic, weight-lifting golfer named Tiger Woods.
Many of Mr. Stranahan’s trophies and medals are among items now on display. The house is open for tours Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Admission is free.
The new exhibit, on loan from its owner, Habitec Security, of Toledo, showcases a number of Stranahan’s amateur trophies and medals including the British, Canadian, and Mexican National awards.
Stranahan gained worldwide fame for his performances in major professional tournaments. His second-place medal from the Masters Tournament is displayed alongside an admission ticket for the event. That year he tied his instructor, Byron Nelson, and finished two strokes behind Jimmy Damaret. Other items from his more than 10 appearances in the tournament are also exhibited.
Frank twice placed second in the British Open and his medals from these tournaments are also displayed. In 1946, the 23 year old defeated both Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan to claim the professional Fort Worth invitational trophy, which is also displayed. Finally his Walker Cup victories and Los Angeles Open titles are represented by the trophies and medals from these events.
Because of his father's vast fortune, Stranahan was able to golf year-round. This freedom greatly contributed to his widespread success. A display case holds memorabilia and photographs from Champion Spark Plug and describes R.A. Stranahan's great success as a businessman and marketer. Hats, after-shave, tie-tacks, matchbooks and a transistor radio bearing the Champion logo are displayed to show how he advertised the company.
Frank's golf career also promoted the company and he was considered part of the marketing department, receiving a company car and $3,000 per month. He often called on important clients for his father.
Aside from his golf career, Frank gained fame when he was named America’s Most Eligible Bachelor in 1948 and for an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show where he dead-lifted 500 pounds.
Frank’s athletic accomplishments went beyond golf. Trophies and media reflecting his body-building, long-distance running, diving and horse-riding victories are also featured in the exhibit. He ran 108 marathons after the age of 48 and once won the Arizona weight-lifting and amateur golf championships in the same weekend.
The Stranahan family contributed greatly to the war effort and the exhibit reflects this fact. Frank's Air Force discharge papers and golf benefit certificates are displayed. Likewise, two war bond drive posters are displayed to show R.A. Stranahan’s involvement. He served on all seven successful drives in Toledo .
Finally, some items from the Manor House collection are exhibited, including family photos, martini glasses and other domestic items.