• PGA Philadelphia Section Hall of Fame •

Leo F. Fraser
Class of 1992

           

Leo Fraser was born in the Queens section of New York City in 1910. His father James was a golf professional who had immigrated to the United States from Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1916 the family moved to New Jersey from New York when James, became the professional at the Seaview Country Club. That year James Fraser won the Philadelphia Open. The family lived next to the first hole of what was later called Seaview Country Club’s Bay Course. There Leo learned the game and met some of the world’s greatest golfers. In 1920 he caddied for his father in an exhibition at the Hill School’s course in Pottstown where James and Walter Hagen defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. James Fraser had designed the course, which was later part of the Brookside Country Club, and the exhibition celebrated the opening of the course. In early 1923 James Fraser died in an automobile accident at the shore with a trolley that jumped the tracks. Three years later Fraser went to Michigan to visit an aunt and at the age of 16 became the professional at a public golf course. He returned to Seaview as the head professional in 1935 and stayed there four years before moving to Maryland. Fraser entered the army in 1942 as a private and served in a combat infantry unit in Europe, rising to the rank of major through battlefield promotions. He was decorated with the Bronze Star and five battle stars while also seeing action in North Africa. Fraser came home from the war in 1945 to find that his brother Sonny and some associates, who had bought the Atlantic City Country Club in 1943, were looking for a buyer. With the help of loans from friends Leo purchased the club and managed it successfully until his death in 1986. Fraser qualified for the PGA Championship in 1938 and 1947 and then made it through the on site qualifying for the match play on both occasions. He also played in the U.S. Open in 1932 and 1939, making the cut in 1932. In the fall of 1953 Fraser was elected second vice president of the Philadelphia Section and the next two years he served as the first vice president. In 1955 he chaired the national PGA meeting and hosted it in Atlantic City. Fraser was elected Section president six times, 1957 through 1962 making him the 14th president of the Philadelphia Section. After having been the Philadelphia Section’s delegate to the national meeting for eight years Fraser was elected treasurer of the PGA of America in late 1964. He served the PGA as secretary for three years and then he was elected president for two terms, 1969 and 1970. Fraser was an innovator when it came to golf and he was responsible for many ideas that the PGA later adopted. In 1936 he wrote to the PGA stating that the professionals should have a home course. He pointed out that there were golf courses in Florida that could be purchased for almost nothing. In 1948 Fraser hosted the third U.S. Women’s Open Championship, five years before the USGA recognized the women professionals by taking the tournament over. He hosted the Women’s Open again in 1965 and 1975. In 1954 Fraser convinced the Section officers that they should institute a caddy scholarship fund, which he chaired. A few golf associations had scholarship funds but Philadelphia was the only PGA Section with one. By 1959 the Section was aiding five former caddies with scholarships. In the 1960s the Golf Association of Philadelphia joined up with the Section to co-sponsor the fund and in later years the GAP took it over completely. In 1958 he put together a spring golf show that was still an important feature of the Section’s schedule twenty years later. Fraser sponsored and hosted a senior open at Atlantic City C.C. for two years, 1957 and 1958, and the first tournament of what became the highly successful PGA Senior Tour was played at ACCC in 1980. In the late 1950s Fraser put together a group health insurance plan for the members of the Philadelphia PGA. The plan also offered a term life insurance option. While Fraser was a national officer he created the PGA Club Professional Championship, which gave the club professionals a more equitable method of qualifying for the PGA Championship and their own national championship. Another of his innovations as president of the PGA was to create a new PGA classification of Master Professional. To attain that classification a PGA member would have to complete certain education programs and write a thesis related to the golf business. When Fraser took office as president of the PGA of America the PGA Tour and the PGA were in the midst of a breakup. Both the PGA and the PGA Tour were setting up tournament schedules for 1969 until Fraser made peace with the tournament players. The “Tournament Players Division of the PGA” was formed and Joe Dey was hired as the commissioner. Also as national president he was responsible for setting up the PGA Credit Union for the professionals. In 1955 Fraser hosted the British Ryder Cup team for practice rounds at his Atlantic City Country Club before they traveled on to California for the matches. He hosted the Section Championship three times and the Section’s annual meeting for 17 years. After Fraser stepped down as president of the PGA he formed a consulting company. He was a licensed pilot and owned a single engine airplane that he used for short trips of 600 to 800 miles. Fraser was the Philadelphia Section’s “Professional of the Year” in 1957 and an original inductee into the Section’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

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