Frank Hedrick’s long golfing career began when he became president of Radium Springs County Club in the late 1940s, and the former pilot in World War II continued to rise in the golfing ranks as he got older, eventually becoming president of the State Amateur Golf Association and president of the Georgia State Golf Association. (Albany Sports Hall of Fame/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY — Jackson Murphy was born long after his grandfather, Frank Hedrick, fought in WWII and years after he played alongside Arnold Palmer in the 1949 U.S. Amateur before rising to the top of Albany’s golfing scene.
But for Murphy, those stories are still alive — and so is the memory of his grandfather, who passed away in December 2001.
“He is part of the greatest generation, and if they had to write a book on the greatest generation they could write one on him,” Murphy said. “He could be the lead character.”
Hedrick was the star in just about everything he did during his 84 years as a resident of Albany. On Monday he will be posthumously inducted into the Albany Sports Hall of Fame for a lifetime’s worth of achievements in athletics.
It all started for Hedrick in the 1920s and ’30s at Albany High School.
He was a starting guard on the Indians’ basketball team and was instrumental in establishing the school’s first prep golf team.
Hedrick, who was the oldest of seven children, went to Duke after graduating from high school, but he didn’t stay away from Albany for long. His college days were cut short because of the Great Depression, which caused him to return home and help on the family farm.
He left the farm for the military upon the outbreak of WWII and became a command pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber, completing 36 missions — including many bombing raids on Nazi strongholds in Eurupe — and never losing a single crewman.
“He was proud of the fact he served and proud that all of his flight crews came home safe,” Murphy said. “He was always a leader.”
The war hero quickly turned into a local golfing legend.
In the late 1940s, he became president of the prestigious Radium Country Club and, at times, kept the course alive financially through tough times. Hedrick, who learned to play golf on the sand greens of the American Legion Club and with the help of golf publications, played in the 1949 U.S. Amateur and in the 1957 British Amateur and won the inaugural Doublegate County Club championship in 1965.
Murphy, who got to play with his grandfather several times in the ’80s and ’90s, remembers Hedrick as a “no-nonsense golfer.”
“As soon as he hit his tee shot he would be in the golf cart and riding down the fairway before the ball even landed,” Murphy said. “He was all business out there on the course.”
Hedrick was named state director of the State Amateur Golf Association and served on the board of directors with the world-renowned Bobby Jones. He eventually became president of the Georgia State Golf Association and promoted the participation of juniors and seniors throughout the state.
He was also a family man.
“I remember sitting on the front porch waiting for my dad to come home from work,” said Bill Hedrick, Frank’s son who is now an established attorney in Albany. “I would be sitting there with my glove and his glove, and when he got home we would toss the baseball around.
“We even had a basketball goal in our front yard, and he would shoot baskets with me. I never became as good a player as he was, but it wasn’t from his lack of effort.”
Basketball was another sport Hedrick excelled in.
He was 6-foot-3 — “a gentle giant,” as Murphy would say — and starred for several years on the Albany Blues semi-pro team, which competed against major universities and other semi-pro teams.
He loved the competition, but he also loved the companionship that sports brought him.
“He made friends that lasted forever,” Bill Hedrick said. “He may not have been the most gifted athlete in the world, but he loved to compete and benefited from it by making friends he had his whole life.”
His true companion, however, was his wife, Clarice, whom he married in 1940 and had two children with, Bill and Gail Hedrick Murphy.
The two stayed married for 54 years before she died in 1994, and it was a marriage that Murphy said was “as close to perfect as you can get.”
“I’d say they lived a fairy tale-type marriage,” Murphy said. “They went through the tough times and came through and persevered.”
Along with the other four inductees in the 26th annual ceremony, Hedrick will be honored for his life-long achievements at tonight’s banquet.
“I know he will be looking down from heaven and smiling at us,” Murphy said. “He would be honored for this award.”