Fox Chapel grad Fuhrer enters AK Hall after long, celebrated golf career
At the apex of his golf career in the mid-1980s, Frank Fuhrer III spent about 350 days per year on a course either competing or improving his craft.
Fatherhood and an intense focus on steering the successful beer wholesaling company his father established in 1966 have reduced his time on the links to a dozen or two 18-hole rounds a year.
Fuhrer, a 1977 Fox Chapel graduate, is fine with that.
“The first couple years, yeah, it was tough,” said Fuhrer, who played professionally from 1982-86 and competitively at a regional level until the late 1990s. “I was probably thinking at a national level or certainly at a state level, I could go out and still play pretty well. But it was a decision I made. I felt family was more important.
“I certainly don't regret it now. You only have one family, and you only have one business career, and I had a pretty good run at golf.”
One of the all-time golfing greats to emerge from Western Pennsylvania, Fuhrer will enter the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame as part of the eight-person induction class of 2014. The banquet is May 17 at the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington.
A golfer since the age of 6, Fuhrer became serious about the sport by the time he turned 12. A baseball injury played a fateful role in his athletic evolution. During a game, Fuhrer slid headfirst into a base. A sharp hook, which held the base in place, ripped Fuhrer's elbow open and marred his prospects as a player.
“My dad, he knew I had some talent and potential in golf, so he said, ‘We're going to stick with the golf,' ” Fuhrer said.
Fuhrer began taking lessons at Pittsburgh Field Club with Pete Snead, the club's head pro and brother of Sam Snead, who holds the record for PGA Tour victories (82). He soon found his way to the top of leaderboards at amateur youth tournaments.
As a member of Fox Chapel's program, Fuhrer became just the second golfer to win three WPIAL individual championships (1974-76) — he and Brentwood's Ron Schwarzel (1952-54) remain the only golfers with that achievement. Fuhrer also won a PIAA title in 1976.
His post-graduation hardware collection grew to include Western Pennsylvania Golf Association titles (1978, '80) and a Pennsylvania State Amateur championship in 1980.
In 1981, Golf Digest ranked Fuhrer, who played in college at North Carolina, the second-best amateur in the country.
That reputation in 1981 earned Fuhrer a nod for the Walker Cup team, which served as the amateur equivalent of the United States' Ryder Cup team. His teammates included future PGA Tour major tournament winners Hal Sutton and Corey Pavin.
Only 10 Americans earned spots on that team, which defeated Great Britain and Ireland in match play at Cypress Point, a respected course located next to famed Pebble Beach in California.
Fuhrer competed in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and in the Masters in 1982, and he qualified for the PGA Tour in 1984. In his five years as a professional, he competed in 26 tournaments.
The Walker Cup, however, holds a special place in his heart.
“If I had to pick out one single moment from my whole career, that'd probably be the highlight right there,” he said. “It's kind of like the culmination of my amateur career and almost like the Super Bowl of amateur golf.”
He thrived in Western Pennsylvania and state tournaments through the 1990s. But he became an ever-greater part of the Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Company after starting there in 1986. By the time his first son, Frank IV, was born, Fuhrer gave up on competitive golf and embraced the sport as a leisure activity.
Now the father of sons aged 14, 13 and 11 and the CEO of the family business, Fuhrer finds himself too busy to worry about what might have been had he stuck with professional golf for just a few more years. He seems to have greater fondness for his amateur days.
“Looking back, I probably played my best golf around my senior year of college or shortly after that,” Fuhrer said. “I just didn't feel like I was making progress after five years (as a pro). So I told my dad, even though I was only 27 years old, I just felt like I was ready for a new challenge.
“Did I give it up a little early? Probably. But everybody has to make that choice at some point in their career.”