Ty Strafaci clutched the trophy so, so tightly.
More tenderly, he clung to family stories of his grandfather.
On July 4, at the famed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, Ty Strafaci won the 120th North & South Amateur Championship.
In 1938 and 1939, Ty’s grandfather won that same title, one of amateur golf’s most prestigious.
Sadly, Ty – who grew up in Miami-Dade and Broward – never got to meet his grandfather, who died 10 years before he was born.
For Ty, the North & South victory was a time to seal his bond – through golf – with the man he had gotten to know through so many family tales. Most involved golf, golf courses, golf shots and an abundance of love for the game.
“I first came to Pinehurst when I was a little kid, and mom and dad would always tell me about my grandfather and what he thought of Pinehurst,” Ty said of grandfather Frank Strafaci Sr. “The first thing we would do when we came here when I was a kid, my dad would walk me into the locker room and we would find grandpa’s locker.”
A locker is given permanently to each North & South winner, and that would include a Jack Nicklaus locker for his 1959 triumph.
After visiting his grandfather’s locker, Ty and the family would walk over to view his grandfather’s name on the Wall of Perpetuity in Pinehurst’s History Hall.
Now, the next time Ty visits Pinehurst, he will see his name on that same Wall of Perpetuity along with his grandfather’s. They are the first grandson/grandfather duo to capture the championship.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Ty, 21, said of his accomplishment. “I honestly never thought this day would come.”
The Strafaci family has made golf become what most people know it can be – a game for family bonding.
Carrying Ty’s bag during the North & South tournament was his father, Frank Jr., also an accomplished golfer who played in several North & South events but admitted, “Didn’t do that well. Never won it.”
Frank Strafaci Sr. (below) and Tyler Strafaci get to show off their hardware after winning the North & South.
That said, Frank Jr. knows one thing for certain – golf is a family passion.
“Golf is a really huge part of this family. My father put a golf club in my hand at a very early age and I put a golf club in Ty’s hand at a very early age,” Frank Jr. said.
Ty’s dad remembers quite well one of his son’s first tournaments, a well-known annual Father-Son event at Disneyworld. Ty was 6.
“We started playing and we were walking down a fairway and Ty turned to me and said, ‘Dad, it’s too hot to play.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Son, that’s not really an option.’”
In high school, Ty played for Plantation American Heritage in Broward County and added state team and individual titles to his résumé.
Ty signed with Georgia Tech and has spent four years there, becoming an Academic All-American for two years. Last school year, Ty was a senior ready to graduate but the pandemic resulted in much of the season being called off. The result was that Ty received another year of eligibility to play for the Yellow Jackets, and because pro golf has limited opportunities right now because of the pandemic, he will return to school.
“He did not intend to go back, but the pandemic changed things,” Frank Jr. said. “There may be no professional golf, and he did not want his school career to end that way with the pandemic, so he’s going back for another year.”
While caddying in the North & South for his son, did Frank Jr. think his father was watching Ty’s victory?
“I am pretty sure he was,” Frank Jr. quickly responded.
Ty agreed, mentioning a specific moment in the match-play final.
William Holcomb and Strafaci were all square after seven holes. Ty badly blocked out his tee shot to the right on the par-4 eighth, and he and his father were concerned as they traipsed toward the rough to find the ball.
When they arrived, they found to their surprise that the ball had strangely kicked back into the fairway.
Ty looked down at the ball and remembered he thought, “Grandpa, you are a silly, silly man.”
Ty birdied the eighth for a 1-up lead, and closed out the match when he birdied the 14th and 17th. On No. 17, he stuck his approach to 4 feet and made the putt to clinch the 3-and-1 victory.
The champion embraced his father.
“You did it, bud,” Ty remembered his father saying repeatedly.
However, in the joy, there was one regret.
“I wish Ty had known him,” Frank Jr. said. “My father was a very special person. He would have been Ty’s biggest fan.”