September 1, 2006
Frank Abbott has a vivid memory of his very first round of golf as a twelve-year old boy.
The newly re-elected commissioner for the Town of Henlopen Acres grinned broadly as he recalled a long-ago Saturday at a country club in Pennsylvania.
“My father was advised by his doctor to play golf, for his health,” Abbott explained. “I went along, and beat him and his friends in my first round with a 105. Now I can’t score 105, but it’s still fun.”
Abbott began golfing regularly soon after that. When he was an engineering student at Villanova University and a player on the college’s golf team, his uncle was the president of Llanerch Country Club in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He took advantage of the family connection to obtain a junior-level membership there. After graduation Abbott continued golfing, while also working as an engineer for RCA, until World War II intervened.
He joined the Navy as an ensign and finished his service in March 1946 as a lieutenant commander, with a period of service on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff. Abbott then looked into re-joining Llanerch, where they were offering membership bonds at $100 apiece. “I couldn’t afford it,” Abbott said. Instead, he stopped playing and enrolled at Temple University’s law school in September 1946, taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. After obtaining his degree and passing the bar, Abbott started working as an associate at a major law firm in Philadelphia.
“I stopped playing golf for about 30 years,” Abbott said. “When you’re trying to establish yourself as a young associate, they expect you to be in the office on the weekends, and not out golfing.”
His professional career took off, leading to a partnership in a nationally-recognized firm with a focus on labor and employment law, representing hospitals and other industries.
By 1972, however, Abbott’s weekends were free enough for him to resume his golfing habit, and his former skills as a college golfer soon returned. He joined Main Line clubs such as Aronomick, as well as the Seaview club in Atlantic City. “My average scores were in the high 70s, so I was a 6 handicap or so,” Abbott said. He also joined Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and was there to watch David Graham’s 1981 U.S. Open victory at the historic course.
By the way, anyone who could carry a six handicap at Merion should be recognized as a golfer with some true talent.
Abbott maintained his Merion membership for several years after he retired from the active practice of law, but after he and his wife Skip moved to the Cape Region in 1994, he eventually had to bring that golfing chapter to a close. “Quitting Merion was one of the hardest things I ever did.”
He joined Rehoboth Beach Country Club in 1994, sponsored by his former law partner Kimber Vought, the former mayor of Rehoboth Beach, and built his new home in Henlopen Acres. Abbott admits to having been “conned” by his neighbors into serving his new community in several capacities. After a stint at the Beach Club and on the town’s Board of Adjustment, he was elected to a commissioner’s seat in 1998. The recent election earned Abbott his fifth consecutive term.
Abbott’s current ailments are now taking a toll on his golf game, but he’s still swinging. “I usually play five holes or so, and then I just ride along with my friends for the rest of the round.” He’s often found on the Rehoboth Beach CC course with his regular foursome partners Earl Linn, Tom Lewis, and Joe Schranck. Abbott’s also looking forward to playing golf soon with his son Terry, and perhaps with a golfing grandchild or two.
“Golf is a wonderful game. You can play it whether you’re twelve or 87,” he said.
And Abbott is his own best proof that he’s right.