Des Moines | DOB: July 12, 1884; Died: 1957 (Age 73)

Inducted 1989 | Category: Volunteer/Benefactor

Herman Sani - A Legacy of Service and Education

The son of an Italian school teacher, Herman Sani came to the United States when he was 8 years old. He shined shoes, sold newspapers and hawked programs at the ballpark. The man who later described himself as “about an 80s hacker” became known as “Mr. Golf” in Iowa for his promotion of the sport. He ran the Iowa Golf Association on a volunteer basis for more than 30 years, starting in 1926.

“He and the golf game went together like bread and butter,” Iowa Golf Hall of Famer Joe Brown once said.

Sani became an engineering assistant in the Des Moines streets department in 1907. Later, he ran his own paving construction company. He also joined the Hyperion Field Club, and was more than a casual member.

In 1926, he and W.A. Cordingley, then circulation manager of the Des Moines Register and the father of three-time Iowa Women’s Amateur champion Mary Louise Cordingley, planted the trees that line many of Hyperion’s fairways today. In 1936, during the Great Depression, Sani purchased Hyperion for back taxes and gave it back to the membership. No record exists that he was ever repaid for his generosity. He was a Hyperion member for more than 50 years. He served on the club’s board of directors for 15 years, was chairman of the Greens Committee for 20 years and served as club president in 1934.

As secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Golf Association, Sani was an uncompensated volunteer. Tournaments grew significantly under Sani’s reign. He became a one-man clearinghouse for tournaments, making sure there was little or no conflict with scheduled dates.

He was hard to miss at tournaments. An avid outdoorsman, he once fell and injured his hip while ice skating.The injury became chronic and he required a special built-up shoe and a cane to get around. He was often accompanied by his dog, “Bozo,” at tournaments.

The Des Moines Register’s Bert McGrane worked hard to establish a tournament to honor Sani. The result was the Herman Sani Invitational at Hyperion, which started in 1950 and remains one of the Iowa Golf Association’s top events each year.

“To my knowledge, and I’ve been working with him on golf for a lot of years, the guy never has known anybody who wasn’t his friend,” McGrane once said. “Why not pay tribute to a man while he’s still alive and can enjoy it?”

After the final round of the inaugural Sani, a program was held with golfing great Gene Sarazen the guest speaker.

Sarazen paid high tribute to Sani’s long service to Iowa golf, and said he would be insulted if he didn’t receive an invitation to play in the tournament the following year. Sani was then presented with several gifts, topped by a television with a 16-inch screen. When Sani got up to speak, the 150 people in attendance walked out. It was a pre-arranged gag.

When Sani passed away on October 31, 1957, at 73 years of age, his good friend McGrane called it “a deep, personal loss. Many times in our travels to tournaments around the state, people would say they wouldn’t know how a meet could be staged without Herman. Now I guess they’ll find out.”

Said Jack Hall, a longtime pro at Hyperion and a member of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, “He was a real friend, not only in golf but my personal life. He did so much for golf. Nobody will replace him.”

At the 1958 Northwest Amateur, the tournament program remembered Sani on the cover. With his picture were these words: “Herman Sani, a golfer’s best friend, a man dedicated to promoting golf in Iowa. As Secretary of the Iowa Golf Association, he spent freely of his time and money in an effort to put Iowa on top in golf. A special tribute to the man for his promotion of Junior Golf.”

A year after Sani’s passing, Hyperion established the Herman Sani Scholarship program to fund four-year college scholarships for Iowa high school graduates with an eye on making golf their career pursuit. The Iowa Golf Association now administers the scholarship. As of 2023, there have been 198 scholarships awarded.

Sani Biographical History by Bill Reed

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