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Better Than Level Par: Four generations of Condons intertwine life, golf



The Condons may yell ‘fore’ every once in a while on the golf course, but for them the sport is all about four — as in four generations of the family tackling the links all at once.

There’s H. Frank Condon, the senior of the bunch, the one who chuckles at the thought of being any good at the humbling game, but lives six months a year in a gated community with its own golf course in Bonita Springs Fla. Son Frank is the guy grin­ning from ear-to-ear, cracking jokes while saying he grew up as a basketball fanatic who is pleased to shoot in the mid­40s for nine holes.

Grandson Mickey was a basketball player by nature as well, but his 2-handicap and 300-plus yard drives are proof that he can more than hold his own in family com­petitions.

And the youngest of the bunch, 11-year-old Michael, is the 2009 Hillsdale County Junior Amateur champ and he’s progressing so fast that Frank says in three years he’ll be setting the Condon stan­dard.

They usually just play nine holes, and H. Frank sat out the final two of Thursday’s outing at Mill Race Golf Course in Jonesville, but it’s the indelible memories, not the birdies and bogeys this crew is after.

“It’s nice to have four gen­erations playing the same game at the same time. It’s a game that kind of equalizes things and we’ll be doing this as long as we can,” Frank said.

The family plays in Hills­dale, Jonesville, Spring Arbor, Coldwater and Concord to name a few locales, as often as twice a week during the sum­mer. They have also played at a variety of courses in Florida, near H. Frank’s winter resi­dence.

H. Frank grew fond of the game growing up, when he caddied for his father at many Condon golf outings in Muncie, Ind. where more than a few of his relatives lived. He never really towed his own bag though — until he moved to Hillsdale in 1967. When he was at 38 he gave the game a chance and it quickly evolved into part of his weekly routine and even­tually became a family past­time.

H. Frank and his brother Jim would face-off against his sons Frank and Tom to try and settle the argument of where the Condons’ golfing pedigree originated.

“We would play 18 holes once a year at Hillsdale Coun­try Club for bragging rights that would last all the way until the next summer,” Frank said. “We would get them one year and they would get us the next. We had a great time with it.”

Frank didn’t play golf in his younger years, and jokes that his father may not have been the one he relied upon for in­sights on the quirky sport, but he learned more timeless les­sons from the 80-year-old.

“One thing my dad taught me is how to get up everyday and go to work and work hard,” he said.

It should be noted that H. Frank is the only member of the clan to have two career hole-in-ones though, one at the Hillsdale Golf and Coun­try Club and the other at The Golf Club of Coldwater.

While golf gives the family a backdrop for merrymaking, they are strongly tied together by their affinity for the engi­neering field. H. Frank founded Hillsdale Terminal in 1984, Frank re­cently retired from his job as a product design engineer for Ford, and Mickey is the plant manager at Metavation, LLC in Hillsdale.

Hillsdale Terminal employs around 20 workers and pro­duces over 100 million elec­trical terminals a year, according to H. Frank.
“We just happen to all be good at math and science,” Frank said. “Now golf, that didn’t quite happen.”

It may not have happened for him or his father, but Mickey and Michael have compelling arguments against any genealogical defi­ciencies.

Mickey didn’t start playing golf until after high school, but now a golf cart is essen­tially his second vehicle. He bought his first set of clubs on a whim, not sure if he’d even use them much.

“I decided to give the sport a shot and the cheapest clubs I could find were a set of left­-handed ones so I took them and started playing left­-handed,” said the naturally right-handed Mickey. “I fig­ured that way if I didn’t like the sport I wouldn’t have wasted a bunch of money.”

Looking back, Mickey wishes he would’ve discov­ered the sport at an earlier age.

“It’s a privilege we can all get together like this. I just wish my grandpa would’ve given me a golf club rather than a basketball when I was a kid,” he joked. “I thought my dad and grandpa were crazy for playing golf when I was younger. I just thought it was an old man’s game grow­ing up.”

Heckling aside, Mickey said his family has always meant the world to him and his grandparents have always gone the extra mile for him.

“I remember when the first Air Jordan shoes came out. My grandma and grandpa took me all over the state look­ing for them,” he said. “We went to Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and finally after going all over the place we found a pair in Flint. That’s just how my grandparents were.”
Now he has Michael to buy shoes for, although he prefers golf shoes to Nike basketball sneakers.

Frank said Michael has been ‘playing since he was pooping his pants’ and he has been on local greens and fair­ways since the age of three.

Michael can drive the ball nearly 150 yards and can ‘get ahold of it pretty good’ ac­cording to Frank, but his dad still has his number, and might for a while.

Mickey said he gives Michael one shot per hole and the advantage of playing the red tees, which are usually re­served for the younger players. ‘It’s been close a few times, but he hasn’t got me yet,’ Mickey said.

Michael said his favorite golfer is Tiger Woods and he loves when he and his dad spend a few hours watching PGA tournaments, rooting for the world’s top-ranked player.

If it’s getting comfy in front of the tube or giving each other golf advice, some good, some bad, it all boils down to one basic principle.

“We’ve just been a close family for many years. We enjoy each other’s company and like being around each other,” H. Frank said.

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About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.

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