Tennis didn't pay for Conner

Ex-court phenom finds groove on Senior Tour

State Farm notebook

July 03, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Frank Conner was something of a phenom growing up, a nationally ranked player as a junior and a three-time All-American in college.

Not bad credentials, except that Conner's sport was tennis, not golf.

He tried golf briefly as a child, but didn't play between age 10 and 22, when he graduated from Trinity University in Texas. He gave up the idea of a professional tennis career for one reason.

"There was no money in it and I got married my junior year," Conner said yesterday after shooting a 4-under-par 68 in the opening round of the $1.3 million State Farm Senior Classic at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club.

Now 53, Conner earned a decent living in a 17-year career that included one victory on the PGA Tour. But he has more than doubled the $750,733 he made on that tour in his three years on the Senior Tour.

Conner might be the only athlete to have faced both Rod Laver and Tom Watson. As a junior Davis Cup player, Conner was teammates with Stan Smith. He was also college teammates with another former Wimbledon champion, Chuck McKinley. "I could give them all a good match, but I could never beat them," said Conner. "They were the best in the world."

The town Conner where grew up, Belleville, Ill., was a hotbed for tennis. It produced a future star named Jimmy Connors, who was several years Conner's junior. "I used to change his diapers after we played," joked Conner.

No signs of Green mellowing

Hubert Green's PGA Tour was punctuated by his shoot-from-the-lip personality and his erratic putting. Nothing much has changed since Green joined the Senior Tour two years ago.

He is still blunt, not to mention ornery, and still a bit streaky on the greens.

"My putting is still suspect," he said.

Asked about his 5-under-par 67, which put him one shot off the lead, Green said, "I'm surprised to tell you the truth."

Yesterday's round, which included five birdies and no bogeys, followed a closing 66 in last week's Ford Senior Players Championship. Green finished tied for fifth there.

Green blames the media for the Senior Tour's lackluster image. He is looking forward to having players such as Watson and Tom Kite join in the next few months.

"There should be no adjustment," said Green, who won in his second year on the Senior Tour. "I hope it takes them a long time to adjust, maybe five or six years."

Shaw's luck changes, sort of

When Tom Shaw turned 60 last December, his status changed from regular Senior Tour player to Super Senior. Shaw also hoped that his luck would change as well.

It hasn't happened so far this year, but Shaw made a run up the leader board yesterday when he got to 5-under after rolling in a 45-footer on the ninth hole.

"I thought it was going to be one of those kind of days when everything goes in," said Shaw.

It wasn't. He wound up making double-bogey on the par-4 10th hole and bogey on the par-4 13th before parring out for a 2-under 70.

Peete, Bland withdraw

After playing the first nine holes in 1-over 37, Calvin Peete pulled out with a sore shoulder. John Bland also withdrew after learning that his brother, Roy, had died of kidney failure.

Pub Date: 7/03/99

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