Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Double Ace Conner Knows U.S. Open- Whether It's Golf or Tennis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Double Ace Conner Knows U.S. Open- Whether It's Golf or Tennis

Article excerpt

A few years ago in Palm Springs, Calif., Frank Conner walked up to Ellsworth Vines and shook the hand of the only other man in the history of the planet to do it.

"He was a great guy, a wonderful man," Conner said, with genuine fondness.

Beyond that single meeting, Conner rarely revisits the accomplishment that only he and Vines share. "Well, you know . . . it's something that I'm very proud of," Conner said, seemingly uncomfortable at even discussing it. "But it's not something that I think much about. No, I don't carry it around with me." "It" is this: Only two men have played in the U.S. Open in golf and tennis, Frank Conner and Ellsworth Vines, now deceased. Let's mull that for a moment: Only a minute number of people who pick up a tennis racket or a golf club build enough skill to compete at the highest level of their respective sport. Thus, to achieve such status in two sports is . . . well, just consider the popularity that Deion Sanders has generated. His sports are more popular, sure, but his achievement is no more stunning than Vines' or Conner's. Conner, 50, reaped some rewards, tangible and intangible, recently. As one of only three men in the field of 78 to shoot three rounds in the 60s, Conner notched a solid fifth-place finish in the inaugural Boone Valley Classic, a 54-hole Senior PGA Tour event near Augusta. His 8-under-par total of 205 earned him a check for $52,800. That's healthy for the bank account. A rare return to his childhood home was salve for the psyche. "I was raised in Belleville, went to grade school and high school there, and my folks still live there," Conner said. "I spent the week there, and it was nice. I really enjoyed it. I don't get to spend much time at home anymore." As a youngster, Conner delved into most of the usual childhood sports. "I was OK at everything," he said, shrugging. "I guess you could say things came easily to me." Tennis developed as his sport of choice; he learned from the top St. Louis pros and often took part in spirited matches on the Metro East courts with a promising teen named Jimmy Connors. Conner played Junior Davis Cup and continued his tennis ascent at Trinity University in San Antonio. …

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