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Dick Frank of Proctor hits out of a bunker at Enger Park Golf Course last week. Frank played 307 rounds of golf last year. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Meet the Northland's most devoted golfer

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Dick Frank of Proctor had always been an avid softball player, but as he approached 50, he started to consider other sports that might be a little easier on the knees.

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So he took up golf.

"The rest, as they say, is history," Frank said.

Fifteen years later, Frank never could have imagined just how far he'd take his new sport as last season he logged an incredible 307 rounds. That's 5,526 holes, for those scoring at home.

No official record for rounds has ever been kept on the local golf scene, but Enger Park golf pro Eric Anderson said he can't imagine anyone having ever played more.

Enger Park's most avid golfers are normally lucky to get 150 rounds in, but last summer's record early spring created a longer season. Frank got off to a fast start, eventually set a goal of 300 and then never looked back.

"That doesn't count snowbird rounds or anything like that, either, because Dick doesn't leave town in the winter," Anderson said. "To hit 100, you're an awfully avid player. That's the benchmark for a big-time golfer around here, so to hit 300? That's just crazy."

Frank, 65, jokes that he always has had an addictive personality. He used to play softball five times a week, and bowls three or four times a week in the winter.

Frank worked as a sheet metal worker for Jamar for 40 years before retiring five years ago, freeing up more time for golf.

"The golfing started with my brother-in-law and some buddies, who took me out to Lester and up to Enger (golf course)," Frank said. "I kept hitting it deep into the woods. They said, 'Ah, you can hit it farther than that.' I just kept working at it, and now, I really enjoy it."

Frank, a three-sport athlete at Proctor High School who went on to play football at Bemidji State, proved to be a late bloomer. He won the senior division at the Reidar Lund Skyline Memorial in 2008 and 2009 and last summer, at age 64, recorded his best score, a one-under-par 71 at Enger; he has two holes-in-one. A hard hitter, he is able to drive the ball upwards of 250 yards.

Frank has no regrets about how good he could have been if he played when he was younger. He has become more laid back over the years, which fits the nature of the sport.

"Dick has the perfect disposition for golf," said Frank's golfing buddy, Bob "Popcorn" Pearson. "He can hit a bad shot just like anybody else, but he doesn't get all excited about it. He just moves on to the next shot. He's very calm."

Pearson, 73, has been playing golf at Enger Park for 62 seasons, but has never logged more than 200 rounds in a year.

"We usually have a 9:30 (a.m.) tee time, and last summer Dick would already have nine holes in by the time we got there and he'd be waiting for us," Pearson said. "Then we'd join up, four or five of us, and we'd play 18. Then he'd say, 'Well, I'm not really ready to be done, and he'd go play another nine.' He's avid, but as you get older, that catches up to you. He even knows he overdid it a little last year, but if Dick Frank tells you he's going to do something, he's going to do it."

With a shorter season in 2011, Frank makes no illusions about hitting 300 rounds this year. He still often walks during his round for exercise and would like to get 200 rounds in, maybe 250, this year.

Last year it became more of a strain getting the final rounds in, and he didn't always play in the best weather. Then, on Oct. 23, he played 54 holes at Enger -- in about four hours -- to reach 300 rounds for the season.

"It was a cold, damp day, and Eric and the guys said, 'You're going to make it, you're going to make it,' " Frank said. "It was kind of a miserable day, but I went out and played 54 holes, and then I came back in. I had a big smile on my face, and Eric did, too."

Frank said he couldn't do it without an understanding wife of 45 years, Shirley. The couple have two children, son Chris Frank, 43, of Plymouth, Minn., and daughter Tina Kiszewski, 38, of Superior.

Shirley Frank, who stays active by running, said golf helps keep her husband young.

"It's not like he's out running around," Shirley Frank said, laughing. "You've got to have something to stay busy, and for Dick it's golf and for me it's running."

Dick Frank played most of his rounds at Enger last year, which he described like the bar from "Cheers" for its friendliness. He also likes Lester Park, and occasionally plays at Pike Lake, Grandview and Big Lake. A senior pass to Enger and Lester, which allows unlimited golf, is $450, meaning Frank played for about $1.50 a round last year.

"Don't write that. They'll raise my rate," Frank said, laughing. "I just enjoy it that much. Even toward the end of last year, some people thought I might be dreading it, but I wasn't. It's just so relaxing.

"The last few years that I worked, at the end of the day, I'd go on up to the golf course. When I got there, I'd have a splitting headache, but before I got to the first green, the headache was gone. And I said, 'This is good.' You're out there, in the fresh air, just taking a walk, playing with your buddies and having a lot of fun and teasing each other. It's just a wonderful game."

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