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An above-par life

Hank Frame chews on golf tee during a tie-breaking shoot-off during the final day of the 2012 Lilac City Invitational, July 8, at Fairways Golf Course in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Hank Frame chews on golf tee during a tie-breaking shoot-off during the final day of the 2012 Lilac City Invitational, July 8, at Fairways Golf Course in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland)

U-Hi grad Hank Frame loves golf and what it’s doing for him

Hank Frame likes to stop from time to time and reflect on how good his life is right now. And from any perspective, it’s been very good.

“I like to stop and look at where I am,” Frame said. “I’m playing a game I’ve loved playing my whole life – and it’s paying for my college education. I get to practice every day on an incredible golf course (Palouse Ridge) and I get to fly around the country to play golf on other incredible golf courses. When you put things in that context, you can’t really let a couple bad rounds of golf get you down.”

Not that Frame has that many bad rounds of golf.

Last weekend, for example, the former University High golf standout won the Lilac City Invitational tournament at The Fairways, overcoming a triple bogey on the back nine to win in a two-hole playoff with Michael Roters.

Lilac City was kind of a spur-of-the moment thing for Frame, who was the top Washington State University golfer at the Pac-12 Championship tournament at Corvallis, Ore., in late April, leading the Cougars to a ninth-place finish.

“I don’t go anywhere over the winter to play golf the way some guys do, and I usually take the summer off from competition,” Frame explained. “But I thought this would be a fun tournament to play in and some good competition for me.”

Competition always seems to bring out the best in Frame.

“I love the competition – it forces me to take my time and make sure every stroke counts,” he explained. “When I’m out playing with my buddies and they’re struggling to make 80, who really cares if I card a 72 or a 68? It’s all about just going out there and having fun and enjoying the time with my friends. I work hard in practice, sure, but it’s not the same thing.”

Stepping up to the 12th tee with a two-stroke lead on Sunday was a bit of a surprise.

More of a surprise, a shock really, was the triple bogey he carded.

“I was pretty frustrated with that, I have to admit,” Frame said with a laugh. “I was afraid three days of great golf had been wiped away on one bad hole.”

That, he said, is when he took a deep breath and tried to put everything in perspective.

After that, he managed to force the playoff, where he sank a 9-foot putt on the second extra hole and watched Rotors slide a 7-footer just past the cup.

Frame could not accept the $5,000 winner’s check and maintain his amateur status, but he insists he’s happy with the result.

“People tell me all the time that it must be a bummer to not be able to keep the check,” he said. “But I look at it this way: I’ve always been an amateur and I’ve never been able to accept prize money, so this is no different. I did get to keep $500 in stuff from the pro shop and I’m really happy to get that.

“I entered the tournament hoping I could win enough to be able to buy my dad a new pair of golf shoes and I was able to do that with some to spare.”

Frame proved he had a great golf game at an early age.

At U-Hi, he was a four-year team captain and played in four straight state golf tournaments. As a freshman he was the Inland Empire champion and the Idaho Junior Golf state champion. As a sophomore he was the player of the year in the Greater Spokane League and placed 11th at the state Class 4A tournament. As a junior he was the Washington Junior Golf Association state champion and as a senior placed fourth at the state tournament and won his opening match of the U.S. Men’s Public Links Championship.

Frame’s freshman season at WSU was one of the best in school history, including a win at the Georgetown Intercollegiate tournament in just his fifth start as a Cougar. Through his first three seasons, he’s finished in the Top 10 in five tournaments and the Top 25 in 15 – including a tie for 16th at the Pac-10 Championships as a sophomore.

In addition, the finance major was an All-Pac 12 Academic honorable mention this past season and was a second-team All-Pac-10 Academic honoree as a sophomore.

Soon Frame heads back to Pullman, where he will be a senior on a rapidly improving Washington State team. It’s a good time to be a Cougar golfer, he insists.

“I’m going to be able to look back on this time and see that Washington State has one of the best men’s golf programs in the country and I’m going to be able to say I played a part in building that.”

The Cougars are right on the brink of Frame’s prediction.

For one thing, the program has one of the best home courses in the country.

“Palouse Ridge Golf Course is as big a part of our recruiting program as it is a part of the golf program,” he said. “It’s ranked as one of the top two or three college courses in the country – on par with Stanford’s course. We’re five minutes from being on a great course for practice, where we have our own private driving range so we can work without being distracted by the general public. They’re putting in an area for us so we can practice on the range even in the winter months, so that’s going to be a big improvement.”

The second springboard for WSU’s rise in the rankings of collegiate golf is second-year head coach Garrett Clegg.

“He’s been a big influence on us,” Frame said. “He’s been talking about us doing what it takes to get there from day one and I believe we’re going to get there.

“We’re really close. We have outstanding players who, on any given day, can finish in the top 10 at any tournament. We just haven’t gotten to the place where we’re consistently doing that week in and week out. We play well one tournament, the next one we struggle and someone else has a good tournament. We get to the place where we’re all playing well consistently – one guy finishing in the top 10 and three more in the top 25 – and we’re there.”

Frame is excited for the upcoming season, but he’s not looking beyond it golf-wise.

“If I have a breakout season and I win a couple tournaments, I might give a thought to trying to get on the professional tour,” he said. “It’s very expensive to play professional golf and self-pay. It easily costs $40,000 to $50,000 to play on one of the minor tours.

“I’ll have my degree in finance, with a minor in economics. I will be happy to try to land a job at one of the big accounting firms and start my career. Of course, it will help if the person interviewing me plays golf and we can play a round together.”