After shooting his age many times, Conrad Freeman’s latest par is Parkinsons

Conrad Freeman relaxes at the fire table on the lanai with Dakota


Conrad and Linda Freeman show off a whopping pike caught in northern Ontario.

One of my heroes in Florida is a man nicknamed Connie, a master of challenges on the golf course.  Now 80, he’s shot his age or better 75 times.  In light of how he’s handling his latest challenges, he’s an even bigger hero.

Having played golf for most of my adult life, I can confirm how hard it is.  Unlike tennis, where an orb blasts toward you or just pops over a net, requiring you to run and dart and lunge, the golf ball just sits there.  Granted wind, water and sand add trouble, but the golf ball waits patiently.   Nonetheless,  striking that 1.66” round missile is beyond confounding.  I was consoled to hear Conrad admit, “Golf’s the hardest game in the world.”

For most of his life, Conrad has managed to romance a golf ball the way Richard Gere romanced Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  Conrad first shot his age at 66. (The youngest golfer ever to accomplish this was 59; the oldest, 103.)  In April, 2004, Conrad scored nine birdies in one round for a 65!  (7 below par)  Conrad was club champion at Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota “8 or 10 times.”  (I can give you chapter and verse of the one time my team won the ladies draft.)  Conrad won an international tournament on the torturous Tom Lehman-designed “Teeth of the Dog” in the Dominican Republic three times.  (He and wife Linda also won a couples tournament there.)

Oversized drivers are the norm these days. Some come with threatening names like Epic and Rogue. Conrad claims he owned the first oversized driver. At 18, he and  friend Tom Eidsvold, 15, played in a week-long tournament at Alexandria Golf Club in MN.  They slept in their car and cleaned up by diving into a lake.  Conrad stored his driver in the trunk.  One night it rained.  The club got wet and swelled up.  It was the only driver he had.  He used it to finish the tournament.  (But no W.)   He and Tom grew up and joined Alexandria and still play there together as they do at Laurel Oak CC in Florida.

Conrad’s sons and grandsons all love golf.  Grandson Will, 17, plays in tournaments around the US and  hopes for a college golf scholarship.

Conrad’s dad introduced him to golf, age 10, at Alexandria GC near his home in Morris, MN, a town of 4000.  Conrad was hooked.  He played for his high school golf team at Pomme de Terre, a public course—and the only course in town.  He won “many” small tournaments around the state, a lucky thing since, as he recalls, “I needed the money.”  He earned around $100 per tournament—“pretty good money back then.”  He also loved basketball.  At 17, he became an All-Conference basketball player in MN.

Conrad’s grandfather, an immigrant from Iceland, was a farmer.  He lost his land in the Great Depression and got a job auditing banks. Along with his grandfather, father and brothers, Conrad purchased a small bank in 1945. Ten years later Conrad bought the family out. He continued to run the bank along with Linda and his 3 sons, commuting 50 miles a day. Linda planted flowers and opened accounts and  became a securities broker. They sold the bank in 1995.

Son John Freeman and Conrad frying walleye caught by Conrad and Linda in Canada.

Conrad and Linda have been married for 30 years.  It’s a 2nd marriage for both.  When they first wed, Linda, who loves to fish, promised to learn golf if Conrad would take her on 2 fishing trips a year. They’ve enjoyed each others’ passions ever since.

About 10 years ago, Conrad could no longer execute the chips and putts at which he once shone.  He began having trouble with balance. The couple saw several specialists, but it was about 5 years before a true diagnosis was made. Conrad has Parkinson’s disease. He still loves and plays golf but has eased up on his personal expectations. Though he doesn’t have the typical tremor, he has trouble walking and sometimes stumbles. (Being tall, he has farther to fall.)

Conrad and Linda have faced this challenge together. He says, “I couldn’t do this without Linda.”  They have joined Parkinson Place in Sarasota, a multidisciplinary care center started and run by Marilyn Tait, whose late husband had Parkinson’s. The center offers 80 free programs a week in exercise, nutrition, voice, care giving, etc. Conrad attends regularly.

Parkinson’s patients tend to lose their ability to project their voices. Conrad’s  Loud Voice classes paid off last fall. He and Linda had driven 500 miles to Red Lake in northern Ontario to catch lake trout that spawn in the shallows in fall. It was so cold and rainy that for 3 days they couldn’t fly to Sandy Beach Lodge on an island where they always stay. They consoled themselves in the nearby mainland town’s only pub.

One night in the pub, a young man Linda describes as “in high spirits” noticed Conrad’s t-shirt.  It bore the phrase UM YA YA, the official cheer for St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, which Conrad attended and still supports.  The young man, wearing what Linda calls a “ratty” t-shirt, said to Conrad, “Man, I love your t-shirt.  I really love your t-shirt.”  He repeated his compliment several more times, then suggested to Conrad that they trade.   By that point, Linda recounts, everyone around them was listening.

Conrad, who wore a second t-shirt underneath, stood up, took off his shirt and handed it to the young man.  He said, “If you’re going to wear the shirt, you’ve got to know the fight song.”  Using the loud voice he’d practiced at Parkinson Place, Conrad belted out the entire song.  “A huge cheer erupted at the end,” Linda says.  “Somebody sent over beers.  People clapped Conrad on the back, saying, ‘Good job, man!’”

I know firsthand how tough Parkinson’s can be.  My sister Anne and I watched our mother decline from its complications, afflicted by tremors, mood swings and confined to a wheelchair.  But Conrad and Linda are doing their best to understand, deal with and rise above the symptoms.

Linda says, “My nursing skills have kicked up a notch.  But the disease has brought us closer together.  We’re really a team.  Conrad’s disease is a lesson in life.  We never know what the future holds.  Up north, some of Conrad’s golf buddies don’t play with him anymore.  Others do.   They realize it’s about being together, not about winning a dollar.

“I’m so proud of Conrad.  He keeps on plugging, moving forward.  He gets frustrated sometimes, but we can talk it through.  We find something to laugh at every day.  We take pleasure in little things, like sitting at the fire table on the lanai with a drink or at the fire pit at the lake with the family.”

Burton and I were lucky enough to enjoy that fire pit a few years back.  At a birthday party for Conrad, we savored a Freeman fish fry.  The appetizer was crisp bacon strips fried in a huge pan over an open fire; the main course was Freeman-caught fresh fish, fried in fat left from our bacon orgy.

Now Conrad has bigger fish to fry in the health department.  But Linda says, “Conrad doesn’t let his disease define him or defeat him.”

I should say not!  A couple of weeks ago, Conrad played in the Laurel Oak Cup golf tournament for Special Olympics. He teamed up with son Stefan, grandson Will and BFF Dave Battey.  Daughter-in-law Michele was their scorekeeper.  The team won 2nd low gross.

Keep swingin, Conrad.  You have a Connie’s Army of fans cheering you on.

Stefan, Will and Conrad enjoy winning 2nd low gross in the recent Laurel Oak Cup golf tournament for Special Olympics.



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27 thoughts on “After shooting his age many times, Conrad Freeman’s latest par is Parkinsons

  1. Shorai Erikson

    Parkinson’s symptoms first appeared when I was 68. I noticed a vibration in right foot and then right hand. After about 18 months a shake and/or tremor. Twelve months later, shaking. My neurologist. Started me on entacapone,levodopa, carbidopa, and pramipexole to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on Parkinson’s Disease Herbal formula from Green House Herbal Clinic, the PD natural formula immensely helped my condition, i had a total recovery from Parkinson’s disease with this natural herbal formula treatment. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official web site ww w. greenhouseherbalclinic. Weebly. com. I feel alive again! The tremors, Shaking, Joint Stiffness and other symptoms has subsided.  I am very pleased with this treatment. I feel very well now and exercise regularly, sometimes i totally forget i ever had Parkinson’s, My family are amazed at the change and rapid recovery from PD. since the procedure I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!

  2. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Kathleen Jones
    Many more times of shooting your age.

  3. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Sharon Kompelian
    Such a great article on Conrad. Linda and Conrad are wonderful people. They truly live life to its fullest and embrace each day together. I’m lucky to have such great neighbors.

  4. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Gail Feriancek
    Suzy says it all!!! What a wonderful tribute to a great guy!!! Who has a great woman there to share this journey.

  5. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Lucie Battey
    What a loving tribute for such a kind man! With the help of his best buddy Linda, he is addressing this disease and living life to its fullest. Hats off to you, my friend.

  6. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Sonya Holdbrooks
    Our DEAR friend! We love you Conrad.

  7. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Vicky Dosdall
    What a wonderful well written story. So many memories, so many fish, and so many golf swings in life. Hugs to you from Morris.

  8. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Colleen Nodland
    Conrad’s a remarkable man and is so lucky to have a wife who is the same! We love you both and look forward to celebrating June 5th birthdays with the “brothers”

  9. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as commented on FB by Karen Dubay
    Absolutely loved reading this story! Conrad is the oldest of 32 first cousins on the Icelandic side and I am lucky to be one also. He and Linda always open up their home and hearts to so many. Their lives are full of travels and adventures. Thank you for sharing, Linda. I love you both.

  10. Fred Bursch

    I played golf with Connie last summer and got whipped. He still has a smooth swing and the grace of a true gentleman.

    My father lived with Parkinson’s for about 20 years and my mother cared for him until she died. It’s not easy but it brings out the best in others.

    Hope to see the Freeman’s back Inn Alexandria this summer

  11. Gene Sipe

    Marilyn and met Connie at the Greenbriar in 1976. This started a friendship that has lasted over these 42 years and continues today. He is a very special person, always great to be with him and Linda!

  12. Brenda Revering

    I’ve known Mr Freeman since I was a little girl in Alexandria MN. He has always been the man I have looked up to and it hasn’t stopped. He is completely amazing. I feel blessed to call him a friend

  13. Janet Johnson

    Beautiful story. I worked for Conrad in the 80s. Linda was my friend and boss. I remember Conrad as a progressive and forward thinking business leader. A great boss who was never afraid of a challenge. Wishing Conrad and Linda strength and peace.

  14. Renée Hamad

    God bless Conrad and Linda. May they live many more years enjoying each other, finding strength and courage in each other, and overcome the daily challenges that dreadful enemy, Parkinson’s, brings upon them! Hats off Suzy for sharing their story with us all! Quite inspiring, and of course, very well written

  15. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Karen Dowejko:
    I LOVED Suzy’s story about my sweet buddy, Conrad, on her GodSigns webpage. It was funny and heartfelt and respectful; it brought tears to my eyes. I loved how Suzy blended golf and fishing and your love story as well as the Parkinson’s issue. It was an uplifting and inspiring story of two people I love who love each other so much. Thank you , Suzy !

  16. tom Eidsvold

    even greater than Conrads ability to play golf is his loyality to the many friends he has and keeps. Tom

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Tom. After well over 50 years of friendship, you should know! Appreciate the comment.

  17. Tammy (Benson) Olson

    Conrad and Linda are adorable !!!!
    They obviously know to experience the joy each day has to offer. Bless them both. Keep swinging Conrad !!
    Tammy Olson

    Beautifully told story Suzy
    PS Conrad is still really cute !!

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