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HEISER: For McFatridge boys, gift of golf revives passion for game, fortifies family ties

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
Terry McFatridge joins his sons, from left, brothers Mike, Mark and Mitch, to watch them tee off, Friday, July 24, 2020, during their weekly round of golf at Grandview Golf Club. The brothers were accomplished players and each played at Susquehannock High School and later Susquehanna University. Bill Kalina photo
  • The McFatridge brothers grew up playing golf at Bon Air Country Club near Glen Rock.
  • They played together at both Susquehannock High and Susquehanna University.
  • After college, however, the brothers didn't play together for more than four decades.
  • Now, however, the brothers play every Friday at Grandview Golf Club near Dover.

When they were young, the McFatridge brothers practically lived on the golf course.

On many summer days, Mike, Mark and Mitch would get dropped off at Bon Air Country Club just after sun rise, play 36 holes (or more), and get picked up as the sun was setting.

Those rounds at the hilly course near their Glen Rock home would, in many ways, come to define their formative years in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Not surprisingly, all three brothers became accomplished players, boasting scratch or near-scratch handicaps. With each just a year apart in school, they helped Susquehannock High become a York County golf power and they later all played for Susquehanna University.

Then, after college, life seemed to get in the way of their golf games. Jobs, marriages, kids and little bit of golf burnout set in. At times, all three brothers drifted away from the game for long stretches.

For more than four decades, the three McFatridge boys never got together for another round of golf.

They still kept in touch, and they were still close. They just didn’t hit the fairways together.

Brothers, from left, Mark, Mike and Mitch McFatridge, congregate during their weekly round of golf at Grandview Golf Club Friday, July 24, 2020. They were joined by their brother-in-law Terry Witmer, second from left. The siblings were accomplished players and each played at Susquehannock High School and later Susquehanna University. Bill Kalina photo

An offer too good to refuse: Then, in 2018, an offer too good to refuse drew the brothers back to their golfing roots.

Grandview Golf Course near Dover was offering a three-year membership for $59 per year – a total of $177. For anyone who knows anything about golf, that kind of pricing is nearly unheard of.

The father of the clan, Terry, decided to buy memberships for Mark and Mitch as gifts. Mike’s wife bought him a membership as well.

Suddenly, the McFatridge brothers again became a fixture on the golf course.

It started out as a monthly event, but pretty soon they started playing every Friday.

These days, the weekly outings have become etched in the calendars of all three men, who are now all in their early 60s. It's helped to strengthen the family bonds they already shared.

“I look forward to Friday more than any day of the week,” said eldest brother Mike, who is 64.

It’s a sentiment that his brothers echo.

“It just means everything,” said youngest brother Mitch, who is 61.

Terry McFatridge talks with his son Mike before Terry's son's weekly round of golf at Grandview Golf Club Friday, July 24, 2020. Mike and his brothers Mitch and Mark were accomplished players and each played at Susquehannock High School and later Susquehanna University. Bill Kalina photo

Proud father: It may be even more meaningful for their proud 86-year-old father, who got the boys started in the sport back in the 1960s when he got a job at Bon Air keeping the club’s books. That job came with a family membership at the club and his boys took advantage of it in a big way, both playing and working at the course.

When they first got back together on the golf course a couple years back, Terry would occasionally fill out the foursome. The advancing years, however, have caught up with Terry a bit and he no longer plays.

Still, Terry remains a consistent presence on the first tee when the boys start their rounds, and the four often share a few beverages and a meal after the round.

Brothers Mike, left, and Mitch McFatridge chat, Friday, July 24, 2020, before their weekly round of golf at Grandview Golf Club. The siblings, including their brother Mark, were accomplished players and each played at Susquehannock High School and later Susquehanna University. Bill Kalina photo

A family story: For Terry, getting his sons reconnected on the golf course is about much more than just pars and birdies.

“It’s really nice to see. The boys love playing together now,” Terry said. “They play to win. They really want to beat their brothers, but it’s really a nice family story. … It brings tears to your eyes.”

Getting Mark, now 62, back on the course proved to be the hardest chore. Mike said Mark had gotten burned out on the game after college. It took some convincing, but they finally got Mark to play again.

“Now it’s the biggest thing in his life,” Terry said of Mark.

Mitch McFatridge tees off while his brother Mark watches, during the brother's weekly round of golf at Grandview Golf Club Friday, July 24, 2020. The siblings, including their brother Mike, were accomplished players and each played at Susquehannock High School and later Susquehanna University. Bill Kalina photo

Strong golf careers: Mark enjoyed a stellar career as a youngster. He won a Bon Air club championship, a York County Amateur crown and a York County Champion of Champions title, all before he turned 21.

Mike was also a strong player and would win six club championships at Grandview from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

Mitch, an accomplished table-tennis player in his day, said his brothers were always “just a little better than me” when they were in their prime.

Now, however, the competition has become a bit more even, with all three brothers shooting in the low- to -mid-80s. In fact, over 24 rounds last year, the overall averages for the three brothers were separated by just a couple of strokes.

No end in sight to the outings: Even though the three-year memberships at Grandview they got in 2018 will run out at the end of this year, there’s no end in sight to the weekly fraternal outings.

“Grandview now has a $198 deal for two years and we’ve already said we are going to get it,” Mike said. “We’re all in decent health. We’ve said we’ve got another 15 years that we can do this.”

In fact, the brothers may hit the golf course even more often once Mike retires from his job. Mark and Mitch are already retired.

That would certainly suit their father just fine, whose gift helped reignite a passion for the game in his sons.

“I got a card from Mitch last year, telling me how much it meant to him,” Terry said of the golf memberships. “He said it was best gift he’s ever gotten in his life.”

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com