It was much quieter than usual this winter behind the counter in the pro shop at Yellowstone Country Club.
With the cold weather and persistent snow cover, Bob Eames, head pro at YCC, said his West End course, beginning on Nov. 19, went a staggering 114 days without a single round of golf being played.
“That’s almost one-third of the year, which makes for real depression,” said Eames.
This marked the second straight year for most Billings-area courses where golfers weren’t able to cash in on a Chinook breeze during the dead of winter and sneak in a round or two.
“Last year we went 105 days (without golf) and I said ‘we’ll never see that again,’ “ said Eames. “Wrong.”
Eames, who was the longtime pro at The Briarwood before moving over to YCC seven years ago, said “in the last 20 years I believe the 114 (days) has got to be a record or close to it” for the amount of down time.
And while gazing this week at the brightly colored flowers of Augusta National, memories of the tree-lined fairways and greens at YCC being a winter wonderland, blanketed in 8-10 inches of snow, haven’t completely faded.
“Every time we would lose two inches, it would snow two inches,” Eames said.
Eames and his two fulltime pro shop employees, Chad Dillon and Pam Allen, managed to keep themselves fairly busy with holiday sales, stocking new merchandise and cleaning.
“The Maytag repairman has nothing over on us this winter,” he added with a laugh.
Occasionally members of the private club would come to get their golf clubs out of storage for trips to warmer climes like Arizona or Hawaii.
“They were tickled to death when people started showing up, so they had somebody else to talk to,” Eames said of Dillon and Allen. “Other than that, they had to listen to the boss.”
While golf course personnel typically work long hours during the summer, Eames said he enjoyed spending extra time with his family during the limited operating hours.
“I got a little antsy at the 90-day mark,” he said. “At about the 98-day mark, we came within one day of getting open. If we would have had one more day (of nice weather) we would have opened the golf course.
“As it turned out, it snowed and we were back on our watch.”
The streak ended on March 12 when Eames said he was able to summon the veteran foursome of Jim Bryngelson, Todd Baugh, Chuck Hingle and Larry Petersen to the first tee.
“It was with a great deal of pleasure that I got to break open the microphone again and call somebody to the tee,” he said.
Despite the harsh weather, Eames said the venerable course survived winter’s onslaught in pretty good shape.
“The golf course has come through good, so people are excited about playing,” said Eames. “Now, if we can get some consistent golfing weather.”
However, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting wetter and colder than usual weather through early June, Eames noted.
“I hope they’re wrong,” he added.
Friday’s wintry forecast, though, calls for more accumulating snow.
Oh well, at least the Masters is on television.
u u u
Over at The Briarwood, Kelbi Lee has returned to his golf roots.
The 25-year-old Lee has been hired as an assistant pro at the Billings course that was his personal playground as a youngster.
“I love it, so far it’s been really fun,” Lee said of his new position. “All of the members that I’ve met remember me and my brother (Renzi) and my dad (Robert) from when we were little and playing out here. That’s pretty neat.”
Lee, who was hired in March, joins the staff of new head pro Scott Pekovich, who also needs little introduction on the local golf scene.
Pekovich was the head pro at Peter Yegen from 2001-2007.
“I worked out at Yegen for four years under him,” Lee said. “Two years as a range kid and then two years in the pro shop. We get along great. We play golf all the time together.”
Weather permitting, of course.