Everyone knows Neil Armstrong.
The first man to walk on that faraway rock that all of us have gazed upon. Being the first to accomplish something sets one apart.
And when the idea for Montana’s Longest Drive came to me I thought I would be the first to play every golf course in Montana. I approached this project with a trailblazing attitude, channeling my inner Neil Armstrong damn determined to be the first. To hold a distinction.
That is until I talked with the real Neil Armstrong of Montana golf, Gerry Veis, and became Buzz Aldrin.
I had heard the name of this Gerry Veis before. Mentioned by some old friends on separate occasions when we were all a couple of drinks into the evening. They would say, “You’ve got to meet this guy.”, and “You have to play with him in Havre.”, and “You’ve got to see this bar he’s built in his basement.”
There is a sports bar in Havre, Montana that is now on my bucket list named Veis’ Hole 19. Like an Applebee’s on anabolic steroids Veis’ Hole 19 is somewhere between a golf hall of fame and an episode of hoarders. With a bar top made of scorecards from nearly all the golf courses in Montana covered in glass, golf balls with logos of courses long ago forgotten sitting on countless shelves, and pin flags adorning the walls this bar is a site to behold.
After seeing the pictures of Veis’ Hole 19 it confirmed something I had felt talking on the phone with Gerry. I knew we were kindred spirits. Both linked together through our love of golf. Both linked together in our pursuit of something that seems simple yet might just be unobtainable: playing every golf course in Montana.
We are kindred spirits in our eccentric drive to play every golf course in Montana.
For Gerry Veis it started in the summer of 1993 at Beaver Creek Golf Course. As Gerry explains it, there are two types of people in golf: those who are golfers like his friend Jeff Jensen and those who play golf like himself.
Jeff always joked with Gerry that if he ever lost to him he would give up the game entirely. As their rounds of golf continued and there was little hope of Gerry actually getting the best of Jeff on the links Gerry quipped back, “I might never beat you, but I’ll bet I’ve played more courses in Montana than you.”
When the tallies were complete it came out that Gerry trailed Jeff by a tally of 31-to-30 and in the truest sense of a rivalry, Gerry proclaimed, “Well, I’ll just have to play every course in Montana then.”
And that was when Neil Armstrong decided to go to the moon.
In a strange coincidence, Veis started his journey to play every golf course in the Treasure State in the same summer that I was born. By his count, in the 24 years since his proclamation Veis has played 120 courses in Montana. He’s played resorts, munis, and a handful of extinct tracks around the state. Gerry calls the courses that don’t operate anymore extinct because they were once living and breathing, changing and growing, playing differently every single day.
In the conversations between our kindred golf-crazed spirits, the question ultimately pops up for Gerry.
What courses have you not played?
The only courses in the fourth largest state in America that Gerry hasn’t played yet are:
- The Rising Sun Golf Course in Gardiner
- The Yellowstone Club in Big Sky
- Spanish Peaks Golf Club in Big Sky
- Crystal Lakes in Eureka
Crystal Lakes is one of the most exclusive golf courses in Montana. Privately owned and operated and has been shut down to the public for over 15 years. It is the one Veis has worked the hardest to play over the last 24 years.
Hanging in Veis’ Hole 19 is a flag from Crystal Lakes that was sent to him by the course superintendent who Gerry has made friends with in his endless pursuit to play every course in Montana. It hangs as an everyday reminder of Gerry’s dream to play every golf course in the Treasure State.
Everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; the first two men to walk on the lunar surface as part of the Apollo 11 mission. What most people don’t know is the name Michael Collins, the third member of that mission. While Armstrong and Aldrin made footprints on that faraway rock it was the destiny of Michael Collins to go all the way to the moon and never set foot. To have a dream and watch it slip away through the window of the Command Module as you circle the moon.
So, in this summer, it is my hope to help Gerry Veis become the Neil Armstrong of Montana golf he deserves to be and can complete his own journey to play every golf course in Montana. And if we kindred spirits can accomplish this together I will be more than happy to be Buzz Aldrin.
Because you shouldn’t have to stay in the Command Module when you’ve journeyed all the way to the moon.
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