Montana's Longest Drive

“Two Sean Ryans” at Yellowstone Country Club

About a year ago I drove the long driveway up to Yellowstone Country Club in Billings for the first time. I walked onto the perfectly manicured driving range and began to warm up before the Pro-Am I was supposed to be competing in on a beautiful May day. After hitting practice balls on the range, I grabbed my bag and walked back toward the clubhouse to put some putts down on the notoriously fast and firm greens at YCC. Stopping by the golf cart with a sign with my name on it, I was surprised to see a set of golf clubs on the cart that weren’t mine.

Confused, I walked into the pro shop and said, “Hey, my name is Sean Ryan and I think you’ve got clubs on the cart I was assigned that aren’t mine. I just want to make sure I don’t take the wrong cart.”

The two gentlemen working behind the counter in the pro shop looked at one another and said, “Oh, you’re not our Sean Ryan.”

I laughed, “Nope, I’m not. You guys have a Sean Ryan?”

Playing in the Pro-Am with my Aunt Deb and her friends, the running joke whenever I missed a putt was, “The other Sean Ryan probably would have made that one.”

After finishing the Pro-Am my Aunt and I were waiting for the scores to come in and sitting around laughing about our enjoyable day of golf when I figured I better ask someone who this other Sean Ryan character was.

The gentleman behind the counter pointed out the window of the pro shop and said, “Well, he’s actually on the putting green out there if you want to meet him.”

Not wanting to miss out on this opportunity I walked up to the other Sean Ryan on the putting green and asked, “Are you Sean Ryan?”

“Yea, who wants to know?” replied Sean.

I shook the other Sean’s hand and said, “Sean Ryan, pleasure to meet you.”

From that moment on, I knew when I played Yellowstone Country Club for Montana’s Longest Drive, I had to play with Sean Ryan.

So, Wednesday morning when I stood on the first tee at Yellowstone Country Club I heard the loudspeaker announce, “Next on the number one tee, Mr. Sean Ryan, Mr. Sean Ryan, and Mr. Nate Royer.”

Sean had organized a fantastic morning of golf at Yellowstone for my second trip around the famed golf course that sits underneath the Rimrocks on the eastern edge of Billings. He had convinced one of his best friends Nate Royer to join us and I’m so thankful he did.

Nate, Sean, and I made our way around the impeccable golf course that plays roughly 6,800 yards from the blue tees. The first at Yellowstone is a difficult starting hole that measures in at 433-yards and features two fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway. Lined with skyscraping cottonwoods and dense pine trees, if you get too far off the fairway anywhere on the course, you’ll be in for a number of punch shots back to the fairway. The greens at Yellowstone are firm and fast and feature some big breaks and slight undulations that make every putt daunting.

Throughout the front nine our group was tested and challenged by the greens and tight fairways of Yellowstone. We finally seemed to find our groove near the middle of the front nine. One of my favorite holes on the course is number six. It’s a dogleg left par 4, that plays around 345-yards over a trio of bunkers that jut out from the left rough around 250-yards from the tee box. The slightly elevated green sits in the shadows of some high cottonwoods and is protected by two bunkers in front and one bunker in the back.

Sean was quick to say, “This course sets up for a guy hitting a draw. It really does.”

And he wasn’t lying as most tee shots rewarded a drawing ball flight and that seemed to fit my eye. Tee shots like the one on the par 4 ninth hole, that plays 436-yards and turns left after a couple of sets of bunkers that sit 250-yards off the tee. The green at the ninth is a crowned surface with a large false front that will quickly send any golf ball zipping back off the front of the green if it doesn’t carry far enough.

Nate, Sean, and I worked our way around Yellowstone’s gorgeous layout and up some of the rolling hillsides we continually told stories and remarked about people we knew, how confusing it was having two Sean M. Ryans in the group (Sean’s middle name is Miller and mine is Michael), and how funny it would be to play a member-guest golf tournament with two Sean Ryans.

After casting my drive into the left rough and among the trees on the dogleg left par 4 closing hole it took me a few strokes to get onto the fringe. Needing to chip in to save far I looked at Nate and Sean and joked, “Well I’m just going to make this if that’s ok.”

I clipped the ball with the grooves of my wedge and landed it on the green left of the pin and it slowly turned its way right into the cup.

We hooted and hollered and high-fived at my first chip in of this long golf trip and laughed about how I had called my shot. After our round we went to get a bite to eat in the temporary clubhouse that YCC has set up while they are building a brand-new venue for their clubhouse and pro shop that is set to open next summer right before their member-guest tournament.

As I sipped on a cold beer and had a burger with my two new buddies Sean and Nate, I had to think back about how the golf gods had made this happen. It all started with golf clubs being put on the back of the wrong golf cart. I might never be the Yellowstone Country Club’s Sean Ryan but being the Sean Ryan who is friends with Yellowstone’s Sean Ryan and Nate Royer is more than enough for me.

A special thanks to Yellowstone’s Head Golf Professional Bob Eames PGA, his staff, and to Yellowstone Country Club for a great day of golf on one of the best courses in Montana! 

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