Club pro’s departure is a real loss for Muni golfers

Some of the most contentious meetings I have ever attended were at the clubhouse of the Highland View Golf Course.

One meeting around 1990, for instance, included many unflattering accusations, name calling and a whole lot of screaming and yelling. Everybody left the meeting mad, and the debate continued even though the issue was settled by the board.

Those on the losing side of the argument were mad, and so were those on the winning side. The meeting topic dominated the conversation at the course for weeks.

The debate was more intense than some protests outside abortion clinics.

So what was the issue that was so hot at the golf course that day? The Highland View Golf Club was raising the price of pop in the pop machines a quarter to 75 cents while keeping the cost of beer for the vending machine at $1.

Yes, the Highland View Golf Course, or the Muni as we affectionately call it, had a beer machine until about 10 years ago.

Us pop drinkers were high in numbers, but since most of us got the money for those pops from our parents we didn’t carry the clout the beer drinkers did. So, we lost, leaving the Muni with most expensive pop in town coupled with the cheapest beer.

Still, one angry beer drinker — who happened to own a local bar and restaurant — stood up, held out his wallet and said, “I’d like to trade wallets with some of these kids. They have more money than I do.”

My offer to accept that proposal, however, went ignored.

Another discussion that got a bit combative came during a meeting about how to spend a large sum of money bequeathed to the Highland View Golf Club for use in the clubhouse. Someone suggested using the money to update the “bathrooms” at the clubhouse.

“What do you mean bathrooms?” a former newspaper editor asked angrily as he stood up. “There’s not a bathtub in there. It’s the john. The can.”

My grandpa was the president of the Highland View Golf Club for 14 years in the 1970s and 80s, and he had to put up with a faction that schemed year round to get rid of him like he was Mortey Seinfeld leading the condo association.

A decent percentage of regulars at the golf course didn’t even like Jack Crowley, who ran the place brilliantly for three decades. Believe me, there is no reasoning with a person who didn’t like Jack.

Saying you personally didn’t like Jack Crowley is like saying you don’t like the acting of Paul Newman.

Yes, running the day-to-day operations at the Muni is a lot more difficult than taking tee times.

That is something that I know from experience as my days as the course marshal at the Highland View Golf Course.

I was in charge of enforcing tee times and the pace of play at the course for three summers at the Muni. I was threatened with lawsuits, accused of discriminating against women, discriminating against old men, discriminating against children and discriminating against people who discriminate against women, old men and children.

That is why it is hard not to feel very sorry for the folks charged with running the Muni now that John DeWitt and Butte-Silver Bow decided to mutually part ways before the start of this golf season.

By the way, John Elway should be punched in his oversized teeth for introducing us to that term when he fired John Fox in January. Or maybe it was the 49ers when they fired Jim Harbaugh. Either way, somebody, quick, punch John Elway.

DeWitt, who is my third-favorite golf coach behind the legendary Ed Yeo at Butte High and the knockout who assisted John during my freshman season at Butte Central, might not have been for everybody. He doesn’t have the bubbly personality some might want in their golf pro, and he realized that part of his job was to make money for himself.

He wasn’t, however, running for office. He was running a golf course, and he did it efficiently for about 15 summers. He focused on teaching young golfers how to play the game the right way, and because of that many kids will be able to enjoy the game of golf for the rest of their lives thanks to the lessons they received from DeWitt. For free.

He also gave everything he had to the golf course.

You could go there early in the morning or late at night any day of the week and DeWitt was there. He is a guy who cannot possibly be replaced by one person. He probably cannot be replaced by three people.

His net pay must have been about 3 cents per hour, yet he somehow found a way to deal with the kind of people who didn’t like Jack Crowley or my grandpa.

Plus, DeWitt was a certified PGA professional, probably the only official PGA pro running a nine-hole municipal golf course in the entire country, if not the world.

I don’t know why DeWitt didn’t return. I’m not sure if he decided to leave on his own, if he was forced out or if it really was, as John Elway would say, a mutual parting of ways.

One thing I do know, though, is golfers at the Muni are going to miss John DeWitt more than Broncos fans will miss John Fox.

— Bill Foley, who is hoping the Broncos really, really miss John Fox, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 4 comments

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  • Fraser MacDonald
    April 28, 2015, 9:30 am

    You are right on all counts. Good Job

  • Mark Hodges
    April 28, 2015, 10:11 am

    Great article. No one knows how much the people of Butte will miss John.

    • RON COLLINS@Mark Hodges
      April 28, 2015, 1:11 pm

      Foles, Great article. I am pretty sure he did not leave on his own. The city leaders made a grave mistake. Can’t predict what the future will bring, but am sure that it won’t be a good scenario.

  • rich
    April 29, 2015, 9:39 pm

    All good except for the Elway comments foles! He is the man


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