I don’t know if Ed Yeo ever hit a hole in one on the golf course, but he almost got his name in the paper for an ace one day.
Yeo was our golf coach at Butte High School, but his laid-back style made him seem much more like our uncle.
We never called Yeo, who passed away Jan. 13 at 72, “Mr. Yeo” or “Coach Yeo.” We simply called him “Yeo,” or sometimes “Yo-Yo” for a goof.
I transferred from Butte Central to Butte High after my sophomore season, and that was a decision I never regretted because of Yeo and his wife Bonnie.
When you were on the Butte High golf team, you were more than a Bulldog. You were part of the family, and that was pretty special.
On Day 1, the Yeos welcomed me into that family. It was like I had known them my entire life.
My first tournament on the road with the Bulldogs also happened to be the first time I ever had to spend my birthday away from home.
I met Mrs. Yeo for the first time that day. I didn’t tell her it was my birthday. I didn’t tell anyone on the team it was my birthday.
Yet, after dinner that night, Mrs. Yeo surprised me with a birthday cake in our Missoula hotel room. It was chocolate.
That cake, and the thought behind it, still ranks in my top five best birthday moments.
As a golf coach, Yeo didn’t teach us a whole lot about hitting the ball. Actually, we tried to teach him more about correcting his horrible slice than he did working on our swings.
Yeo, however, was full of knowledge about how to play the game. He knew how to attack the course, and he was pretty good about giving pointers on improving the mental part of the game.
The best tip Yeo ever gave us about course knowledge came when we played at the Missoula Country Club, which has a downhill dogleg hole in which you cannot see the green from the tee box on the back nine.
“Aim at the Golden Bush,” Yeo told us, as if he just walked off of Mount Horeb. With a grin that showed he thought he was the smartest man alive, Yeo repeated, “Aim at the Golden Bush.”
“What the heck are you talking about, Yeo?” I asked.
“When you get to that hole, just aim at the Golden Bush,” he said. “You’ll see what I mean.”
Sure enough, Yeo was right. On the hill in the distance behind that green was an off colored tree. It was by no means a “Golden Bush,” but you could see what Yeo meant.
I aimed at that “Golden Bush,” and I took a par on the hole.
More than anything, Yeo was all about letting us have fun.
In the story after my first tournament playing for Butte High, the great sportswriter Hudson Willse referred to me as “the Butte Central transfer,” and, for some reason, Yeo thought that was really funny.
For all of my two seasons on the team, he mockingly called me “the Butte Central transfer.” Every time he said it with a “well la-di-da” accent, too. Then he’d smile as he admired his wit.
That Yeo had such a great sense of humor — and such an unorthodox golf swing — was why we thought it would be great to prank him.
After practice one night, a group of boys and girls from the team gathered at Chad Godbout’s house to follow through with a plan we hatched on the course that afternoon.
Since I had experience calling the paper to report holes in one for Jack Crowley at the Highland View Golf Course, I made the call.
Willse answered the phone, and I said I was Bryan Morgan, the new pro at the Butte Country Club. I had an ace to report.
That Hud answered the phone posed a bit of a challenge because Hud loved to chat. If I was going to pull this off, I would have to be Bryan Morgan for at least 5 solid minutes.
Somehow, I held a straight face as I went back and forth with Hud as he talked about how I liked my new job. We even joked about how difficult it was to deal with the pain-in-the-neck Country Club membership.
As we talked, some of my golf teammates were literally rolling on the floor laughing next to me.
The best part of our prank was the hole and the club selection. I reported that Yeo used a 4-wood to ace the 114-yard hole No. 14 at the Club.
Only an old lady would use a 4-wood on that hole.
The ace of course, had imaginary witnesses. We gave the names Bill Osborn and Larry Ferguson for the story.
The next morning we all rushed to the paper only to find no mention of Yeo’s hole in one.
As it turns out, we made one giant goof. We called to report the hole in one the day before we hosted our home tournament at the Country Club.
Hud called Yeo later that night to get comments for a pre-tournament story, and of course, Hud started the call with, “Congratulations on your hole-in-one.”
With that, the story of the ace was pulled.
Yeo, as masterful as he was, never said a word about the misreported ace, though we knew he suspected us of making the false report. To be more specific, I was sure he suspected me.
I could just tell by the sly smile he was giving me the morning his fake ace was supposed to be in the paper that he sensed I was the guilty party.
A few weeks after our failed prank on Yeo, I woke up early in the morning to catch the team bus to the state tournament in Helena.
Like I always did back then, I went right to the sports page of The Montana Standard. This morning, like four or five mornings each week, Willse had an edition of his column “Hudson’s Bay.”
This particular column just so happened to be about pretenders in sports. He wrote about a handful of pranksters before he got to the time, a few weeks earlier, when some “imposter” called to report a fake hole in one for Butte High golf coach Ed Yeo.
The column listed every detail of our call. It listed the 4-wood — though Hud seemingly didn’t get the joke there — and the witnesses.
Yeo, who had the paper folded under his arm as he stood by the door to the bus, never said a word about it as I stepped into the Blue Bird. As usual, I figured he was playing it coy.
As it turns out, Yeo just hadn’t read the column yet.
As the bus slowly made its way up the hill leaving Butte I heard Yeo yell, “Hey Foley!”
I looked to the front of the bus, where Yeo was reading the paper. He didn’t take his eyes off the page, and he paused for drama while holding the paper open wide with both hands.
“The guy who called you the ‘Butte Central transfer’ is now calling you an imposter.”
— Bill Foley, who prefers to impersonate Elvis, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74