The frustrations of a disappointing senior golf season were about to reach the point of a complete meltdown as I approached the No. 1 green that Friday morning.
With a shotgun start, I began the day on the back nine, and I was already feeling yet another round slip away as my approach shot fell short of the green on a hill.
I could still save par with a chip and a putt, but I chunked the chip shot. I slammed my club into the ground and kicked my bag.
Then, I took a few steps up and chipped the ball onto the green, leaving it well short of the hole. I again slammed my club into the ground before firing the iron at my bag.
I left the bogey putt short before tapping in for a very aggravating double bogey.
After I picked the ball out of the cup, I looked up and saw a guy with a camera. He kind of looked like Robert Redford, and he had been shooting my entire temper tantrum.
Then, I met Walter Hinick of The Montana Standard for the first time. I already knew his name well.
“Oh,” he said after asking my name, “you’re Foley.”
I figured I was busted. I was going to be in the paper throwing my club, and I didn’t know how I was going to explain it my grandpa.
My grandpa was my favorite golfing partner, and my conscience of the game. He had long taught me about golf etiquette, and I had broken so many of the rules he wanted me to follow.
I didn’t know how I was going to face him again.
The next morning, though, I opened the paper to the sports page to find a photo of me actually looking like a golfer. I might have been biting my lip as I watched that bogey putt fall short, but I was putting for a birdie as far as readers of the newspapers knew.
Walt took one of my ugliest moments as a competitive golfer and turned it into a great photograph.
Years later, I came to the realization that was just what Walt did, and he was one of the best at, too. You can ask anybody in the area who ever tried their hand in sports photography.
George Polich used to shoot pictures of the Butte Copper Kings. He would go through roll after roll of film trying to get the right photo.
Then, Walt would walk up and say, “How’s it going?” He’d rest his cigarette on the fence, click a few shots, put the cigarette back in his mouth, wave and say, “Take ‘er easy” as he walked way.
The next morning, Walt published a photo of a baseball game that George would have killed to have taken. Walt just hand an uncanny skill.
With one roll of film, Walt could beat anybody who used 12.
Anyone who was ever featured in one of Walt’s photos certainly saw it as an honor. For four decades, Walt captured athletes (and golfers) in the Mining City in such an amazing light.
That light went out last week when The Standard’s parent company, Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, unceremoniously laid off the great photographer.
The shortsighted decision by the company that invented such moves also cut down longtime editor Carmen Winslow, who joined the paper on nearly the same day as Walt.
A few years after Walt made me look good on the front of the sports page, I began working with Walt and Carmen for the Standard as a college intern.
My first night on the job, like many other nights that summer, I shadowed Carmen. She took my hand and guided me through the steps it takes to put out a newspaper, where you begin each day with the raw material and leave with the finished product.
Picking a paper off the press that night was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Carmen even let me have input into the front page that night, and that made me feel like I was in the bigtime.
For 43 years, Carmen poured her heart into putting out a newspaper to be proud of. She didn’t do it for the byline, because she had very few at the paper. She did it because she was a newspaper woman, through and through.
She put in so many hours at the Standard that it was probably criminal. She was always there early in the day, and she was still sitting in her desk long after the presses were rolling.
That’s because she followed the rule that if you’re going to do something, you do it right.
Carman was by far the toughest editor I ever worked under, and I am so grateful for that. She made me a better reporter, better writer and better editor.
She did that all while erasing any doubt I might have had about pursuing a journalism degree and getting into the newspaper business.
I learned more in three months working Carmen than I did in four years of classrooms at journalism school.
That summer taught me that the newspaper business was very tough, but very rewarding. I learned that you always have to make the extra call and take the extra step for every story or every page.
There is a big difference between good and good enough.
Over the next 16 years, Carmen and I didn’t always see eye to eye. There were many times when I was mad at her and when she was mad at me, but I always respected her tremendously, and I always felt those the feelings were mutual.
If Carmen told me I did a good job — and she would — it would make my week because I knew she meant it.
At the same time, Walt taught me you could do all those things and still not take yourself too seriously. You can be a dedicated professional and still have fun.
No matter what, Walt always had fun.
Walt and Carmen were a perfect balance, and I am so happy I had the chance to work with them. The readers of The Montana Standard were lucky to have them, and the company in charge didn’t deserve them.
Their legacy will easily outlast those who made this latest dreadful decision by Lee Enterprises.
As for the photo Walt took of me, it hung on my grandpa’s wall until the day that he died.
Thanks to Walt showing me in the best possible light, that photo was something my grandpa could be proud of.
— Bill Foley writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74