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Local Golf Report: Golf, life won't be the same without Wild Bill

From Tee to Green


For me, golf season really doesn't begin until June. That's because right now, I'm living in the tennis coaching bubble.

For many others, though, golf season is already in full swing.

And as my thoughts turn to the links, especially with this being Master's Week, I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, this spring, summer and fall is going to be different on the golf course, and that's because, it will be missing someone very special.

This past winter, the golf world, and in particular, the Montana golf scene lost a truly great man in Bill Gilman.

Many of you in Havre knew Bill, meeting him through his son Brett, who was the superintendent for many years at Beaver Creek Golf Course and Prairie Farms Golf Course.

That, too, is how I met Bill, and while Brett is one of my closest friends, it didn't take long for me to become good friends with his dad, too.

How could I not? Bill and I had so much in common, including Brett. We both loved golf, though I'll admit right now, he was a better player than I could ever hope to be. We also both love the Montana Grizzlies, and beyond that, we both love, and if you knew Bill, then I mean LOVED, to talk about sports.

So it was certainly easy for me to strike up a true friendship with Bill.

But being friends with Bill went well beyond the things we had in common. Bill was just a genuinely really good person, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Not only was he a good person, he was fascinating to talk to, also. Bill worked in education for much of his life, and that, of course, made him extremely intelligent and knowledgeable.

Because of who he was, through his work, through golf, and just the fact that he was such a good man, it seemed like, just about everyone knew Bill in some way. I mean seriously, I can't tell all of you how many times I asked someone I knew if they knew Bill, and the answer was yes. From Billings to Missoula and all points in between, I know so many people who also knew Bill.

Again, it's just the kind of man he was. He was a really, really good man.

Bill was also very, very funny, and I feel so lucky that I got to see his sense of humor as much as I did. I don't know if there was ever a time I was around Bill that he didn't make me laugh. He was extremely funny, and he had me busting a gut on many, many occasions.

Of course, if I was spending time with Bill, it was either at a Grizzly football game, or on the golf course, and that really made me feel bonded to him. Those times also brought out the laughter in me. Whether it was him swearing off golf forever after one of Havre's typical windy July days at BCGC, or him swearing off the Griz after one of their gut-wrenching losses at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Bill always made me smile; he always made me laugh.

I'm going to miss that going forward. I'm going to miss those times at the Montana football tailgates, or on the golf course, or just sitting around talking about sports, or listening to Bill tell me about all the people he knew from his days at Bemidji State or Wolf Point or Missoula.

I'm going to miss all of that because I have never known anyone quite like "Wild Bill" Gilman. Yes, "Wild Bill" was one of a kind, and I am so thankful that I became friends with Brett, so that in turn I could become friends with Bill. I'm so blessed that I got to get to know, listen to and learn from Bill. I'm honored that he always read my stories in the Havre Daily, and that he wanted to know what I thought on subjects ranging from golf to the Griz to life.

In other words, I am honored that I knew Bill Gilman. I was lucky that he called me a friend, and I'm going to miss him very much.

Montana golf will miss Bill, too, because, he was an excellent golfer and such a great advocate of the game. But more importantly than golf, or the Griz, or sports, we will all miss Bill Gilman the man. Because, having known him for as long as I had the privilege of knowing him, I can say with absolute certainty, the world and the state of Montana was a better place for having Bill Gilman in it.


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