Stacey Looks to Repeat as Seniors Champ in Bozeman in August

by Greg Rachak for Montana 55

It was May 17, Cal Stacey’s birthday. The Billings golfer, a renowned player on the Montana State Senior Golf Association stage, didn’t have much time to celebrate.

There’s only one place he wanted to be on that picturesque day — stalking the vast grounds at his home course at Yellowstone Country Club. Instead, Stacey was stuck pushing papers at his law firm.

With litigation looming, it will be a busy summer for the trial attorneys at Stacey & Funyak. For the 63-year-old, it will be extra-busy as he tries to build his prestigious amateur golfing résumé.

Billings golfer Cal Stacey practices at Yellowstone Country Club Tuesday afternoon. Stacey will be competing in the U.S. Senior Amateur.

Billings golfer Cal Stacey practices at Yellowstone Country Club Tuesday afternoon. Stacey will be competing in the U.S. Senior Amateur.

“A few guys have called me asking to play but I’ve had to turn them down, and that’s hard to do,” Stacey said. “I’ve got a lot of work piled up. It’s no way to celebrate your birthday, but that’s alright.”

“At this age,” he chuckled, “it doesn’t really matter.”

Stacey was once mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article chronicling Montana golfers where it mentioned how he’d asked a judge for a continuance in a lawsuit “due to the press of business.”

The next day, a picture of Stacey playing golf appeared in the newspaper.

“I take it too serious. Way too serious,” Stacey said.

“I try to tell myself not to take it serious, but it’s like any competition if you play sports.”

Just prior to his birthday, Stacey, a father of six, had returned to Billings from South Bend, Ind., where he watched his daughter Morgan graduate from law school at the University of Notre Dame. He drove the 1,300- mile trip, which may have contributed to his cabin fever.

Soon after that, Stacey was on a plane to watch his son Austin receive his undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego.

There wasn’t time for chips and putts, much less the driving range. Still, Stacey’s eyes are fixed on the upcoming Montana State Seniors tournament, which will be played Aug. 2-4 in Bozeman. Stacey is the
defending champion, having won his second seniors crown last summer in Butte.

That victory was the latest in a line of amateur victories Stacey has accumulated during the years, which includes four Yellowstone Country Club crowns and a handful of County Am titles. He won his first seniors championship in 2012, though he originally hadn’t planned to play because he “didn’t want to buy into the idea of being a senior.”

This year’s seniors tournament, which Stacey hopes to win for the third time, will rotate between three
Bozeman courses — Riverside Country Club, Valley View Country Club and the Bridger Creek Golf Course.

Bill Sprinkle, the MSSGA’s executive director, said he expects roughly 330 golfers age 55 and older to compete.

Stacey is one of a few who have a legitimate shot of winning, but that doesn’t keep a vast number of
players from entering. Stacey compared it to the way the Montana State Amateur was set up years ago.

“I would say this: That tournament, from what I’ve seen, it has a large field, and not all of them have
any chance of winning, nor do they expect to,” said Stacey, who counts Bozeman’s Ron Garland among the
favorites to win the tournament this year. “They have buddies and friends and family, they bring their wives, they party and they have a great time. It’s a social event.

And then of course there are some that are trying to win the tournament that might be a little more serious, like myself.

“But everybody has a great time, an absolute great time. They party pretty hard still, which is good.”

• • •

Stacey’s golfing life began when he was about nine years old, when his father Bob started letting him tag along to swing the clubs with him and his friends at Lake Hills in Billings. Stacey points to it as a time when he fell in love with the game.

As an adolescent, Stacey would travel with his father to various tournaments around Montana, notably the State Am. It was around this time that Stacey became acquainted with Paul Allen, the longtime pro at Yellowstone and a local golfing patriarch.

Stacey counts his father and Allen as his greatest influences.

“Paul Allen was the first head pro here, and the pro here for 50 years,” Stacey said. “As a kid growing up, and as a young adult, a middle-aged adult and as an older adult, he was a significant influence both on the golf course and off the golf course.

“Golfers come and go. There are great players. You could be good for two or three years and then not be
able to make a putt and you’re gone. There’s more to it than just the talent and the scores.”

Stacey tied YCC’s then-course record (63) in front of Allen a number of years back, which Stacey counts as one of his crowning moments.

Stacey’s father passed away about six year ago at the age of 84. “He loved the game,” Stacey said. “Even up to the end he was working on his swing, trying to find the secret.”

Allen passed away a couple years later at 82. Stacey’s mother, Betty, died in the early 1990s at the age of 64 from stomach cancer. Among Stacey’s greatest memories is the time he clinched the County Am in Laurel with his mother in attendance.

“She and my dad came out and followed me around the course,” Stacey recalled. “I remember hitting to
their No. 18 at Laurel, I knocked it up there in two and lipped out for eagle and won the tournament with that shot. And she was there to witness that.”

After graduating from Billings Senior High School in 1971, Stacey attended the University of Oregon and
played on the golf team. One of his teammates was Peter Jacobson, who went on to a fine career on the
PGA Tour. Jacobson proved an example to Stacey of what it would take to compete on the national stage.

If Stacey had any professional aspirations, he stashed them away — partly due to Jacobson’s example
and partly due to his desire to attend law school. Stacey said he didn’t play much while studying law at the University of Montana, but by the time he returned to Billings to begin his career as an attorney in the late 1970s, the game was back on his radar. And he didn’t miss much of a beat.

Stacey’s days of winning club championships or state amateurs are behind him, but his status as a contender on the Montana senior circuit is not debated. Stacey chalks it up to his determination and focus.

“I’m not at the point of just going out and drinking beer for 18 holes,” Stacey said. “It’s still you against the golf course. No matter what level you are, you know you can play better and you know you can get better. That’s the mystery of the game of golf. It entices you into thinking you’ve got it, and then it squashes you.”

• • •

It took Stacey time to accept his increasing age and the limitations that accompany it on the golf course.

Stubbornly, he avoided playing in senior events even though he became eligible when he turned 55. But he has since accepted — and embraced — the changes.

“Mentally, you think you can play as good as you used to,” said Stacey, who admitted to having a slight
back injury during the spring. “Your mind sees things and you know what you can do and have done, and it’s a little disappointing when you can’t do it like you used to.

Mentally, that’s the deal. Physically, obviously, as you grow older things change. Your swing gets shorter, guys get fatter, and you’re not in the same shape. But you can still play very well.

“I don’t feel as strong and as healthy as I used to. The age … there’s nothing good about growing old from a health standpoint that I can determine. You don’t feel the same, you don’t feel as strong, and that’s just the way it is. But in golf you can sometimes get away with that.”

That might be the inherent challenge of senior golf. How do you manage your game with the growing
realities of the passing years?

Stacey hopes he can continue to succeed on the senior stage for many more years, starting with the tournament in Bozeman at the beginning of August.

Stacey said he plans to be more prepared than he was before last year’s tournament in Butte, when he triplebogeyed on his first hole at Fairmont but still went on to win. Work requirements might get in the way — he’ll never be able to completely escape — but Stacey hopes to make another mark in the game that’s defined him for decades.

“Golf has meant everything to me through the years,” he said. “It’s a very unique game, unlike any other sport I’ve ever played. This game teaches you a lot of valuable lessons that you take through life. As a consequence you learn as a young man how to treat people and how to deal with people.

“It’s a game of honesty, of high integrity. Those who don’t have high integrity never excel in it. The ones that you see playing, they are fine people. Women or men. They’re the ones that are polite, refer to people as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am.’ There are very few exceptions. It’s been an incredible advantage to me to have played the game.

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