N*SYNC founding member Chris Kirkpatrick has been coming to the BBBS Celebrity Tournament in Big Sky for a number of years. And this year was even better for him—he was able to visit with his young son, wife, family and friends between holes. Teamwork makes the dream work. Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Sky Branch Coordinator Jolene Clark takes a break from the hustle and bustle of the tournament for a photo with her much appreciated staff and volunteer team. (L to R) Blythe Beaubien, Jolene Clark (staff), Jennifer Boutsianis, Katelyn Hansen, Laura Gregory, Haley Van Heel, Neelie Burman (staff) and Emily Gray.

Golfing for the greater good

Annual BBBS golf tournament takes over Big Sky Resort Golf Course

Anyone familiar with the sport of golf knows there’s a significant amount of frustration involved in a day on the course. That was not the case on Monday, July 9 when 33 teams hit the greens for the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County Celebrity Golf Tournament.

     Athletes, artists, musicians and more—many who’ve participated in the event for years—were dealing with anything but frustration. The Bunker area was a hub of laughter and activity in the midst of play, while the practice putting green was converted into a mini-golf hole, and nearby a long-distance tee was set up.

     For a donation, golfers could take their chance at the bonus holes, hoping for a hole in one or to hit the ball onto the far off green in order to double their money or win a gift certificate. Winning was far and few between, but as one winner who chose to donate the money back noted, it’s all about the kids anyway. Other possible prizes included free fried chicken for a year at the Riverhouse, a ski pass, $5,000 in gas and more.

     One of the most recognizable celebrities, especially for those hip to the late ’90s-early 2000s boy band scene, was Chris Kirkpatrick. This is his seventh or eighth year participating in the tournament. So what keeps him coming back? Kirkpatrick responded to that question in jest. 

     “Because it’s horrible. It’s miserable. I mean the scenery sucks, Yellowstone is boring. Big Sky—boring. Bozeman—don’t even pass through there,” he joked, with Lone Mountain in the background and cheerful golfers high-fiving nearby. “I’ve already learned from everybody here that you don’t talk about it, because you don’t want everybody realizing what us outsiders realize, what an amazing country it is here, and the people. Every year we come we have so much fun.”

     Kirkpatrick’s wife Karly joined him at the tournament last year, and this year the couple had a new member to bring along–son Nash. His mother-in-law and her friend also came for the event, “And they’re just having the time of their lives.”

     Kirkpatrick’s one complaint? “It’s too hot out here,” he said. “That’s why I left Florida. I’d rather have snow.” He and his team went on to win the tournament. “It’s been a walk in the park. I’m carrying these guys; (under his breath) I’m not carrying these guys.”

     Montana artist Tom Gilleon was back again for another tournament, this being his tenth year, making his bearded mug one of the “regular faces” seen at the event. 

     “Well, I wouldn’t call mine regular,” Gilleon quipped. Known for his colorful teepee paintings, Gilleon donates a work of art to the event’s Sunday night auction, a gift that historically brings in a good amount of cash for the cause. This year the painting was called “Little Star People,” and it featured fireflies. He explained that Native Americans called the illuminating bugs “little star people.” 

     Gilleon took his chance at the long drive, not quite making the mark, but smiling nonetheless. 

     “I enjoy playing with all the other guys that come out. There’s a lot of great people here. It’s really about the people,” Gilleon said of his motivation to keep coming back. “And on top of that there’s this really great cause. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a fantastic thing.”

     BBBS’ organizer Jolene Clark was busy keeping things running smoothly on Monday, but as she put it, the tournament is a breeze following the lively evening held the night before when The Voice contestant Preston Pohl brought down the house along with several other performers. The auction took place prior to the music, and Clark said that was a success as usual.

     Clark has enjoyed being a part of the much-anticipated tournament for the past 10 years. 

     “We had two people stand up last night, who had been coming to this for like 15 years, like former Minnesota Vikings player Audrey Beamon, which is so amazing,” she said. “But we also have lots of new people, local Montana football players, attending as well. And we even have (former football star) Ki-Jana Carter, who used to be a little brother. He spoke to the crowd last night. He said, ‘I am a product of what you guys are supporting,’ which I thought was really cool. It was the first time anyone had ever put it that way.”

     This will be Clark’s last summer working with BBBS, but she plans on being a volunteer moving forward. 

     “I’ve got a little soft spot in my heart, so I can’t let it go,” she said. To learn more about BBBS and how to get involved visit www.bbbs-gc.org.

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