GREAT FALLS — They say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. One man’s journey of more than 1,000 golf holes began Wednesday afternoon in Great Falls.
Montana Tech alum and Great Falls native Sean Ryan will spend the next 85 days living every golfer’s dream as part of a capstone project for his graduate degree in Technical Communications that he calls Montana’s Longest Drive.
“Basically, Montana’s Longest Drive came about when I was driving along the highway, and I saw a sign for a golf course and I started thinking, ‘How many golf courses are there in Montana?’” Ryan explained. “And then the ball kind of got rolling, and I thought, ‘Has anyone ever played every golf course in Montana? Let alone has anyone tried to play them all in one summer?’ So I kind of got myself in this predicament where I said, ‘Hey, if you have this idea, why not go chase it?’”
The idea struck Ryan in March of 2017. By the time fall semester rolled around in September, he started to invest several hours each week calling courses, setting tee times and arranging playing partners. Ryan was able to find 104 courses, both public and private, dotted across the Montana landscape. His goal is to play a round of golf with a different partner at all of them.
“Because that’s the point of this project,” he said. “It’s to get to know every golf course in Montana by playing with a local everywhere you go. That’s the most exciting thing, is the people I will meet. That’s going to be the best part of it.”
And Ryan has a heck of a guest list lined up for some of the stops on his itinerary. He will tee it up with legendary Montana women’s basketball coach Robin Selvig when he stops at Missoula’s Canyon River Golf Club in July. He’ll swap stories with former Montana Tech football coach Bob Green at Fairmont Hot Spring Resort in June.
But first up for Ryan, a round at Hickory Swing Golf Course in Great Falls with three-time Montana amateur champion Kelly Gilligan. As a former high school and college golfer at Great Falls Central and Montana Tech, Ryan can hold his own on the links with the best in the state.
“I’m playing with people who have won state amateurs, people that have won high school championships,” said Ryan. “Later I’m playing with someone who has won multiple Special Olympics championships, and then I’m just playing with run-of-the-mill people, people that I’ve met through different avenues of business and around the state that I’ve become really good friends with.”
From Wild Horse Golf Course in Plains to the Airport Golf Club in Wolf Point, Ryan estimates he’ll put between 4,200 and 5,000 miles on his odometer over the next three months, and he plans to walk each course. While the trip is centered on golf, it’s also a way to get to know Montana’s people better. Ryan will spend the night in each town as he visits its course. He packed a cot bed and will mostly rely on the generosity of friends and strangers for accommodations.
Knowing the nature of the people in the Treasure State, Ryan knows he’ll make a lot of new friends on this trip of a lifetime.
“My goal is to promote golf around Montana,” he said. “And I think that by exposing and showing every golf course around Montana to people that are out there, I think people will realize that this is a great state and, not only does it have great golf courses, but it’s got great people. And that’s the most important thing about Montana.”
You can follow along with Ryan’s journey at MontanasLongestDrive.com, where he’ll post photos and stories after every stop on the trip. He eventually plans to turn the experience into a book.