GREAT FALLS — Bill Dunn is living proof that a golfer doesn’t have to give up the game he loves just because he’s in so much pain he can’t swing a club.
Dunn, a 55-year-old Missoula banker, has battled elbow pain since he was in his 20s, but six years ago he faced the toughest decision of his golf career – and throwing in the towel wasn’t an option.
So the natural right-hander turned around and tried playing as a southpaw, even though his scoring average suffered greatly.
“In 2015, it became so painful that I gave up golf and started playing left-handed,” Dunn recalled recently. “About a year later I was able to go back to right-handed golf, albeit with a swing modified to limit the pain.”
His new – and maybe improved – swing worked so well this past year that Dunn made Montana golf history. After winning both the State Seniors and the State Mid-Amateur tournaments in August, he joined the legendary Gene Cook of Great Falls as one of only two Montana golfers ever to win both of those events the same year.
Cook’s titles came way back in 1990, when he was 56. Cook, now 87, won six State Amateurs, two State Mid-Ams and seven State Senior titles in his Hall of Fame career.
“It’s nice to be mentioned in the same breath with Gene Cook,” Dunn said, “although everyone’s record pales in comparison to his.”
Dunn also won the Senior Division title at the State Amateur at Canyon River in Missoula in July.
He agreed that 2021 was the most productive year of his career, which has included several club and city championships in Helena and Missoula, as well a State Amateur title back in 2009 at Butte Country Club.
“Yes, in terms of tourneys won, it is (the best year). It was nice when I won the State Am … but this year was really good in terms of consistency and closing out events,” Dunn said.
In his nine tournament-championship rounds this summer, his best score was 67 and his highest was 72.
The bone spurs in his right elbow still bother him, but he obviously has figured out how to cope.
“As luck would have it, my swing modifications have increased my accuracy and, I believe, made me a better player,” he said.
His new and improved swing also has allowed him to qualify for induction into the Montana State Golf Association Hall of Fame in the near future.
Dunn obviously has received a lot of joy and satisfaction from competitive golf, but it’s been a two-way street. He has served on the MSGA Board for the past five years and was president for two years.
“I’m lucky to be able to give back to a game I love and that has provided great opportunities and friendships since my teen years,” Dunn concluded.