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Beef Bucks

Col. Jon Stories


This year's 8th annual Beef Bucks Golf Challenge was a rip-roaring success and was clearly a big hit in the eyes of those in attendance. Bob Montross continued his reign as the king of South Dakota salesmen by talking his way into the private world of Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre and somehow acquiring an autographed Brett Favre jersey. This jersey was auctioned off at the Beef Bucks' Golf Challenge in Brandon, SD and brought $1,600.00 with all proceeds from the auction going to maintain the Beef Bucks program and their scholarship fund. Yours truly called the auction with items from Five Rivers Feedyards, John Deere, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Jack Daniels, and Jim Woster. With the help of talented ring men, the auction was "the frosting on the cake" for a day filled with golf, friends (old and new), and great steaks!

There couldn't be a jersey more appropriate for cattlemen than Brett Favre's jersey. Brett Favre is the best example of a player's player that you could ever name. He plays the game with high 5's, hugs, butt slaps, and the enthusiasm of a kid. He really has fun on the field, in the dressing room, and after the game with the players. He just hasn't grown up, even though he's 41 years old. He's still having so much fun he doesn't want to quit and he doesn't want to grow up. That would ruin all the fun.

After an enjoyable day in Brandon, SD, it dawned on me that cattlemen are just like Brett Favre. When they get together they act like they never grew up. They all tell stories with the glee of a little boy that just won a purple ribbon at the fair. That's why it's so much fun to be around cattlemen. The stories just keep coming and each one's better then the last one. How could you have more fun!

The Beef Bucks Board of Directors decided to honor Phil Donohue at the steak fry after the golf outing. Phil is a cattleman and retired commission firm owner at the Sioux Falls Stockyards. Phil is just like Brett Favre, he doesn't want to quit golfing, playing poker, or doing all the things other little boys do; except he's 92 years old and doesn't know it.

Phil grew up in a big Irish family in Sioux City, Iowa. His dad, Jigs Donohue, owned a commission firm in the Sioux City Stockyards and was an avid sportsman. Jigs was a sports promoter and got Babe Ruth and Lou Gerhig to play baseball in Sioux City, while they were barn storming after the major league season. Having a dad like Jigs resulted in Phil becoming a top athlete in Sioux City. He was named all-state as a half-back at Trinity High (later known as Heelan High School) and also was one of the top golfers in Iowa.

After high school, Phil attended Notre Dame where he made All-American as a member of the Irish golf team. I asked him if he played any football for the Fighting Irish and he told me his first Notre Dame scrimmage resulted in a broken index finger when he attempted to tackle a big fullback. Then and there, he decided to stick with golf, not football.

After graduating from Notre Dame Phil got married and raised 8 kids in Sioux Falls, SD, where he owned Rice Bros. Commission Company in the Sioux Falls Stockyards. While supporting a big family and selling cattle in the stockyards, Phil became the most famous and decorated golfer in South Dakota history. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader chronicled Phil's astounding string of South Dakota golf championships in a lengthy article that included Notre Dame, South Dakota state championships and national age-group championships. In the articles, a story unfolded about Phil's house being full of trophies, so he asked tournament directors if he could have golf clubs, instead of more trophies. The article also stated that, even though Phil was playing in the Master's age group, he was still beating all ages in South Dakota. Pull it out of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's archives and I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Phil was being interviewed by Tom Maxwell on his famous Sports Max program one afternoon while I was tooling up the highway. This interview was Maxwell and Donohue at the top of their game and was simply radio at its best, being done by South Dakota's best sports broadcaster and best golfer. Tom would ask very good golf questions and Phil would answer with all honesty and good Irish wit that left you laughing and wanting more. One gem was Tom's inquiry about how well Phil liked playing at a number of South Dakota's premier golf courses and Phil replied, "Hell, Tom, I couldn't afford to play those high dollar courses. I had a wife and eight kids at home, so I stuck to the cheap public courses." Tom's brilliant career ended about a year later, when he was killed in a car/truck collision. I still miss listening to his great programs that were heard on several South Dakota stations.

One of Phil Donohue's best stories was about his Grandpa, who owned a saloon in Miles City, Montana. Phil said that Grandpa Donohue delivered whiskey to both soldiers and Indians and had a great business delivering by horse and wagon. He said that General George Custer's cavalry soldiers were very good customers and had filled some of their canteens with whiskey before they rode off to the Little Big Horn for their last battle with the Sioux at "Custer's Last Stand".

Phil said 2,000,000 Irish died during the potato famine because the British hoarded grain and potatoes and wouldn't give the Irish a lick of food. Many of the survivors came to America and made a living anyway they could, but Grandpa Donohue figured out that selling whiskey on the frontier was a lot better than working in a New York "sweatshop". Jigs Donohue and his sons improved on selling whiskey and made their living selling cattle. That's full circle, isn't it! Phil threw in a little football and golf in the mix and had fun doing it. Fact of the matter is, he never did quit having fun. Look up Phil Donohue, buy a round, and pull up a chair. You won't be sorry, 'cause you'll hear some of the best stories you've ever laughed at. Take your time and turn your hearing aid up. You don't want to miss anything Phil's talking about. I promise!

(Editor's note: The Donohue's had nine children born into the family. A daughter, at the age of 45, was lost to cancer. On 9/12/2010 Phil's son Tim wrote, " Today Phil played 18 holes of golf. Tomorrow he will be checking on our cattle sale. (Rice Brothers changed to Sioux Falls Regional Livestock on October 16th 2006 - Phil is still in the cattle business at Sioux Falls Regional Livestock. He has not fully retired from the business yet.) We should have over 2,000 cattle to sell. He will ask me tomorrow about the market and pricing and if we had any new customers. He is an eternal optimist and is always concerned about the vitality of the cattle producer!")

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