It’s an ordinary, 4½-ton granite slab hauled in from the mouth of Little Cottonwood
Canyon by Bob Butterfield. But the inscription on the accompanying plaque is
“Bert Yancey was a tenacious champion with unusual courage, determination, wit and wisdom. As a true
professional, he exemplified persistence through hardship. He had an undying
passion for preserving the history and integrity of golf. His quest for
excellence remained remarkably intense and focused as he executed his final
shot from this area.”
On this spot, Park Meadows Golf Club, Park City, Utah, in the heart of the Wasatch
Mountains, far from his southern roots, Bert Yancey will be forever remembered.
“Al” to his classmates at West Point, “Bert” to the Professional
Golfers’ Association members, Yancey “died with his cleats on” during a Senior
PGA tournament in Park City August 26, 1994.
As a bright young cadet on the dean’s list at the United States Military Academy,
West Point, New York, with a promising military career ahead, Al never dreamed
his toughest battles would be on the golf course, fighting the greatest
handicap a golfer could know, a medical illness that affected a vital function
of his brain—the ability to concentrate. In 1960, Al was captain of the Army
golf team and ranked right up there with Jack Nicklaus as one of the best
golfers in the college ranks.
It was his last year at West Point when he returned from
his summer activities to embark on Reorganization Week that something seemed to
happen. Initially, everything seemed to be going smoothly, but by Tuesday it
was evident Al was “not quite right.” He didn’t sleep and would rant about
things that made no sense to anyone but him. Finally, he went to see the golf
coach and the head psychiatrist and he was immediately taken to the West Point hospital
and then to the US Army hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Al remained there for nine months, was honorably
discharged, and that was the last most of us saw or heard of Al until he turned
up as “Bert” on the professional golf circuit a few years later.
His illness went dormant after that and his pro career flourished until 1974. As
Lanny Watkins said, “Yancey was a good pro.”
Yancey was a star in the late 60s and early 70s. In 13 seasons he won seven
tournaments and $688,124. Few players were his match. Where Arnold Palmer
lashed aggressively at the ball and Lee Trevino seemed the happy hacker, Yancey
was a classicist with a club in his hand. His swing was a symphony, each movement
majestic in its purity and simplicity. Putting, he was a thief working in
daylight, stealing birdies from 20 feet when par was due. Yet, greatness eluded
Twice he finished third in the U. S. Open. Twice he was third in the Masters, once
fourth. Bert tied for third once at the British Open. The Class of 1961 took
great pride in his many golfing endeavors, not the least of which was winning
the Bing Crosby Classic, almost winning the Master’s, and holding the best
putting record on the PGA circuit for eleven years. But, we also read and heard
about some problems he faced, as he had to deal with an illness most of us knew
By the mid-1970s, Bert’s name started hitting the papers and news reports again,
not for his golf prowess, but for a series of bizarre incidents for which he
was at various times arrested, incarcerated, hospitalized, and put back into
mental health institutions. That’s the problem being a celebrity—Bert couldn’t
just hide. After an incident at LaGuardia airport in 1975, Bert was
hospitalized. Dr. Jane Parker of Payne Whitney Hospital diagnosed his case as manic-depressive illness and put him on lithium.
Bert said, “That woman saved my life.” For his life, Bert gave up his golf swing.
Thousands of people, who are diagnosed with
manic-depressive illness, take lithium and function extraordinarily well. The
limited side effects of the drug are no bother to them. A small dose produces a
hand tremor so slight it is invisible. Nothing worse. For a golf pro, nothing
is worse than a hand tremor, however slight. At the levels of Yancey’s game,
four strokes a day is the difference between success and mediocrity. Once an
elegant player, Yancey was seldom able to break 80. In 1976 he entered 26
events and missed 26 cuts. His behavior was increasingly erratic. He earned no money and quit the tour that
winter and set up the Bert Yancey Classical School of Golf at Hilton Head.
It wasn’t until 1984, when doctors took him off lithium and began prescribing
Tegretol, an anti-convulsive medication, that Bert stopped having episodes.
Through it all he managed to make a decent living as a teaching pro at three South Carolina clubs, writing for a
local newspaper and doing a daily radio show. But he missed the competition.
He began playing competitively again in 1986. His confidence was up. He put 30,000
miles on his car playing the Florida mini-tour. In November he played in the Tallahassee
Open, a satellite event. Bert shot a 69 on the second day of the 36-hole event
and won $500, his first tournament paycheck since 1975. Bert went on to join
the PGA Senior Tour and could be found traveling around the country 40+ weeks a
year competing with the likes of Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus.
Bert could have earned a very comfortable living just teaching golf. The
competitive fires still burned so he eagerly played each week, but victory on
the Senior Tour eluded him.
Al (Bert) Yancey was a son, a father, a grandfather, a professional golfer, and a
man who loved God. A true Renaissance man, he was a student, a teacher, a
lecturer, a motivator, a poet, and an historian. He served on the President’s
Commission on Hiring the Handicapped. He was a friend to thousands who admired
his courage and his indomitable spirit. He earned the Mental Illness Medal of
Honor by surviving 20 hospitalizations for an illness that may have robbed him
of a win on the Senior PGA Tour.
Bert had a way with children, his own, those of his fellow playing pros and the many
that he talked to in his lectures. He had the rare gift of being able to meet
them on their level. His children have fond memories of made up games and
stories he shared with them in addition to countless adventures. He made
everything an adventure whether it was a car ride, dinner out or time together
on the golf course. He never overlooked a "teachable moment." That
lesson may have been how many balls to hit at the range, how many stars there
were in the sky or something to do with pride and integrity. He saw things from
a different angle than the rest of the world, which may be what his children
miss most about him.
Still, Bert was a winner on and off the golf course. He would not give up or give in.
He died on a private battlefield, trying one more time to get that little white
ball in the hole. Bert did not believe in luck. He believed in hard work,
discipline, and dedication. He played the game of mental illness the way he
played the game of golf—never giving up, never quitting.
Bert formed Bogeys, Birdies & Bert, a group “for the education and
support of depressive illnesses.” In an effort to spread the message on manic
depression and mental illness, Bert put on seminars, golfing clinics,
tournaments and other charitable events to raise money to treat illness,
educate the public and to help allay the fears in many peoples’ minds about
mental illness and what can be done to combat mental illness. Most of us tend
to think of it as someone else’s problem and go out of our way to avoid having
to deal with it.
From 1990 to 1994, Bert shared his love of life with more than 8,000 people in 50
cities across the country. When the crowds asked for more, he gave. He always
stayed as long as his audience wanted him. And want him they did. His
“one-hour” lectures sometimes stretched to four.
He always said, “Look forward, always try to do your best, eat right, exercise,
tee it up, and go for the next hole. Don’t look back”. But we hope he looked
back on November 21, 1994. We honored Bert for his courage and the inspiration
he engendered with the First Annual Bert Yancey Memorial Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia, one of his
favorite golfing cities. Bert spoke on mental illness to over 500 people there in 1992. Jack Campbell, one of his
roommates at West Point, and Dick Knoblock, a classmate at West Point, played in this initial tournament.
And yes, he got his name on a Senior Tour trophy. His friend Tom Weiskoff formally
awarded Bert’s yearning for another win. On the Sunday following Bert’s death,
Weiskoff won his first PGA Senior Tour championship. He dedicated the win to
his friend Bert and asked that both their names be engraved on the trophy.
Bert is survived by three sons, Scott Yancey, Jeff Yancey and Charles Yancey, a
daughter, Tracy Defina, four grandchildren, five sisters, Mary Stuart Hartman, Fran
Robinson, Joyce Post, Betty Allen, Susan Perkins and his twin bother Bill
Bogeys, Birdies & Bert continues his work today. If you desire to honor Bert, they can be contacted at:
Bogeys, Birdies & Bert
c/o Kay York
3005 Wood Fox Drive
Alvin, Texas 77511
The Annual Bert Yancey Memorial Golf Tournament is held in the Augusta, GA area in
the fall each year. You can honor Bert by playing in this tournament.
Bert Yancey Memorial Golf Tournament
c/o MHA of Greater Augusta, Inc.
1720 Central Avenue
Augusta, GA 30904
Class Memorial Pages\L-2 Al Yancey.pdf
West Point Golf Team, with Al as we knew him, as the sixth man
from the left: Coach Browne, Dick Daniel, Jim Taylor, Dave Teal, Rand Edelstein,
Al Yancey, Billy Parks,
Jim Jenz, Manly Parks, CPT Barber, OIC.
From l to r: Walter R. Browne, J.B.Taylor, Dick Daniels, Bill Parks,
Dave Teal, Rand Edelstein, Jim Jenz, Harry White, Larry Welsh, B.M.Parks and
unsigned. Browne was the coach, Edelstein the team captain, unsigned (Captain
R.E.Barber) was the officer representative. The above is exactly as each guy
signed his name.
I visited the Yancey memoir with fond memories -- Al/Bert was one of my favorite Kaydets and my four kids LOVED
him. Ours was the first team to beat Navy and win the Eastern Intercollegiates. The heart and soul of the team was the
cows -- all 61ers."
Reb Barber, '51
OIC, Cadet Golf Team and
Math P to Class of 1961
Al and I were teammates on the golf team. He was a
wonderful friend and a great golfer. We had a lot of fun practicing
together and playing in matches around the country. He was the most natural
golfer any of us had ever met.
Because of Al never losing a match in regular league
play, we won the Easter Intercollegiate Championship in 1960 and attended
the National Intercollegiate Tournament at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado
Springs. The US Open was in Denver that year and we got to visit the
tournament and meet Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus.
We were all shocked when Al had his troubles on the
plebe hike at the beginning of our first class (senior) year. We visited
him at Valley Forge while attending the Army Navy football game and later
that year in Florida as he was recovering and getting ready to enter the pro
tour. Several of us attended tournaments that Al was playing in around the
All of us are extremely proud to have known and played
golf with Al. We were so proud to see him do so well on the pro tour. We
followed his bouts with manic depression over the years, the discovery of
medicines, his reentry to competitive golf on the senior tour and his
We miss him greatly and wish the Yancey family the
best of everything.
Dave Teal, USMA 1961 Golf Team
My most vivid memory of three years
at West Point with Al Yancey (he in L-2 and I next door in K-2) was actually at Camp Buckner during Yearling summer. Al
and I shared a double decker bunk, he on the upper as I recall. One weekend, the two of us and another two classmates
decided to chance a game of poker using someone's chips, no money in sight. Our plan, in the unlikely event of a visit
from the OIC, was to quickly hide the chips and deal a hand of bridge. As luck would have it, someone alerted to the
arrival of the OIC. Al and I proceeded to implement the "hide the chips" plan while the other two spilt
(you know who you are). We got about halfway through the hiding process when the OIC walked in and nabbed us with chips
still on the table. The other two came back and did the right thing, admitting to joint responsibility.
Twenty-two Area hours later, we had "paid our debt to the Corps" and learned our lesson.
My other memory of Al was his complete dedication to academics and the long hours he spent during
Cow year mastering the heavy load of science courses. He rarely got to sleep before midnight. Later when he was on
the tour, Georgia and I saw him a couple of times including dinner at our apartment in Tempe, Arizona after the
Phoenix Open when I was finishing Grad school at ASU. Son Charlie was a little lad at that time (1966 I think). Al
shared some stories that I had not heard and especially his great disappointment at not being able to graduate and
become an Army officer which he said was his primary goal in life. A great friend and a great guy!
I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Bert at a supper given by Pete and Barbara
Gleichenhaus several years ago. He was in town [San Francisco] for a seniors golf event at Silverado in
the Napa Valley and also gave some speeches regarding manic-depression treatment for, I believe, Baxter Labs who
sponsored the speaking functions. At the end of the evening, I took Bert and a friend to the airport.
Al Yancy provided the first public laugh
I had after starting Beast Barracks. It happened only a few days after our
arrival, and on an evening when we were in a lecture hall filling out travel
forms under the direction of Firsties who seemed to know everything.
We were at the place in the form where we
needed to state how we had traveled to West Point. One of the choices was
“government” transportation. This caused a problem for Al. He raised his hand
and asked a question.
In order to better understand what I am
about to say, I must mention the fact that I knew nothing at the time about Al
Yancy and a key part of my own background. Many would say I had led a dull
sheltered life in a country East Tennessee setting. So when Al spoke, and the
longer he spoke, it almost made me feel uptown.
First Al wanted to know if riding on a
mail truck would be considered “government” transportation. This bewildered
the firstie. He wanted to know what Al meant by riding on a mail truck. After
several exchanges we learned Al had hitchhiked part of the way from his home
in Florida to West Point. One of his rides was a rural mail carrier. Finally
the confused firstie asked how far Al he had come on the mail truck. Al
answered that he may have ridden 15 miles, but because of the loops on the
mail route, he probably ended up only 5 miles from where he started. With
this, there was wild laughter, at least wild for the setting.
I later learned Al was one of the
nation’s top golfers for his age, having won all, or at least most, of the
many golf tournaments available to him. I also did not know he would do so
well academically. My feeling now is that Al saw after the first exchange with
the firstie he could get a laugh and purposely put on the “back woodsy” front.
He got the laugh and certainly made me feel good at the time.
While we were company mates, I never
roomed with Al and did not know him as well as I did some of the others. I saw
him often in front of the full-length mirror by the orderly room practicing
his golf swing.
During “reorganization week” of our
firstie year some of our classmates mentioned that Al had done some odd things
and wanted my help to see that he went to the hospital to be checked. I was
unaware of any problem, but they insisted, and Al went to the hospital. I
never saw him again. It bothers me that I didn’t. It bothers me more that I
neither made much of an effort to either see him or to find out what his
problem had been.
A few years before his death, I learned
Al was to play in a Chattanooga golf tournament. I had a conference that
weekend in Memphis. On my way home I stopped in Chattanooga, got the name of
his motel and called, but he had just left. It was some months later that I
learned the true nature of Al’s illness. How much easier would it have been
for Al to endure his problems if I, and possibly others, had let him know we
cared and given him the support he deserved? For my failures I apologize to
I remember a very cold and rainy day
in March at West Point. The golf team was huddled around the wood stove in the club house trying to keep warm
with no thoughts of practicing golf. Al entered with a big grin on his face and wondered why we were not
playing. He grabbed a couple of us and we played nine holes in the worst possible conditions. We were
frozen and soaked. I must have shot a 50. I think Al broke par. Never have I met someone who loved
the game so much.
The Mental Health and Mental
Retardation Authority of Harris County
October 2001 (Just after September
Pay tribute to a
hero by being one
PGA pro Bert Yancey
dealt with manic depression for most of his life.
He died of a heart attack in 1994.
By Kay York
Symbolism. My dear friend, Bert Yancey, a former Professional Golf
Association Tour professional who suffered with manic-depressive illness,
usually wore a yellow ribbon on his shirt or visor. This immortal patriot
attended West Point, but never had the opportunity to serve his country in the
military. Bert experienced his first episode of manic depression during his
senior year at the academy and was given an honorable medical
While Bert’s classmates valiantly fought and died in Vietnam,
he served his country in an unusual way. He believed it was his duty to educate
the public about mental illness, instead of ignoring or talking around sports
writer’s questions when they asked why Bert wasn’t in Vietnam, too. During
public lectures, he explained it was “OK to be mentally ill.” This great
American hero founded his own anti-stigma campaign, long before grassroots
groups organized to launch this dauntless effort.
I wonder how Bert would
have been affected by the tragedy and devastation our country is currently
experiencing? He often explained to audiences that worldwide events triggered
some of his episodes, which included psychotic thoughts about good and evil.
Thanks to medication, mental health professionals, family, and friends on the
Tour, he would recover. Then he taught mental health consumers how they could
recognize and respond to their own triggers.
Help Bert Yancey continue
his good works. He believed in the American dream, and he dreamed that one day a
cure would be found for mood disorders. Until then, educate your clients,
colleagues, family and friends, while we, as a country, return to mental health.
And watch for the signs. If you or someone you know needs support as we struggle
to recover from these unspeakable acts of terrorism, refer them to a mental
health professional. You can be a hero, too.
York is former president
of the Depressive Manic-Depressive Association of Houston and Harris County,
To Bert, a soul mate who continues to help me educate the public about
overcoming a mental illness.
Yancey learned to control mental illness
Publication Date: August 31, 1994
Source: Nashville Banner
Obituary: The golf world is a little less complete today.
Bert Yancey is dead. Yancey died of a massive heart attack Friday at the age
of 56, just minutes before he was to play the first round of the Franklin
Quest Championship in Park City, Utah. He complained of chest pains while on
the driving range and later suffered cardiac arrest at a first aid tent at
Park Meadows Golf Club. Doctors at Park City Family Health and Emergency
Center were unable to revive him.
No one enjoyed the game and appreciated being on tour
more than Yancey. And with good reason.
Once one of the game's premier players seven victories in
the mid-1960s to early '70s Yancey suddenly began to behave strangely.
Shortly after the 1974 season, his best ever, he was
arrested while in Japan for a golf clinic. He had been in his hotel room
when the urge to save the Orient from Communism came over him. He went for a
walk at 3 a.m. He met a singing group and interpreted their stage name, The
Temptations, to be something evil. So he picked a fight with them. One of
them felled him with a Karate chop.
When Yancey got back to the hotel, he pulled down a
Christmas tree in the lobby because it reminded him of the loss to evil he
had just suffered. SHORTLY thereafter, he was committed to a mental hospital
in Philadelphia for 21/2 months. It was the second time he had been in such
an institution. The first time had been in 1960 during his junior year at
the United State Military Academy, when he would go for days without sleep
and do bizarre things like stand plebes against the wall and demand to know
the meaning of truth.
In mid-1975, while returning from a tournament in
Westchester, N.Y., he climbed a ladder inside LaGuardia Airport and began to
order all the white people to one side of the room and all the black people
to the other side. He was going to show them the foolishness of racial
He was arrested and taken to a quiet room, where, he once
explained, "I was spitting on a light bulb, thinking if I watched the saliva
burn, the different colors and shapes, I could find the key to the cure for
From there it was off to another hospital, but this time
it would be the turning point of his life. For it was there that Dr. Jane
Parker diagnosed his illness as manic-depressive behavior. She immediately
put him on lithium to control his mood swings.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of lithium is
slight tremors of the hands. Bert Yancey would never again be as good a
golfer as he once was. But he also never would again be a wildman as long as
he took his medication. He dropped off the PGA Tour for several years and
began a golf school and clinics. HE joined the Senior Tour in 1988. He never
won there. In fact, he had only one Top-10 finish in his Senior Tour career.
He finished tied for 64th in the BellSouth Classic at Opryland's Springhouse
Golf Club in June.
But winning was not his full intent, and he did not
consider his playing on tour again a comeback.
"Comebacks are what I have done off the golf course," he
once said. "This is nothing but pure fun. This is a vacation."
His greater message was to others with mental illness. ".
. . a lot of people need to know you can have mental illness and still be a
normal person doing your job," he said. "I have a responsibility now. Do you
know how many kids in this country have manic-depressive illness? By being
visible . . . I'm saying to those kids and everyone with manic-depressive
illness `I've got it, too, but I'm shaking it as long as I stay on my
Tom Weiskopf was one of Yancey's best friends. When he
heard of Yancey's death Friday, Weiskopf briefly considered withdrawing from
the Franklin Quest Championship. But he knew Yancey would want him to play.
Sunday, like a man possessed, Weiskopf birdied 16, 17 and
18 to tie leader Dave Stockton, then won the tournament with a birdie on the
first playoff hole.
"There's a reason why he played as good as he did coming
in. He hadn't made one putt, let alone four in a row," Stockton said.
"I didn't win this thing," a teary-eyed Weiskopf
said. "Bert made me win this. I loved him. I won this tournament because of
who seemed to have it all
Mental illness undermined the promising career of golden boy Bert Yancey.
FRANK FITZPATRICK @philafitz
He had such a great name.
And, with his sweet swing, his broad shoulders, and his perfect hair and
outfits, Bert Yancey looked as if he was born to golf.
I discovered Yancey while watching the 1967 Masters. The fact that he had
been a professional at the Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill
sparked my interest, but there was something more.
Everything about the 29-year-old bespoke a competence. He seemed as solid as
one of Augusta National’s loblolly pines, playing with a perfect combination
of determination, confidence, and poise.
“His posture,” said friend and fellow pro Kermit Zarley, “reminded me of a
Yancey wanted that Masters badly, so badly it turned out that he’d sculpted
clay likenesses of Augusta’s greens to help him learn their secrets.
He eventually finished third, but golf had a new and appealing star.
This week at Augusta there was considerable speculation about Tiger Woods.
Could the rusty superstar possibly end his deep and prolonged slump with a
surprise victory on golf’s grandest stage?
As astonishing as a fifth Masters Title would have been for Woods, it
wouldn’t compare to the two comebacks Bert Yancey managed.
A Florida native, Yancey was the captain of the golf team at West Point in
1960 when, along with Ohio State’s Jack Nicklaus, he was one of the college
game’s most promising talents.
But during his senior year at the military academy, he began having
difficulty sleeping and his behavior grew increasingly erratic.
Eventually, academy psychiatrists diagnosed a nervous breakdown , and he
was sent to the Valley Forge Military Hospital near Phoenixville. After nine
months, during which he’d undergone shock therapy, Yancey was discharged
from the hospital and the Army.
He returned home and resumed playing golf. In 1963, he came to this area to
visit a friend who was an assistant pro at Philadelphia Country Club. Not
long afterward, he got the job at Green Valley.
Yancey earned his Tour card and in 1966 won three tournaments — the Azalea
Open in North Carolina and the Memphis and Portland Opens. He was the best
putter in the game. In his Portland victory, he needed only 102 putts over
72 holes, a record-low total that stood for 11 years.
He would win seven tournaments in his PGA career and nearly $700,000. He
finished third again in the 1968 Masters, fourth a year later. In the 1968
U.S. Open, he set a 36-hole scoring record with a 135.
Yancey was by then a well-established and financially secure professional,
though occasionally there were troubling signs: He inexplicably dropped out
of the 1969 PGA despite making the cut, and he showed up late for the Sunday
round of a tournament he led.
He began the 1974 season by shooting a record 61 at the Bob Hope Classic.
But later that year, on an exhibition tour in Japan, his mental problems
According to Zarley, Yancey began ranting at a band in a Tokyo airport bar,
loudly warning the group about the danger of rock-and-roll. PGA Tour
commissioner Deane Beman flew to Japan, brought Yancey home, and had him
There was more bizarre behavior during a round with Tom Weiskopf at the 1975
Westchester Classic. Afterward, en route home, he climbed atop a roof at
LaGuardia Airport and, again according to Zarley, began preaching about the
evils of racial prejudice.
Another well-publicized breakdown took place in 1977, the year his marriage
Yancey then sought treatment at New York’s Payne-Whitney Institute.
Manic-depression was diagnosed and lithium was prescribed. The drug
eliminated the worst of his outbursts but caused his right hand to shake.
His tour career was over.
In 1984, doctors substituted Tegretol for the lithium. The tremors ceased,
and in 1987 he joined the Senior Tour. In his first event since 1976, Yancey
was able to joke about finishing in a tie for 52d.
“I’ve been in padded cells and straitjackets,” he said. “Believe me, this is
While playing in a 1989 senior’s event in Chester County, Yancey told The
Inquirer that he still had manic episodes, but that they were controllable.
“If I increase the medication and sleep well,” he said, “I’ve been able to
contain any mania. And my golf has continued to get better.”
In 1994, as he practiced before the start of the Franklin Quest Championship
in Park City, Utah, Yancey collapsed. A massive heart attack had killed him
Weiskopf, a close friend, vowed that he would win the Park City event for
Yancey. When he did, he had the organizers engrave both his and Yancey’s
names on the trophy.
For some reason, Yancey and his mental difficulties stuck with me. As a
sportswriter, I yearned to write a profile of the golfer, so seemingly
perfect and yet so flawed.
I never did. But before the 2014 Winter Olympics, I was in Park City to
interview some American athletes. During my stay, I remembered Yancey’s
death and set out to find Park Meadows Golf Club.
On that course’s practice range, near the site where the golfer collapsed,
was an enormous marble slab. Atop it, was this inscription: “Bert Yancey was
a tenacious champion with unusual courage, determination, wit and wisdom. As
a true professional, he exemplified persistence through hardship. He had an
undying passion for preserving the history and integrity of golf. His quest
for excellence remained remarkably intense and focused as he executed his
final shot from this area.”
Bert Yancey did find excellence in golf. What he never really discovered