Since 1995, Bill Yeend has been the face – and the voice – of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Hall of Fame banquet. Giving his time and talent over countless hours over many years, Bill’s love for the game, his enjoyment of people and of life, and his respect for the golf community has gently and gradually moved him to a central role in its history.
Born in Walla Walla, Wash., Bill started playing golf as a youth at Veterans Memorial Golf Course. His family moved to Spokane when he was in the eighth grade, and Bill played on the golf team at Lewis and Clark High School.
He then attended Eastern Washington University in Cheney, and played on the men’s golf team there as well.
Similar to Michael Jordan being cut from the high school basketball team before going on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, Yeend flunked out of the radio and television program at the university, settling on a degree in speech communications.
Yeend’s first job out of college was as a disc jockey on KBBX Radio in Seattle. He never looked back, going on to anchor the news on KIRO and KOMO radio, and becoming arguably the Northwest’s most recognized voice during a 44-year career spent on the air. He would win five Edward R. Murrow awards for journalistic excellence.
And he didn’t limit his broadcasting talents to radio.
His local Emmy award-winning television show, “The Golf Show,” ran for eight years, as did his “Golf Tour Northwest.” For years, he was anchor on KIRO-TV’s broadcasts of the Champions Tour’s GTE Northwest Classic and the LPGA Tour’s Safeco Classic.
In 2006 Bill received the Distinguished Service Award from the Northwest Golf Media Association.
His news reporting skills took him on assignments all over the world, but he never had any professional ambitions to leave the Northwest.
“I had job offers in bigger cities,” he recalls. “But I’d seen some of my colleagues go after the bright lights of larger markets and not have much success, so I was happy to stay in Seattle and raise my family here.”
He and his wife Cammy were married during their senior year of college. They would have two sons, twins Mark and David, and eventually five grandchildren.
Throughout his successful on-air career, Bill continued his love of playing golf, always maintaining a single-digit handicap, and winning two club championships at Bear Creek Country Club in Woodinville, Wash.
He would volunteer his time and name (and voice) recognition to numerous golf and charitable events throughout the region.
It was in the mid-1990s when Bill was contacted by John Bodenhamer, who at the time was the executive director of the PNGA. He asked Bill to be the host of the 1995 PNGA Hall of Fame induction banquet.
“I think he reached out to me because of the golf television shows I had done,” Bill says. “He knew that I loved the game. I said yes without any hesitation. I remember being thrilled at the time for being asked. And I was thrilled every year they asked me to do it after that first time.”
Over the years, Bill’s name and voice became synonymous with the PNGA Hall of Fame banquet, as he would serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the biennial ceremony a total of 13 times, from 1995 to 2022.
He also provided the voiceovers for the numerous video tributes created for the inductees shown at each ceremony. He personally contacted each inductee to interview them prior to the banquets, and would then serve as host and emcee during the banquets, interviewing the inductees on the stage for the audience.
“Serving as the Master of Ceremonies of the banquets was absolutely the highlight of my personal golfing life,” he says. “I was so honored to be involved with the PNGA and such a great institution as the Hall of Fame, and to become part of the ceremony for all those great players, and all those great people. It was a real treat to be part of it all. A really wonderful experience.”
Among the banquets at which Bill served as emcee was the PNGA Centennial Gala in 1999. Held at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle, it was a black-tie fully-choregraphed affair, with the region’s golf community packing the venue, and the local golf glitterati all showing up, including PGA TOUR players Fred Couples and Peter Jacobsen.
“That was a momentous event,” Bill said. “The place was electric. Freddie and Jake were great, and gracious. Everyone remembers that evening. It was a great day for our golf community.”
Bill retired from radio in 2012. When his wife passed in January 2018, he began to reconnect with his roots. The following year he met up with an old friend, Sheri Ellis, who still lived in Spokane.
“She was my girlfriend in high school,” Bill says. “She played on the girls’ golf team, and I played on the boys’ team.” Sheri would also play on the women’s golf team at the University of Washington.
In late 2019, Bill and Sheri married, and he returned to Spokane permanently.
“It has really been a full-circle journey for me,” he says. “Re-connecting with Sheri has been wonderful, and these days I play most of my golf at Indian Canyon Golf Course, which was the home course for my high school and college teams.”
And it has been a full-circle journey for the region’s golf community as well, having Bill provide us with a voice on which to create memories