Growing up, Rick Lyons and his siblings were always involved in sports around Butte. After winning seven state titles in four different sports over a span of 27 years, he's adding another honor to that list.
Lyons, along with nine other Butte standouts, will be recognized this weekend for their athletic accomplishments as they enter the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.
Lyons' sports journey began in 1972 as a member of Butte’s Little League baseball team. That year, the team was the first squad out of Butte to win the state championship.
"I remember we won state in Billings, and then we went to San Bernardino for the regionals," Lyons said. "We won a couple games and lost a couple games, but it was a team full of really good athletes."
As he moved on to high school, Lyons found success again at Butte Central.
His first prep state title came when the Maroons' basketball team won the Class A state championship in 1978, his senior season. Butte Central defeated Glendive in the championship game, 55-48. Lyons was named as an all-conference player after averaging 13.6 points per game.
Butte Central and Lyons' success continued into the golf season that spring. Even though Lyons golfed and played Legion Baseball at the same time, he helped lead the Maroons to the Class A state championship. Lyons placed third overall with a two-day score of 165.
After graduation, Lyons attended Carroll College for two years before he transferred to Montana Tech. He earned a degree in finance and became a certified public accountant in Butte.
One sport Lyons picked up after college was handball, a pastime his dad got him into. Handball is a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without it touching the ground twice. Lyons said handball was a popular sport in Butte back in the 1960s through the '70s.
Lyons won the B Division of the Montana State Handball tournament in 1989, but stopped playing after the win. He said the sport was too hard on his body, so he decided to pick up golf again.
“I always enjoyed golf, I just never really had time for it,” Lyons said. “I think at that time in my life, I had been out of college for a few years and I was able to get out and play more.”
In 1991, Lyons won his first golf title, the Montana State Mid-Amateur, at the Butte Country Club. It sparked his competitive drive, and Lyons found himself on the links whenever he had a spare moment. He won the Mid-Amateur again in ’97 in Helena, and won the Montana State Amateur title in 1999 at the Butte Country Club.
But after his ’99 crown, Lyons put away his clubs to spend more time with his daughter, who had been born in ’98.
“I was starting to have kids and my wife was kind of surprised I quit golfing like that,” Lyons said. “I said, ‘I never want to have any regrets of not being around the kids.’ I could have regrets of not ever winning anything again, but I wanted to hang out with the kids. That’s what I did.”
Now that his three children are older, golf has become a favorite family outing. Lyons said his family lives along the Butte Country Club course and they try to golf as often as they can. His youngest son has taken a particular liking to the sport, and takes lessons in Anaconda.
“I really don’t teach my youngest son the technical aspects of golf because I can’t teach golf,” he said. “Just because you can play, doesn’t mean you can teach it. …. I know I can help my son with how to play the game and manage the course. I didn’t listen to my dad, so I’m sure he doesn’t listen to me.”
Lyons has approached sports with a desire to win and an easygoing attitude. So when he was told he would be inducted into the Butte Sports Hall of Fame, he said it came as a surprise.
“I was shocked and honored at the same time,” he said. “I’ve had people ask me about (the Hall of Fame) but I was never too worried if I would get in. It’s like anything else with sports: if it’s meant to happen, it happens. You go out and play your game and see what happens.”
The Butte Sports Hall of Fame festivities kick off with the Green Jacket ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Butte Civic Center.