In Memoriam: Bob Yttri

Bob Yttri liked to say, “I don’t have customers, I have friends.”

Last week, Yttri’s friends mourned the loss of the local legend who turned The Red Putter mini golf course in Ephraim into a staple of Door County summers.

Yttri died Thursday, April 6, at age 79, and hundreds poured memories of his kindness, generosity, and humor onto Facebook.

“We knew he was loved, but still, the outpouring of support from so many people has been really overwhelming to see,” said his daughter Tracy Yttri Opper, who will take over the golf course with her husband Chris. “He always had a smile for everybody, and encouraged people to have fun and embrace their childlike side, and with all the hard stuff people deal with, they really responded to that.”

Earl Jones, one of Yttri’s longtime friends, said the business was never about making money.

“To Bob, it was always about making the public feel welcome in Door County,” Jones said, noting that Yttri would give away hundreds of cards for free rounds each month. “He loved seeing people happy on his course, especially families.”

Yttri built a playground in the field next to the course and invited families to picnic there anytime.

“He said his favorite thing was to watch kids playing on his playground, and families doing things together there,” Jones said.

Yttri and his trademark black bowler hat were omnipresent behind the counter at the Red Putter. Though it seemed he’d been there forever, the mini golf business came to him later in life. Yttri was born July 7, 1937, and served in the U.S. Army from 1960 – 1962 before moving to Door County. Once here he married Beverly M. Howell on April 25, 1972. He worked as a bartender, property manager, and several other jobs before deciding to buy the Red Putter from its founder, Clyde Logerquist, as his family played a round in 1992, taking over on Jan. 1, 1993.

Yttri was known to open early and stay late, sometimes into the early hours of the morning, and he gave out bumper stickers to those who played through the rain. He was a devoted fan of the Sister Bay Bays County League baseball team, which made a tradition of celebrating Sundays – win or lose – with a team round at the place regulars refer to simply as “the Putter.” Yttri always had a prize for the Bays’ best round, and a “boobie prize” for the worst – a huge can of prune juice, clam juice, or kraut juice – which the loser was obligated to down on site.

In 2002 he started The Red Putter Pro Tournament, which grew into the one of the largest mini golf tournaments in the country.

Yttri and the Red Putter were so adored that the seemingly simple putt putt course came to be about much more than mini golf. It had a role in four films and hosted six weddings, including that of his daughter Tracy Yttri Opper.

And while it was the course that introduced so many to Yttri, it was his many simple kindnesses that his friends remember most. A free round for a family that didn’t have cash on them, a candy bar for a great score, pizza for the gang.

And, of course, a smile for everyone.

A celebration of the life of Bob Yttri will be held May 20 at the Red Putter Mini Golf in Ephraim.



Robert (Bob) O. Yttri died peacefully on Thursday, April 6, 2017, accompanied by family, after a short illness. He was the son of Carl and Vera Yttri and was born on July 7, 1937 in Viroqua, Wis. He served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1962, and was stationed in Germany during part of his active duty. Following that, he worked in Beloit as a machinist, while living in Roscoe, Ill. He moved to Door County and married Beverly M. Howell on April 25, 1972.

For the first 20 years in the county, he worked for various local employers including, the Maxwelton Braes Lodge, the Friedman family, the Frontier Tavern, the Peninsula Pub, and Hidden Harbor Condominiums, as well selling real estate and running a small business. He was also an active member in the Lions Club, Ducks Unlimited, and a local investment club.

Bob is fondly and widely known as owner and friendly host of the Red Putter Mini Golf in Ephraim, which he purchased in 1992. During the 24 years he ran the Putter, Bob shared his sense of humor, generosity, kindness, and love of fun with customers of all ages who stopped by for a game and a friendly visit. He always said that he didn’t have customers, he had friends, and he took great joy from those relationships. He loved road trips, time with family, and was a dedicated fan of the Sister Bay Bays baseball team.

Survived by daughters Tracy (Chris) Opper of Fish Creek, Pamela (Ralph) Prescott and Jean (Steve) VanBuren, both of Roscoe, IL, Paula (Miguel Valladares) Sprague of Charlottesville, VA, and Julie (John) Grove of Big Piney, WY; much-adored grandchildren Bobby Opper, Carolyn and Natalie Prescott; and nieces and nephews. Predeceased by parents; his stepfather William ‘Mac’ McCormick; brother, Carl ‘Bud’ Yttri; and loving wife, Bev.

A private memorial is being held for family. A celebration of life will be held May 20 at the Red Putter. Details to follow.

Family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made to the family to help support one of Bob’s most cherished projects – Bobby’s Playground.

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