The ‘other’ Toski still going strong at 84
By Russ Held, Springfield Union News, Springfield, MA, 2009
If he is known as Bob’s big brother or as the “other” Toski brother, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Tom Toski of Northampton shows no signs of slowing down as he nears the half-century mark as a golf professional.
“I’m 84 and I feel good,” Toski said. “I love teaching. Golf has been great to me and to my whole family.”
Toski is one of four Toski brothers of Haydenville. He was a younger sibling to late Jack and Ben Toski, and an older brother to Bob, who was a five-time PGA Tour event winner and a World Golf Teachers Hall inductee.
Tom Toski will return in coming days to Western Mass. Family Golf in Hadley, where he has been a teaching professional for the last eleven seasons.
“I just love it… I love helping people learn to play golf. They should enjoy the game,” Toski said. “I’ll be back there six days a week, eight hours a day.
“I’m lucky, I am healthy and do my best to stay active. A lot of people don’t believe I’m 84.”
Toski has been a member of the PGA of America for 50 years. He grew up at Northampton Country Club and started in the business there working two years as and assistant under brother Jack.
From there, he was hired as head pro at Wahconah CC in Dalton.
Some of Tom’s students include:
- Peter Falk, best know for his role as Columbo
- George Shultz, Secretary of State
- Hank Aaron, Major League baseball player
- Senator Warren Rudman, New Hampshire
- Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
“I’m very proud of where we took that golf course, from nine holes to 18… from no clubhouse to a clubhouse,” Toski said.
He moved on 11 years later to become the first head professional at Hickory Ridge CC in Amherst, where he stayed until 1984. His travels took him to Stratton (Vt.) Mountain Golf School for six years and then three seasons at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown.
“I’ve met so many great people… how else was someone like me going to have the chance to play golf with someone like George Schultz, the former Secretary of State,” Toski said. “I’ve has so many opportunities to play golf with people like that.
It has been 32 years since Toski was the guest of honor at the Western Mass. Tee Party, an honor he still considers one of his most cherished.
“I have always been so proud of that, to be considered by people to be one of the top pros in Western Mass.,” Toski said.
Toski said that on a good week he’ll be able to sneak in a couple of nine-hole rounds, but time is short. He once held hope of a playing career, but teaching ultimately became his passion.
“I was not that great of a player, but I could hold my own,” Toski said. “I was never as good as my brother Bobby. He thinks I could have been he said my swing was much better that his. But Bobby thinks much better on the golf course that I ever did. He knows so much.”
Toski said that highlights of his playing career included success at local PGA section events, a runner-up finish at the Utica open and a 30 he shot on the front nine at Wahconah.
“I shot a 30 and could have kept going for the course record, but I stopped to teach a lesson,” Toski said.
About Tom Toski
Tom Toski is a PGA Golf Professional – Voted one of the Top 50 Golf Instructors – Inducted into the Western Mass Golf Hall of Fame – Inducted into The PGA Half-Century Club, Oct. 1, 2010
“Tom was a very good athlete, played basketball, baseball,” Bob Toski said. “He had very good hand-eye coordination.
“He still plays, he had a chance to do something. He won the New England Junior Championship (at Ponkapoag GC) in Canton and he had a full scholarship to Florida State. But it didn’t work out, and that’s OK.”
Tom Toski recalls one trip south that helped turn his fortunes from playing to teaching.
“We left Northampton in 1947 with my brother Jack and drove South to play on tour, the PGA tour, at the Miami Open,” Tom said. “Our car broke down on the way there, and all that. And we were broke by the time we got to Florida. I ended up caddying for Bobby to save money. I decided it wasn’t for me, and he stayed with it.”
Bob Toski went on to win five times including the 1954 World Golf Championships.
“Teaching has been in our blood, in our famiy,” Bob Toski said. “I think we all teach in simplistic ways. Jack was the psychologist, Benny was very simple too. It is so important to teach fundamentals.”
The family’s name was once Algustoski, before Bob Toski officially shortened it to “Toski” to alleviate mispronunciation while on tour during the early 1950s.
Tom Toski said he was most proud of a collegiate tournament he founded with South Hadley’s Fan Gaudette, then a coach at the University of Massachusetts.
“We had the Toski Intercollegiate Invitational at Hickory Ridge, we had it for 26 or 27 years and we had guys like PGA Tour players Jerry Kelly, Tim Petrovic and Jim Hallet win it,” Tom Toski said.
Toski hasn’t always kicked around on the green fairways. His golf career was preceded by a two-year tour of duty in the U.S. Navy, on the U.S.S. Willmarth (DE-638)
“I spent two years in the South Pacific, we took on a couple of kamikazes… we saw a lot of action,” said Toski who also returned for two years of service on the U.S.S. Ellison (DDE-864) during the Korean War early in the 1950s. “We were part of the invasion of Okinawa… and we were 500 miles off the coast of Japan when they dropped the first (atomic) bomb,” he said.
Toski was married to wife Lucille for 53 years, before she passed away in March 2005. His one son, Tom Jr. also passed away in May 2009.