One of a kind: It’s Tom’s place now

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In an era when “hybrid” is applied to anything not otherwise easy to classify, even when there’s no need to classify at all, this place is true to the word.

It’s not quite a golf course, and it’s not just a practice range. It’s Tom’s Golf Center, and if you’re like me and think “unique” should describe a hybrid, it’s that, too.

It’s on Yelm Highway, but not by address, and if you missed the sign and missed the turn, you might struggle to find 8000 72nd Lane S.E., Olympia, Washington.

Train station, turf farm, Van’s Drive-In, Spurgeon Creek Road … you’ll get there.

It’s got a history, this place, and it continues.

“I don’t think anybody would have taken it when I took it,” says Tom Staskus, who stepped in to assume the reins in late October 2011 when the previous owner hung up a sign announcing he was shutting it down.

Tom Staskus, lord of the manor at Tom's Golf Center

First order of business: Kill the rumor that the place was closing.

Second order of business: Survive the winter months.

“It’s been rough, but we got things going,” says Staskus, a 52-year-old PGA teaching pro, fine player, and now, entrepreneur.

For many years, the facility was owned by Kevin Bishop, a veteran local pro and coach of the Saint Martin’s University men’s golf team, and it went by the name PGA First Tee Golf Center. It will remain the Saints’ home practice site.

Bishop sold the business in early 2011 to Mike Givens, who then owned (and still does) Tacoma Firs Golf Center out near Cheney Stadium. Givens called it Olympia Golf Learning Center.

The facility was also for many years the home base for Joe Thiel’s International School of Golf. Thiel has recently relocated, which is enough said on that subject, except to say his time here and his more-or-less abrupt departure has a rightful place in the history of this patch of ground.

It’s Tom’s place now, and he’s already writing his own story.

Where once the facility had four live golf holes, the entire sprawling acreage had been converted by Bishop into practice areas for the long, intermediate and short games.

Staskus has reinstituted live golf, three holes worth, two par-4s and a par-3. He’s got plans for a Night Light Golf Tournament on the three-holer (no date set). A “horse race” tournament is in the plans, too.

He’s a car buff, and often drives a beauty of a 1946 DeSoto, with a shiny orange-red paint job that makes it one of the more recognizable rides in Thurston County.

He envisions having hot rod shows out there, and given the size and configuration of the place, and the access off Yelm Highway — a great road for a rod run — it seems like a grand idea.

But golf remains the game at Tom’s Golf Center … he’s open for business for lessons, range balls, and treks around the short course (six holes, five bucks).

“People are happy,” says Staskus, “that it’s being kept around.”