Always there to help you play a round

">Island golf is like a lot of other island features. Compact. Scenic. And full of interesting people.What keeps the island's two golf courses humming are the pros. They are administrators, teachers, friends and managers.What gives way, unfortunately, is their own golf game.My game takes a back seat to running the place, Meadowmeer pro Tom Mueller said.Here is a look at Bainbridge's three golf professionals:"

  • Wednesday, June 7, 2000 11:00am
  • Sports

“>Island golf is like a lot of other island features. Compact. Scenic. And full of interesting people.What keeps the island’s two golf courses humming are the pros. They are administrators, teachers, friends and managers.What gives way, unfortunately, is their own golf game.My game takes a back seat to running the place, Meadowmeer pro Tom Mueller said.Here is a look at Bainbridge’s three golf professionals:Dave TunkkariWing Point head professional Dave Tunkkari is the exception to the rule that the only way to really learn golf is to take it up at an early age.I played a little in high school, just hacking around, Tunkkari said.When he was going to college at Western Washington, he got a job at a driving range. And that’s when he got serious.I started hitting a lot of balls, and got pretty good at the game, he said.Good enough that when his boss at the driving range became the head professional at Bellingham CC, he took Tunkkari with him as an assistant, even though Tunkkari was still in college.When Tunkkari graduated from Western in 1993, he became the trailing spouse. His wife got a teaching job in Port Orchard, so Tunkkari had to look southward for a job, and ended up at Horseshoe Lake. After two years there, Tunkkari was hired as Wing Point’s assistant in March of 1996, then was promoted to the head job in October of that year.Tunkkari said he likes being at a private club because it’s a consistent group of people, and you can establish relationships with the members.The Wing Point course traces its origins to 1903, and the older front nine still has what Tunkkari calls an old-time feel to it. The second nine, built ten years ago, is a more modern target-style design, he said.The course is constantly improving, Tunkkari said. We built a new par five on the back nine. Then last year, we tore up and completely re-did the first two fairways to improve drainage.Tunkkari, 32, lives with wife Christy and two children in the Fort Ward area of Bainbridge Island.More than anything else, he enjoys the variety of his job, which includes administration, teaching, running tournaments, merchandising and club-repairing as well as playing.It’s important to be competent in all of those things, he said. Tom MuellerGoing into his tenth season at Meadowmeer, head professional Tom Mueller is the dean of island golf pros.The Ellensburg native stayed home for college, and played on a Central Washington University team that won two conference titles and went to two national championships.After two years as an assistant at Sandpoint CC in Seattle, he came to Meadowmeer in 1991, and took over as head pro in 1995.This course is a good place to start, Mueller said. It’s one of the best-conditioned nine-hole courses around. It’s not long, but you have to hone in on accuracy off the tee. A crooked tee shot adds two strokes to your score in a hurry.The course is semi-private – open to the public much of the time, but reserved for the 407 members and their families at other times.Membership is a bargain, according to Mueller.The membership fee is about $3,000, he said, and there are several memberships for sale. The real bargain is the monthly dues. For $55 a month and taxes, the member and their whole family can play unlimited golf.The members are active and organized, Mueller said.The men’s club has a tournament every Saturday, with 40 to 60 players. The men’s league on Thursday night has 70 to 80 players, and the women’s league on Wednesday has 30-50.Mueller said his job involves more administration than anything else.We don’t have a general manager here, he said, so I’m basically in charge of everything, working with the committees.Mueller said that the job’s rewards come from helping people learn the game.Teaching is my favorite thing, he said. It’s really rewarding to give somebody a lesson, then have them come back and say they’re playing great.Brad ThompsonMeadowmeer assistant pro Brad Thompson always dreamed of a career in golf. But his trip to the course was delayed in a grocery checkout line – for almost 20 years.I always loved golf, Thompson said. I slept with my golf clubs when I was 6 years old.The island native played on the Bainbridge High School golf team that won the state championship in 1976, then went east to Pullman, and played on the Washington State University golf team.Then reality got in the way of the dream. Thompson married, and left the university in 1981. So I came back to Bainbridge and went back into the family grocery business, he said. And thus began a career with Town and Country Market on Winslow Way, the store co-founded by Thompson’s grandfather, Ed Loverich.I did everything there, worked all the departments. But basically, I checked groceries there for 24 years, including the time I spent in high school, Thompson said.Thompson played recreational golf. he joined Meadowmeer, and established the lowest handicap at the club. But the golf dream wouldn’t die. And in 1999, Thompson finally decided to pursue my dreams.He applied for assistant pro jobs. And one was open right at home, at Meadowmeer.I had people skills and golf skills, Thompson said. So it was a matter of finding somebody who would take a chance.When Tom Mueller agreed to take Thompson on as an assistant, there was no hesitation. I was offered the job on the 14th of February, and I started on the 15th, he said.Thompson, 40, says he enjoys teaching more than anything else. I’m giving quite a few lessons, he said. Word of mouth seems to be bringing people my way who like the way I teach.”

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