by Clifford Cowley
Occupation: PGA Head Golf Professional
Location: Maplewood Golf Course, Renton, Washington
Pro Status: PGA Member since 1992 Class A-1
Sometimes you run into people who come across less than genuine, right? When you meet them, your ‘Spidey Sense’ suggests they are going through the motions of being ‘nice’ in order to do their job. On the other hand, sometimes you run into people that exhibit a persona that tells you they are genuine, friendly, likable and honest. Mike Toll, Head Golf Professional at Maplewood Golf Course, in Renton, WA. is the latter. His demeanor is easy going, and when he talks to you, he talks to you. He listens, and interacts in a way that makes you feel comfortable–important. Individuals like him are difficult to come by in any industry.
Mike has worked in the golf industry all his life. He started golfing around eight. Both his parents were golfers, so naturally, he went along. Growing up, like any kid, he participated in sports, including baseball, soccer, and tennis. Basketball was his first love. He had a basketball in his hands, “at least eight hours a day,” he says. “My first goal in life was to play in the NBA. I could dribble and shoot equally with my left and my right by the time I was in sixth grade. I continued to play through high school,” he says, “but I didn’t grow, so that was out,” he laughs. “That’s when I decided that golf would be my main sport.”
Early on and during high school, Mike worked as a busboy at the Washington Athletic Club, in the bag room at Sahalee Country Club, and at Bellevue Municipal Golf Course Driving Range. “I’ve been working since I was thirteen years old,” says Mike proudly. Sadly, his father passed away the year he graduated from high school. Mike credits his mom as the one who taught him how to work at a job. “She’s semi-retired now,” says Mike, “but my mom instilled a very solid work ethic in me, and was a terrific role model for me in how to give good measure for my money and how to treat others. Working at the Athletic Club, Sahalee, and Bellevue provided him with valuable experience in learning how to deal with customers, and the value of public service. “Other than my mom, I owe a lot to the bosses I had when I was growing up. They taught me that getting to work on time, doing more than just my job, as well as providing quality service to the customer are key.” He credits Tag Merritt at Sahalee, Al Mundle, who was the head pro at Overlake Country Club, and Marty Raab, long-time head pro at Bellevue, as all having an influence on him early on.
After he graduated from high school, Raab moved Mike into the pro shop at Bellevue. “Marty was my first boss in the golf industry,” says Mike. “He was a stickler for etiquette, and a great golf teacher. I learned a lot from him. My bosses here at Maplewood, Randy Leifer, and currently, Kelly Beymer have also stressed the importance of high quality customer service. I’m lucky to have had some great mentors during my career.”
While working at Bellevue, Mike not only worked behind the counter, but he also worked on his game. “I got to a point where my game improved, and I decided to tee it up for money. My dream was the PGA Tour, but as I played, I quickly find out just how many good players there are!” While he was pursuing his dream of The Tour, he also pursued his PGA status. In 1985, he accepted a position at Mt. View Golf in North Bend, WA. and in August of 1992, he was elected to a Class A Membership. A year later, Mt. View closed to make way for houses. In 1995, Mike found his home at Maplewood Golf Course in Renton. In 2000, Maplewood asked him to be their head pro. “I really enjoy working at Maplewood,” says Mike. “Our golfers are the best. They are really what make my job fun. I enjoy coming to work every day and visiting with our regulars. I’ve been here 20 years, and have loved every minute of it.”
Mike likes to stick to the basics: grip, posture, alignment, ball position, and routine. “I also think that we should give more lessons on the course rather than the range. On-course lessons help my students get out of the mechanical phase and into course management. Thinking your way around a course is the key to scoring. Sometimes hitting a 3 wood is better than using a driver on a particular hole. It’s really about getting the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes.”
Mike has a simple approach to the business side of golf. He prefers to lead by example. “Excellent customer service is number one. Truly caring about providing an enjoyable experience for our customers makes them want to come back again. “My motto is ‘country club’ service at a ‘muni’ price.'”
Carry on, Mike.
What’s In Mike’s Bag?
- Driver, 3 and 5 Woods–Titleist 915
SW 52, 56, 60 Titleist Vokey
Putter Callaway White Hot
Titleist Pro V