At Tokatee, the pro and his family found more than a job, they found a home.
BLUE RIVER — Head professional Dan King is “the face of Tokatee,” according to general manager Mark Giustina.
King has been that since taking over the Tokatee Golf Club pro shop in 1995 upon the retirement of Mickey Sullivan, who had been the head professional for 23 years.
In his 22nd year at Tokatee, could King, 56, have envisioned staying this long? In fact, that’s exactly what he did.
“When I first came here, I knew that Mickey had been here for 23 years, and yes, I wanted to break that record,” King said. “Year one, I thought that. Right away. It was perfect for what I was looking for as a father, to raise my kids. And my wife, who grew up on a farm, was not going to be opposed to living here.
“When I got here, every morning, I don’t care whether it was raining, or sun shining, or snowing, or a cool fall day, I felt like we were waking up on vacation. That we were on vacation every day.”
As it was with the Sullivans, the Kings involve the entire family in Tokatee. Wendy King runs the coffee shop, as well as taking turns in the pro shop, and orders merchandise.
“She is the motor that runs the engine around here,” Dan King said.
Son Casey, who played collegiately at Oregon State, competes in regional tournaments and works in the pro shop; daughters Ashley, now living in Anaheim, Calif., and Sydney, a junior at OSU, have also worked at the course.
A decision to follow his heart back to the game of golf, and a longtime friendship, led Dan King to Tokatee. He grew up in Richland, Wash., and golfed at Washington State but didn’t want the low pay and long hours of an assistant pro, so King worked in sales for a communications company for seven years. It was a decent income but involved a lot of travel, so when King’s boyhood friend, former Oregon State golfer Sean Arey, became head pro at Longview Country Club, the Kings dipped into savings and Dan took a pay cut to sign on for $1,000 a month gross as Arey’s assistant.
Three years later, in 1992, Arey became head professional at Trysting Tree in Corvallis — a course spearheaded by Tokatee founder Nat Giustina and donated to the OSU Foundation. King, by then a certified PGA professional, succeeded him at Longview. Three years later, with Sullivan retiring, Arey recommended King to Nat Giustina and his son Larry.
King had never been to Tokatee and drove from Longview with Wendy, then pregnant with Sydney, and Ashley, then 6, and Casey, 4.
“I’ll never forget it,” King said. “I pulled into the parking lot, and my kids immediately headed for the rocks” — huge boulders between the Tokatee pro shop and the No. 16 fairway, and its spectacular view of the Three Sisters.
“At that point, driving in, I’d seen holes 1, 2, 3, 4 and partially of 5. I had never played the course. I got up here and looked and said, ‘We don’t need to drive the course. I’m interested.’ Just like that. The rest is history, I guess. But that’s how I got here.”
(Originally published Eugene Register-Guard on June 21, 2016.)