Storied golf pro, WWII veteran Tom Toski dies at 97


Staff Writer

Published: 06-15-2023 10:58 AM

Tom Toski, a longtime fixture of the western Massachusetts golf scene who taught several famous clients how to play the game, died last month in Florida. He was 97.

Toski was born in 1925 to Walenty and Mary Algustoski, immigrants from Poland, and was one of nine children, including four other brothers. The family grew up in Haydenville, next to a golf course — which would set the stage for the family’s lifelong passion for the sport.

Toski, along with his brothers, was instrumental in the development and promotion of the sport in the Pioneer Valley area. His brother Bob was a pro golfer, joining the PGA tour from 1949 to 1957 and winning five tournaments, including the 1954 World Championship of Golf. His brother Jack was long affiliated with the Beaver Brook Golf Course in Williamsburg, and his brother Ben could be seen on the links at Forest Park Country Club in Adams.

For his part, Tom Toski had a long career as a pro at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Club in Amherst, and also was a longtime coach at the Western Mass Family Golf Center in Hadley, teaching at the center well into his 90s.

As a golf instructor, Toski had several famous clients whom he taught the sport to, including former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron.

Toski also held clinics so that anybody who lived in the area could get training from a PGA-level golfer.

“He was very, very genuine,” said Ed Twohig, another PGA instructor at the Hadley golf center. “He was outgoing, willing to help anybody, from a junior up the scale.”

Rick Hollrock, the owner of Western Mass Golf Center, agreed with the sentiment.

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“I’ve never seen anyone who loved to teach like he did,” Hollrock said.

But Toski’s accomplishments in life went far beyond golf. He was also a veteran of World War II, serving in the U.S. Navy as a sonarman from 1943 to 1946. He spent most of those years in the South Pacific, where he earned five battle stars. He would later serve his country during the Korean War, and he was honored for his service in Washington in 2018.

In an interview with the Gazette at the time, Toski said he still kept the yellowed and worn card in his wallet listing the battles that earned him his stars, including the invasion of Okinawa.

“It was a great experience for an 18-year-old kid,” he said at the time. “I learned a lot, met some nice guys.”

Hollrock recalled traveling with Toski to the USS Slater, a World War II-era destroyer on display in Albany, New York. Toski, already in his 90s, still managed to climb up to the bridge of the ship, where he would have been stationed.

“He looked at the equipment they had and he goes, ‘That’s not right,’” Hollrock recalled. “And then he started going through how it all worked. I’m sure he was one of the only men alive who knew how all that technology from so many years ago worked.”

Calling hours will be June 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Ahearn Funeral Home in Northampton followed by a funeral Mass on June 20 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Haydenville.