Ron Agostini

Agostini on golf: Escalon course celebrates its 35th anniversary

Escalon Golf Course owner Tom Hagan

Escalon Golf Course, founded by former city mayor Tom Hagan, celebrates its 35th anniversary. He was interviewed on Monday, April 13, 2015, at Escalon, Calif. (By Ron Agostini, ragostini@modbee.com)
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Escalon Golf Course, founded by former city mayor Tom Hagan, celebrates its 35th anniversary. He was interviewed on Monday, April 13, 2015, at Escalon, Calif. (By Ron Agostini, ragostini@modbee.com)

E Tom Hagan turns 99 on June 7. He’s still on top of nearly everything that happens at Escalon Golf Course, including the equipment.

He points to the tractor, manned by course superintendent Mel Cox, mowing the nearby first fairway. Hagan knows that tractor well.

“First one we started with,” he said. “Works better than our newer one.”

Staying power counts at this pleasant nine-hole par 31 run by Hagan and his family. He switched his 31-acre property from agricultural land to golf 35 years ago, and Hagan is proud of his children, who treat it like an heirloom.

“They own the place,” he said. “I just stay out of the way.”

For the perfect definition of a family-run golf course, see Escalon. Since the death of his wife, Betty, on Christmas Day five years ago – they were wed for 65 years – Tom mostly has watched while his children tend to the course’s day-to-day chores:

▪ His son Frank who, like his father, became a veterinarian. “I’m the worker out here,” he said.

▪ Daughter Joan Prokes, the accountant.

▪ Daughter Lorie Macsenti, the clubhouse manager and, when needed, the short-order cook.

▪ Daughter Carol Adams, the secretary.

▪ Daughter Shirley Dornan, who lives in Pleasanton and, like the rest, is a co-owner.

Together, they honor the vision of the family patriarch, a former Escalon mayor and city councilman. As a recreational golfer at Dryden Park and Modesto Municipal four decades ago, Tom decided to bring golf closer to his hometown.

He wanted a playable and affordable course that people would enjoy. During his City Hall days, he received a leaflet titled, “How to Build a 9-Hole Executive Course.”

So began his second career, one that served a dual purpose – a business designed for the enjoyment and exercise of his community and surrounding area, and a hub for his family. The practice range opened in 1980 and the course four years later.

The flat-as-a-sidewalk course remains a comfortable walk and a decent test. The holes vary in length from 71 to 240 yards, and four of them are labeled par 4s, which means you stand a good chance of making an ego-soothing birdie. It’s also easy on the pocketbook – only $10 for nine holes.

A recent visit resulted in an introduction to DeLoyd Van Dyke, a 92-year-old local resident and World War II veteran who teed it up on the course’s opening day. Like many, he’s aced the 74-yard No. 2 and twice eagled the 240-yard seventh.

“It’s a good course for me,” he said.

Last year, the course recorded nearly 20,000 rounds, less than half from its best years. Like everywhere else in the golf business, Escalon has witnessed a stagnation or drop-off in rounds played.

That said, the property still serves as a community magnet. Escalon High School does its part. The golf team exchanges some gardening chores for practice time, and the shop class built new benches at the teeing areas.

Simply, the family continues its steady stream of tender loving care to the golf course, its second home.

To celebrate its 35th golf anniversary, the course is the host for a Hole-In-One Shootout, where contestants can qualify for a $50,000 hole in one. Qualifying, via a 125-yard shot, will be held at the golf course May 14 and 15 from 3:30 to 7 p.m. both days. The 10 players who hit it closest to the hole will tee it up May 17 at 2 p.m., when they’ll fire from 135 yards for the $50,000 ace.

Call 838-1277 for more information on the contest. And say hello to Tom Hagan, Escalon’s Mr. Golf.

Holes In One – Dan Morgan, Turlock, 140-yard 11th at Turlock CC, 5-hybrid ... Brandon Gordian, Atwater, 225-yard fourth at Rancho del Rey, Atwater, 3-wood ... Babe Silva, Gustine, 109-yard 12th at Stevinson Ranch, gap wedge ... Joe Holland, Ripon, 71-yard third at Escalon, sand wedge ... Keith Texeira, Manteca, 85-yard fourth at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 37-degree chipper.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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