Two days after acquiring the 18-year-old club in Waco, Texas, new owner Tommy Tompkins already had the staff answering the phone with its original name. In addition to improvements for the golf course designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, Tompkins also plans to get a liquor license, redo the 19th Hole and grill, and aggressively promote memberships. “It’s amazing the number of people who want us to get the place back to where it was,” he says.
Tommy Tompkins closed November 23rd on the purchase of Twin Rivers Golf Club in Waco, Texas, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported, and has hit the ground running to reverse the club’s fortunes.
The first step in the new owner’s plans, the Tribune-Herald reported, involved restoring the 18-year-old club’s original name, Bear Ridge. The phone at the property was being answered that way two days after Tompkins, the semi-retired former owner of Tee’s Golf in Waco, had completed the purchase. And Tompkins also wasted no time expressing confidence that he can restore the club, which has a golf course designed by PGA Tour Professional Peter Jacobsen and architect Jim Hardy and served as the home course for Baylor University’s men’s and women’s teams before they relocated to an on-campus site, to its original glory.
“I had a member ask me, ‘What are you going to do first?’ ” Tompkins told the Tribune-Herald. “My reply was pretty simple: Everything. I will start at the front door and finish at the cup on the 18th green.
“I can’t do a lot to the course itself until spring, when the grass has a chance to grow,” Tompkins added. “But I can start a cleanup to get ready for spring, and I have. For example, all the cart paths are broken up. They weren’t put in right in the first place. There was no steel underneath the concrete. They will be torn out and rebuilt beginning December 1.”
Tompkins was just getting warmed up as he discussed more details about his plans, the Tribune-Herald reported.
“We’ve started redoing the grill and the 19th Hole,” he said. “The grill should open by mid-December. We’ve applied for a liquor license, which we should get the first week of March. We won’t have any trouble getting one. It’s just a matter of going through the process.
“We’re going to open the grill at 6:15 a.m. daily to serve breakfast and lunch,” he added. “The 19th Hole will be open from 10 to 10 every day. We expect it to become a social place.”
Tompkins said that he and others in the Twin Rivers subdivision that flanks the course had been discussing for months and even years what they could do to revive a community asset that was dying right before their eyes, the Tribune-Herald reported.
“Since selling Tee’s Golf, I’ve piddled around here and there, not doing anything that amounted to much of anything. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would own this place,” he said. “Everybody out here wanted somebody to buy it and work on it.”
Previous owner Bob Richards and his family have not commented on the sale, the Tribune-Herald reported. “Mr. Richards really wanted to do the right thing, but he didn’t have the means to do it,” Tompkins said. “He always talked about this being a PGA course. I wished he had realized it was when he bought it.”
After the property opened in 2001 as Bear Ridge Golf Course to anchor the upscale subdivision in the booming U.S. Highway 84 corridor between Waco and McGregor, Texas, the Tribune-Herald reported, Tompkins was among the subdivision’s first homeowners.
“Back in its heyday, as I understand, it had no more than 85 members, which may be a reflection of how it was run, in my opinion,” Tompkins said. “We have started a membership drive, and I hope to have 150 members by January 1 and 300 members by March 1.
“I’m getting a ton of positive feedback,” he added. “The town has opened up its hearts to us. It’s amazing the number of people who want us to get the place back to where it was.
“I think there are enough people just living in Twin Rivers to make the grill profitable,” Tompkins said. “I think the course has the best layout in Central Texas, but it seems as if there has never been a time when everything was right on it. I’ve been in retail forever, so operating the pro shop will not be a problem. What I don’t know I’ll ask about.”
Kenny Duron, who manages Waco’s municipal course, Cottonwood Creek, thinks Tompkins’ acquisition and repositioning of Twin Rivers could benefit the cause of golf citywide, the Tribune-Herald reported. “I’m hoping things get going in the right direction out there,” Duron said. “That would be a big positive for the golfing community, which has suffered and kind of been diminished the past few years.
“I’ve known Tommy very well for several years,” Duron added. “Tommy’s a businessman. He knows a lot of people around the Waco area. He knows the course needs a lot to be revitalized. I’ve not been out there in a couple of years. All I know is what people tell me. It needs a little TLC and a lot of capital to get where they want to go.”
Tompkins would not say how much he paid for the course, the Tribune-Herald reported, but said he has no investment group backing the acquisition. He said he and his wife agreed to “bite the bullet” and take on the challenge as a family, he said.
Wes Null, a neighbor of Tompkins’ at Twin Rivers and a Baylor University Education Professor, told the Tribune-Herald that a few homeowners had talked about pooling their resources and acquiring at least a partial interest in the course.
“Now Tommy has already bought it, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Null said. “I’ve not been a member of Twin Rivers for a couple of years, but I will become one of the first to join. I know others who feel the same way.
“There are people who would like to partner with Tommy on things, maybe step up to make phone calls or send e-mails,” Null added. “I know there was some landscaping work going on out there Saturday, and some cleaning of the pro shop and grill.”
Null, father of a 13-year-old son, added that he craves opportunities for youth golf.
“There are not as many people playing golf. We know that for a fact,” Duron told the Tribune-Herald. “The population of Waco is growing, but millennials, young people, don’t play golf. It’s too slow, takes too much time. That’s mirrored across the county. We have to figure out a way to grow the game.”
In 2005, the Tribune-Herald reported, Waco topped Golf Digest’s list of “golf cities” in Texas and placed 11th nationally, based on a formula that accounted for access to the game, weather, value and the quality of area courses.
“The golf environment as a whole is not thriving,” Duron said. “Greater Waco definitely has gotten bigger, but we have three fewer courses [after the closing of] James Connally, Western Oaks/Heather Run and Moody’s Greenbrier.
Still, Tompkins told the Tribune-Herald that he has “every confidence in the world” that he can turn the course around.
“I love to play the game,” he said. “I’ve played from coast to coast, Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii. Golfers know me, and I know what they like in a golf course: greens that roll, fairways with grass, and bunkers you can hit a ball out of. They want a place to call home—something they can be proud of.”