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Sports loving Duncan comes back home to Dayton Valley

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

The name Tom Duncan is synonymous with golf in Northern Nevada.

Duncan coached the University of Nevada golf team from 1994 to 2004 before retiring and going over to the business side of the sport after purchasing Wolf Run Golf Club in Reno from the university in 2003.

And, as many people know, he has strong ties to the Carson Valley area. He ran Eagle Valley, Dayton and Silver Oak courses for a combined 21 years before heading over to Wolf Run.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Duncan the new owner of DaytonValley Golf Club. “You couldn’t ask for a better amenity.”

Duncan is a throwback. He learned the golf business from the ground up, which has given him a better appreciation to the business side of the sport. It’s something he has instilled in his two children, T.J,, a former star player at Carson High School, and Millie. Both have worked at various times helping their dad out at whatever course he was working at.

“My first job was at Mira Vista Country Club,” Duncan said. “I washed clubs and picked the range. Then I went to Franklin Canyon and then to Boundary Oaks.”

T.J., who is director of operations at Dayton Valley, admitted that when he was 21 he didn’t think he would end up being on the business side of golf.

“When I was 20 or 21, I had a different view of what I was going to be doing,” the younger Duncan said. “I was way more confident in my game. I was planning on playing tournament golf more than working in the golf business. I would work summers (wherever my dad was). I enjoyed it.

“My first job was washing carts. My dad wanted me to work in every department. He said I needed to have an understanding of how everything works. People get sick and go on vacation. You need to know how to do things.”

The elder Duncan got his first head job at Eagle Valley in 1981.

“That was my first big break; my first head job,” Duncan said. “I learned that I didn’t know anything about the business. I learned the food and beverage side of the business. While I was there, Eagle Valley went from 18 to 36 holes.”

In 1991, Duncan moved over to Dayton Valley as director of golf where he learned a little bit about corporate golf.

Duncan moved over to Silver Oak in 2000 and stayed until 2002.

“It was an opportunity to go there and help design the course,” Duncan said. “I enjoyed that golf course. It was probably the most enjoyable job I ever had. It just didn’t work out.”

That led him to Wolf Run, which is where he spends the bulk of his time. After five years of running Wolf Run, he purchased the 9-hole Kiley Ranch in Sparks.

“Why Kiley?” Duncan said. “I ask myself that a lot. There was a real need for an inexperienced player to go and learn the game.

“When I took over the course, it was getting 30 or 40 players a day. Now, we get 110 a day out there. It’s a great place to work on your short game, and it’s a great place for families to play together.”

Family is important to Duncan. He’s been married for 38 years (Connie). He has a couple of grandchildren who make regular visits to Wolf Run to see him. Duncan’s eyes twinkle when he talks about their visits.

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Golf wasn’t something that Duncan spent a lot of time on growing up in Northern California.

Duncan attended Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, Calif. where he starred in three sports – football, basketball and baseball – and graduated in 1967. He was all-league in all three sports.

He played baseball well enough at Arizona State, but he stayed with the Sun Devils for less than a year and transferred to Nevada to play for the legendary Jackie Jensen.

Duncan played two years with current Wolf Pack coach Gary Powers, who remembers those times well.

“He was a catcher and he played third base, too,” Powers said. “He was really a good athlete; such a natural athlete. He was a really good hitter.”

The third year Duncan was on the team Powers had graduated and was a graduate assistant.

“That changed things a little bit,” Powers admitted. “We didn’t spend as much time together as we did when we both played.

“The thing about Tom and I, even though we don’t see each other as much (since he left the university as golf coach) if either of us needed help the other would be there. Not too many people can say that.”

Duncan has been in the radio booth at home games with play-by-play man Don Marchand at various times in the last five years. He’s also a season-ticket holder and sits courtside for all the Wolf Pack basketball games.

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Duncan admits that he doesn’t get out on the course much anymore. Most of his time is spent overseeing his three courses. He has high hopes for Dayton.

Duncan & Co. have started a weekly junior golf program. They also have slashed fees to $40 seven days a week. For July only, the twilight rate of $30 starts after 1 p.m.

It will take some time to get Dayton back on track and make it the first course people think about when they want to play a round of golf. It will take time, but Duncan has the experience and expertise to get the job done here with the help of a very talented staff.