The clubcraft that started for Roy Tousley as a means to improve his own accuracy has blossomed into a way to give to others that goes far beyond mere business.
It began over a decade ago, as Tousley struggled to earn a Senior Tour card at PGA Qualifying School in Rio Rico, Ariz. An electrical engineer by trade and an on-and-off amateur golfer for much of his life, he had been encouraged by friends and family to take a shot at qualifying. Despite a rigorous, 10-12 hour-a-day practice schedule, he found that far too many of his long shots weren’t finding the fairway.
“A friend of mine knew the golf course down there very well,” he says, “and he gave me a heads-up about what they were going to do with it. I thought, ‘I’m going to be in the rough.’” The solution that occurred to him was to alter his clubs somehow.
“So I just ground the edges of them,” he continues. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but long story short, it worked very, very well and assisted me in doing that.”
As happens so often when people first encounter the benefits of custom club fitting, Tousley was impressed enough to want to learn more. The engineer in him was fascinated by the technical side of clubmaking, and soon he was on the path to his current career. “I got very serious about the equipment and what makes it work and why it works,” he says, “and started to study it from that point on.”
“For a good three or four years,” he continues, “I never built any clubs for anybody but friends, and then I got more and more involved with Golfsmith and took all their classes. I have been fortunate enough to learn under Bill Totten and John Mathieson, and if it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today, no question about it. I owe everything to the guys at Golfsmith. I consider them not just people I learn from or people in the business, but friends.”
The end results have been GCA Master Clubmaker certification, as well as state and regional Clubmaker of the Year honors. He is quick to point out that clubmaking is his passion, not just a way to earn a living. And that, he says, is the key to success in the industry.
“A passion and concern and care for the individual you work with,” he explains. “Never forgetting that each individual is unique. For me, it’s always trying to understand what that individual is trying to tell me, and I never want to assume that, though I may be pretty good at what I do, that I really know what’s best for them. I try to stay open. We need to be good listeners first, to try to understand what their needs are, and then we’re always going to be able to bring someone into this great game happier.”
Tousley credits the women in his life — wife Myrna, two daughters and seven granddaughters — with inspiring one of his favorite specialties and pet causes: making sure that female golfers aren’t underserved in the custom clubs market.
“We’ve been involved in women’s sports for many, many years,” he says, “and I’ve been kind of a pain in the rear end for Golfsmith at times, because I’m always on them to produce more product for the ladies, more flexible shafts and things like that. And they’ve been gracious enough to listen to me, for the most part.”
Alongside helping women, Tousley also gets satisfaction from working with other golfers who may otherwise not get to experience the full enjoyment of the game.
“John Mathieson has taken the time to help me understand physically challenged individuals better,” he says. “He has allowed me to understand that perspective better, and I’ve been privileged to work with some folks that don’t have all the faculties that you and I have at times, and it’s really been helpful. It never ceases to amaze me when I’m able to help someone.”
Physical limitations aren’t the only ones R&M Golfworks helps people overcome. “One of the goals,” he says, “that my wife and I have had over the years is to be able to provide golf clubs for those that may not be able to afford it. We’ll build clubs and donate them so that others can get started participating in this game when they might not otherwise be able to. That’s really our main goal in doing this, to make the business self-sufficient so that we can be able to continue to do that. The majority we do anonymously.”
The same desire to give caused him to take an instrumental role in presenting 26 Medal of Honor recipients with custom-made sets of clubs earlier this year (see this issue’s Chip Shots). Besides offering his skills as a clubmaker, Tousley used his abilities to inspire, organize and collaborate to see the project to completion, a process, he says, he felt honored to have a hand in.
“They really were like kids in a candy store,” he says. “It was just so, so incredible.”
In all, Roy Tousley’s clubmaking journey has benefited many more people than himself, in ways that he never would have imagined when it started 12 years ago. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s the exciting thing for me, is to be able to put a smile on somebody’s face. Especially somebody who’s played golf for a long time, and they say, ‘Wow, I’m excited now. I want to get back out, I can’t wait to hit my clubs.’”