His decade of intense golf education came full circle in 2020 when he heard that Pine Crest owners Chad and Karla Knutson were selling. It wasn’t a course he had played much growing up, but it was established with a steady business flow. The price wasn’t insurmountable thanks to a regional business fund, some creative financing and selling a few lifetime memberships. He hadn’t saved enough for the standard 10% down payment — but who would at 23?
Plus, entrepreneurship was in his blood. His dad, Mark, is an independent musician. His mom, Janet, is a longtime Chetek beauty salon owner. One grandfather was a farmer, and the other owned a meat market in Chetek. “Business ownership kind of runs in the family. I always wanted to be a farmer. This is kind of the closest thing to it without being a farmer,” Thompson said.
With rolling farmland surrounding Pine Crest, Thompson is right at home. At Big Fish, the crowd was vacationers and lake home owners. At Pine Crest, it’s residents from Dallas and nearby Prairie Farm, Ridgeland, Barron, Wheeler and Colfax, who want a quick, laid-back nine, a beer and a $7 shrimp or burger basket.
“There are a lot more Ram 1500 pickups than Cadillac Escalades in this parking lot. It’s definitely more down to earth and home style for me. I know a lot of people, and my parents know a lot of people from the area,” he said.
His parents are pitching in around the property to help him get started.
Third owner of course built on a farm
Pine Crest, par 36, 2,950 yards is on about 72 acres. It started in the 1970s as a homespun, three-hole family playground for Doris and Dale Severson on their farm, including a challenging par-3 with an old tree guarding the green. Their son, Mike, helped run and expand it to nine holes.
It was sold in 2010 to Chad and Karla Knutson. After Thompson finalized the purchase from the Knutsons, he drove out to the course. “I thought, ‘Wow, this place is actually mine.”
When he looked around, he saw lots of work and potential.
“A big thing now in the golf industry is the ability to go out and play nine. Time is the biggest constraint for golfers. These nine-hole courses, I think, are going to prosper. They cost less to play and take less time to play,” he said.
“It’s a nice course. There are some open holes and some woodsy holes,” he said, adding that he doesn’t plan major changes but wants to improve the overall condition and hole-to-hole consistency, especially with green speed.
He’s enjoyed getting outdoors instead of being in a clubhouse with a tee sheet all day. “The outside work has been fun,” he said.
UW-Stout’s golf enterprise management program prepares students for all aspects of golf operations. Thompson is realizing the value in courses he took for turf management, golf marketing, hospitality and business, for example.