MUSCATINE, Iowa–As a high school student in Yankton, South Dakota, Tom “Taco” Hendricks liked playing golf, but baseball was his true passion. At the time, he did not realize his talent for golf or how the game would connect him to others and help him positively impact many lives. However, his skills attracted some notice, and he competed in the state golf tournament as a senior.
During his first year at Black Hills State College, the golf coach gave him a chance as a walk-on and encouraged him to take golf lessons with some of the experts who helped the college team. He did, and his golf career took off. He won the NAIA District Championship and qualified for the national championship as a junior. While home from college in the summer, he competed in the South Dakota Golf Association Match Play Championships, which he won twice. He also earned the South Dakota Golf Association Male Golfer of the Year in 1975. Closer to home, he won three Hillcrest Pro-Am Amateur Championships. A tournament he has returned to play in over the years, he most recently earned a Senior Amateur Championship.
After college, Hendricks moved to Hanibal, Missouri, to open a Taco John’s franchise. He ran the restaurant for a year and a half before selling it to a new franchisee and moving to Mesa, Arizona, at the behest of Taco John’s upper management. While there, he kept golfing, winning the Mesa Arizona City Championship in 1980.
A year and a half after arriving in Mesa, management urged Hendricks to move again to open a Taco John’s in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Hendricks had other plans. With the encouragement of another Taco John’s owner, Hendricks came to Muscatine to work as a partner with him and open a second location. Hendricks found the move serendipitous. “Every year, I am so thankful to be put in a community where people are so giving,” he reflected.
As Hendricks settled in Muscatine, he used his passion for golfing to help others. He started the Muscatine Charities Golf Funraiser to unite charities raising funds through golfing to bring in the most generous donations possible. Now in its 25th year, the event brings together more than 100 golfers to raise over $100,000 annually for approximately 30 non-profit organizations.
For over 20 years, Hendricks ran the Taco John’s Youth Golf Tournament at Geneva Golf and Country Club in Muscatine. It allowed small children to enjoy all the free tacos they wanted and older kids a space to improve their golf games. Hendricks has fond memories of seeing the little ones grow into some of the most successful golfers on the Muscatine High School team and beyond. “It’s just fun to watch these kids–there are just so many good players,” he reminisced.
Even with so much going on, Hendricks still found time to golf with his son. He takes special pride in the Iowa Father-Son Young Adult Division Championship they won in 2001. “There’s nothing better than winning a golf tournament with your kid,” he beamed.
A local legend in Muscatine, Hendricks recently received recognition in his home state, earning a spot in the South Dakota Golf Hall of Fame. Though taken aback, Hendricks felt honored by the award celebrating his love for golf and all the opportunities it has given him. “It was a total surprise for me,” he shared.