American Dream – How Edwin Watts turned a small pro shop into a golf equipment dynasty

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In 1968, Edwin Watts was a 23-year-old assistant professional at a municipal golf course in Fort Walton, Fla., when he was suddenly handed the head professional job. At the time, there wasn’t a great deal of golf in the region, located on the Florida Pan handle about half way between Tallahassee and Mobile, Ala. There were even fewer places to purchase golf equipment. So the young Watts decided to try and take the small pro shop that he inherited along with his new job to the next level. It worked. By the time Watts sold his company in 2003, it had grown to approximately 65 stores spread across the south eastern portion of the United States. Today, Edwin Watts Golf still bears its founder’s name, but it’s now an integral component of Worldwide Golf Shops, which purchased the chain in its largest acquisition to date in December, 2013. “Edwin thought something was missing in the area,” said Kerry Kabase, a Worldwide Golf Shops consultant who began working for Watts in 1978. “He wanted something that not only offered a good selection of clubs, but also apparel and shoes, basically a full service golf shop. that concept hadn’t really taken off yet.” Watts’ shop grew and he gradually came to the realization that a golf store didn’t have to be located on a actual golf course, but could be housed in a stand-alone building. He and his brother opened up another shop in Memphis, Tenn., and then “started picking off areas in the southeast, one at a time,” Kabase said. “It was a slow process because he wasn’t that financed, but when he had enough money to open, he did. And they turned out to be very successful.” By the time Watts sold the company to a private equity firm in 2003, it had grown to dozens of stores, Kabase said. Though Edwin Watts Golf is now part of Worldwide Golf Shops (it currently has 48 stores from Texas to Florida and as far north as Missouri) Kabase said it was a perfect marriage. And what of the man whose name is still affixed to the brand? He’s still around and still making a difference in golf. Kabase said that several years ago, a golf course in Watts’ community was about to be sold to a developer who was going to build on it. Watts got a group of friends together and decided to buy it. “They figured they would buy it themselves and keep the course in the neighborhood,” and Kabase of Shalimar Pointe Golf Club. “And it’s never been more successful.”

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DJ at chambers

Chambers Bay and Trains

It was actually very ironic that we saw trains crisscrossing the US Open venue on a regular basis. I’m just glad none of them took a cue from the players Sunday afternoon and derailed.

The first derailment came from Rory McIlroy. 6 under for the day and staring at a 4 footer for birdie on 14 to go -3 for the tournament. With the reachable par 4 16 coming up as well as the par 5 18th Rory was looking to post a -5 on the board and make the players behind try to match it. But he misses the 4 footer and bogeys 15 and 17 and ends up even for the tournament. GTY 478048542 S SPO GLF MAJ USG USA WA

Next comes Brendan Grace. Tied for the lead going to the reachable 16th he looks like he actually tried to hit one of the trains off the tee. His OB leads to a double bogey and his chances were gone. Jordan Speith is next. After a brilliant birdie putt on 16 to go 3 up on the field he butchers the par 3 17th and make a double bogey. He does get it back on the track with a clutch birdie on 18 to get it to -5.

But the biggest derailment is yet to come. Dustin Johnson seemed like a man among boys on Sunday.

Booming drives and seemingly hitting wedges into every par 4. His power game was in full display. It looked like he could have birdied almost every hole on the front side. But DJ has some bad memories in majors. The collapse at Pebble Beach, the wayward 2 iron at the Open Championship and of course the confusion at Whistling Straits.

He stepped to the tee at 17 on Sunday at -3 and realistically knew he had to play the last 2 holes 2 under to have a chance.

What follows are 3 of the best shots hit in the entire tournament. He hits it to 3 feet for birdie on 17, a hole no one could get close to all day. He follows that up with maybe the best tee shot ever hit in a US Open on 18. It enables him to hit a 5 iron into a 600 yard hole that lands 12 feet from the hole. I can’t remember anyone hitting 3 shots like that in a US Open with the tournament on the line. But DJ joins the derailment party and 3 putts and finishes second.

Two shots cover 600 yards but it takes 3 to go 12 feet. It just doesn’t seem fair. But the US Open usually isn’t.

Greg and Joe

What FOX and Tiger have in common….and where to go from here

Watching Tiger and FOX this weekend, I guess  “strange to watch” was the first thing that came to mind. “Painful at times” was the second.  And those phrases were a bit of understatements.

First, let’s talk FOX. These guys wanted in the golf game badly. 12 years at $100 million a year is the rumor of the going rate they paid the gents from Far Hills, NJ for the rights.

They’ve hired an all-star cast of announcers. Great announcers.

But, are they great golf announcers? Nope.  Not yet.

Joe Buck and the Hall of Famer, Greg Norman (photo courtesy Golfweek)

Joe Buck and the Hall of Famer, Greg Norman (photo courtesy Golfweek)

“There are no gimmies out here.” Really, How many times did we hear that one on Saturday and Sunday?

“I’m Joe Buck and this is the Hall of Famer, Greg Norman.” Ok, Joe, but do you have to say it every time the camera hits you two? Thanks for the intro, but I don’t think Jim Nantz does that every time the single time they cut to him. Once a day is fine, we know who you are.

“With that putt, Johnson’s lead goes to 3.” No it didn’t, it went to 2 shots!

And, Holly Sonders interviewing Kevin Kisner after Saturday’s round with multiple questions….all about Jason Day, then thanked him for stopping by. I would have fallen out if Kisner would have ended it with, “Don’t you want to ask me anything about my round?”

But, it wasn’t just the announcers (although Corey Pavin, Brad Faxon were good, as was Juli Inkster who was rarely heard and never to be seen). The PRODUCTION was like they’d never worked a major before.

Alright, they hadn’t.

Shots of golf balls were lost in flight, images on the screen freezing up, cutting to a player 35 seconds before he hit the shot, announcers being cut off in the middle of a sentence. I’m trying to imagine what the late, great Frank Chirkinian would have done to the trailer at CBS if this was on his watch. Probably something like that fire that broke out near the course.

The shot tracers and various yardage graphics were great, but come on, guys.

So, how does FOX get better covering majors? How does Tiger get better playing in majors?

More regular tournaments!

But, that’s not as easy as it sounds. FOX wanted in this game and the only nuggets up for bid were USGA tournaments. Remember, this is the same network that wanted in college football so badly, a market that was owned by the Worldwide Leader, CBS and NBC (Notre Dame) that it did the same thing that they did in golf. Bought the rights to just a few games.

Most all of the BCS Bowl Games including the Championship Game!

Beginning in 2006, FOX did all of the BCS games (Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls leaving the Rose to ABC) and the BCS Championship Games. The coverage for a network that did zero regular season games was about the same as a network that broadcast zero professional golf and then takes on our country’s National Championship.

FOX is like the millionaire parent of a kid that wanted to go to a summer camp, but couldn’t get in because it was full.  So the parent bought the camp.  Kid’s in, problem’s solved.

So back to golf, with NBC and CBS owning the PGA Tour for the most part, there are no other ways for FOX to improve by taking on a few regular tour events.

But, maybe the former world’s #1 could, if ego will allow it. Personally, I just don’t see Tiger teeing it up at the John Deere or the Greenbrier. However, red alert: you’re not in the WGC Bridgestone where you’ve won 8 times, and there’s already talk that your U.S. Open exemption as a past winner runs out in 2018. The 2019 U.S. Open is at Pebble Beach and there’s already talk that you’d have to qualify if you wanted to be a part of the party.

Humble yourself, TW. Play some more. No more swing overhauls, go back to Tiger 1.0, not some other version.

And to FOX, I wish we could say do some more tournaments, but other than the U.S. Senior Men’s and the Women’s U.S. Open, there won’t be many that anyone’s really watching and engaged. You guys live on the edge, that’s what made you FOX Sports.  However, PLEASE, look in the mirror and learn from your mistakes.

Just remember, “There are no gimmies out here.”

Ryan Moore

Ryan Moore – US Open Preview / PODCAST EXCLUSIVE

What would be better than watching someone lip out his tee shot on the par 4 10th at Riviera?Ryan

How about getting to talk with that man personally?

That man, Ryan Moore, joins us in this episode of GolfBetter.

Moore, a native of the Seattle/Tacoma area, gives us a preview of the 2015 US Open site, Chambers Bay, and suggests a few “must not miss spots” for visitors to hit while in the area.

He also talks about his time as a college golfer at UNLV, the state of his game and his relationship with TRUE Linkswear footwear.

You can listen to the interview on our WEBSITE, by subscribing free on iTunes or by clicking below.

Oh, and you can see that incredible shot at Riviera by clicking on the YouTube link below as well.


Hall of Fame Sportswriter Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins was right – at least regarding the Texas Swing

Being confined to a hospital bed for a few days will really get you thinking. And reminiscing.

Throw in watching the AT&T Byron Nelson on the small analog feed on the hospital TV and my memories went back to March 28, 1992, the night Duke’s Christian Laettner hit “The Shot” against Duke.

I was in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the time. Back then, The Players Championship was played in March.

After a day of watching golf, my host Ruffin Beckwith, asked me to accompany him to a reception at TPS Sawgrass and then to a friend’s dinner party.

“Is the friend hosting the dinner party anyone I’d know?” I asked.

“Dan Jenkins,” Ruffin replied.

Wow. I’d only read possibly everything that Jenkins ever wrote. This was a “bucket list” item before anyone ever thought of the term.

After arriving and being introduced, the main things I remember vividly from that night were:

  1. The Duke vs Kentucky game and everyone croweded around the biggest television I’d ever seen in a home and the place literally erupting when Laettner hit the shot.
  2. The guest list – Dan’s daughter SI writer Sally Jenkins, Rick Reilly, Jaime Diaz.  Holy crap, I’ve landed in sportswriter heaven!
  3. Dan’s office, more specifically, the manual typewriter on his desk, the keys covered in White Out/Liquid Paper from all of the corrections.
  4. Overhearing a conversation where Mr. Jenkins was resolved that the tour was too commercialized. “Too many damn sponsors with naming rights,” or something to that effect.The guest list. A who’s who of sports writers. Sally Jenkins, Jaime Diaz and Rick Reilly to name a few.

As we were driving out on our way to a party hosted by PGA Tour Productions (very much in their infancy stage), I couldn’t let Dan’s comments die. Ruffin and I talked at length about it, where the tour was and where it was going.

The days of the Andy Williams San Diego Open, the Bob Hope Desert Classic, etc. were all things in a distant memory or about to be. Jenkins thought not only was the commercialization too much, but the reverence that should be shown to those few who gave so much, should never be cheapened.

This man from Fort Worth was clearly talking about Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. And their tournaments, The Colonial and The Byron Nelson.

Back to my hospital bed watching the AT&T Byron Nelson, which is 1 of 2 tournaments sponsored by AT&T each season. Yes, the name Byron Nelson is there, but it’s a subtitle. His statue is shown a couple of times by CBS and Jim Nantz pays the best tributes that he can, but for an event where Byron put on for so long, it’s not enough.

And the week before at the Crown Plaza Invitational, the word Colonial (i.e. Hogan’s Alley) is a footnote.

I understand naming rights, sponsorships and the dollars that they generate. But, for these 2 greats of the game, and perhaps the greatest golf writer of all time, for crying out loud wouldn’t the sponsor maybe consider taking, not the back seat, but the passenger seat for these two events.

  • The Colonial presented by Crowne Plaza
  • The Byron Nelson Classic by AT&T

Memo to AT&T, you’re already the lead sponsor at The Crosby….uh, excuse me, the AT&T National Pro-Am.

Can’t Mr. Nelson have first billing on the event he created?

It wouldn’t be a first.

Arnold’s tournament is the Arnold Palmer Invitational by MasterCard.

Jack’s is the Memorial presented by Nationwide.

Even the “Tour Championship by Coca-Cola” the sponsor takes the second seat at the table, not the other way around.

Dan Jenkins was right in my mind. Well partially, at least for those 2 weeks each year in Texas.

Can’t we give Mr. Hogan and Lord Byron that bit of respect?