Rosasco is the king of the golf business. Northwestern Golf, the company founded by Nat Rosasco I in 1929 and run by Nat II since his father died in 1961, has sold more golf clubs than any company, ever. More than Callaway. More than Cobra. More than Taylor Made. Heck, Northwestern has sold more clubs than all those outfits combined.
"I've never worried about making money. Never," says the gravelly voiced Rosasco II. "I don't really know how I've done it. We just always work hard, like my dad used to."
Nat Rosasco I arrived at Ellis Island in 1907 from Genoa, Italy, and eventually made his way to Chicago. He earned money running a grocery store until 1924 and then in 1926, at age 38, went to work in Wilson's club factory. In 1929, with his new knowledge of clubmaking and his life savings, he started Northwestern, naming it after a terra-cotta store in Chicago's Little Italy.
At first Rosasco built expensive clubs, but when nobody bought them, he did a quick about-face. Soon he was peddling the cheapest sticks possible, for about 75 cents apiece, and raking in sizable profits.
Nat II started working for Northwestern at age 15 in 1944, and he has remained faithful to his father's business philosophy. Northwestern sells only to mass merchants such as K Mart, Wal-Mart and Sears. These accounts haven't put Northwestern in the spotlight, but because of them the company churns out more than seven million clubs a year.
The company's profits, which have never been disclosed because Northwestern is privately owned, have also allowed Nat II his extravagant and philanthropic lifestyle.
At 65, Nat II is gearing up for one more charge before he hands the reins over to his son, Nat III. Five years ago Nat II started Pro Select, a company that sells clubs to pro shops. With Northwestern and Pro Select, Rosasco is far and away No. 1 in unit sales, and he hopes Pro Select will put him in the No. 1 spot in dollars, too.
"I love living," says Nat II, who last year had three operations to alleviate degenerative arthritis in his arms, neck and back. "And now that I'm healthy, I'm ready to roll."
Right to the top, that is.
A True Knockoff
Tired of seeing other companies make replicas of the Scottsdale Anser putter his father introduced in 1966 but stopped making when Karsten Manufacturing moved to Phoenix the next year, John Solheim decided to remake the club with the original mold last summer. The new Scottsdale Anser was offered to the touring professionals at the Northern Telecom Open in Tucson. The pro cost was $100—there were no freebies. Twenty-six players forked over the cash, including Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange, Payne Stewart, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Lee Janzen and Phil Mickelson, who bought a righthanded club because no lefties were available. Original Scottsdale Ansers are now worth up to $2,500.