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All Hail the King of Clubs
He is tall, lean and has a presence that dominates a room, even when it's packed with club pros, as will be the case at this week's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Most equipment buyers there will be trying to figure out what's hot by scouring the booths of companies like Callaway, Karsten, Spalding, Taylor Made and Titleist. Those in the know will simply ask Edwin Watts, one of the most powerful men in golf.
Watts, 51, is president and co-owner of Edwin Watts Golf Shops, the biggest retail empire in the game, which last year had more than $110 million in sales from its 37 stores and its mail-order business. Watts wields so much influence that the success of a club (or a company) can hinge on how much display—if any—he gives it. That's why the manufacturers' honchos treat Watts like a king. "He and his company make and break people in this business," says Mike Magerman, president of Armour Golf. "He's royalty and is treated as such."
It wasn't always that way. Watts and his brothers, Ronnie and Wayne, who today help Edwin run the company, grew up in a two-room shack in Niceville, Fla. The brothers picked cotton and sold watermelons and newspapers to supplement the incomes of their mother, Hazel, who was a maid, and their late father, Dewey, a farmhand. "Growing up, we were classified as poor," says Edwin, "but really we were rich. Our parents taught us how to love and how to work hard."
The boys got into golf by caddying and retrieving balls from a lake at an Air Force course and selling them back to the club pro. After high school Edwin became an assistant pro at a municipal course in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and at 23 was promoted to head pro. With Ronnie, Wayne and Ken Cook, Watts ran a small pro shop at the course. In 1975, after they put an ad in the Wall Street Journal offering to sell Titleist irons through the mail, they sold 600 sets in two weeks. Thus they created golf's first mail-order business.
Because Watts's orders are so big, equipment executives show him their products weeks before others see them in Orlando. If Watts doesn't like something, he says so. A few years ago Taylor Made showed him its new Burner Bubble metal woods, which were painted gray. Watts cringed. "Gray was never going to sell," he says. "I thought copper might, and I told them to change, which fortunately they did." You know the rest of that story.
Magic and Woods Hoop It Up at Costner Party
During his weeks off from the Tour, Tiger Woods usually likes to relax with friends and keep a low profile. But not last week. Instead of playing in the Hope, Woods hung out in Hollywood and last Friday played in a private basketball game at the Great Western Forum against Magic Johnson's All-Stars.
The occasion was a birthday party for Kevin Costner, who will be Woods's partner in next week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Woods and about 20 other guests divided into several teams that rotated in and out of a full-court game against Magic's squad, which included former Golden State Warrior Lester Conner. When asked if he ever guarded Johnson, one of his childhood heroes, Woods said, "We played zone." Asked who won, he admitted, "We got killed, but it was a thrill. It was amazing to see how good Magic still is. He mostly bombed in a bunch of three-pointers, but a couple of times he exploded to the hoop just like when he was with the Lakers."
Although he loves basketball, Woods never played competitively. He said the opportunity to go up against Magic was worth the risk of injury. "I know I was taking a chance, but it was just so much fun," said Woods, who played about a quarter. "It just doesn't get any better than that."