Originally created 04/09/04

No frills, just golf



L.D. Waters has developed real estate, owned a newspaper and even dabbled in city politics.

But the longtime Augusta resident is most known for owning the golf store that looks like a big metal shed.

"I'm a workaholic. I'm here 12 hours a day," said Mr. Waters, the owner of Bonaventure Discount Golf.

The no-frills store has become a regular stop not only for area golfers but also for professionals playing in the Masters Tournament.

During last year's Masters, tour professional Angel Cabrera bought close to 25 pairs of shoes, Mr. Waters said. And Vijay Singh is known to stop in each year with his son.

Mr. Waters moved to Augusta from Savannah in 1953 to work for a bank. Two years later, he and his brothers opened their first Bonaventure Discount Golf location in Savannah - one of the first of its kind.

Before 1955, most golf equipment was sold in golf course pro shops. The Waters brothers, who complemented the store with a driving range, proved there was a market for clubs sold at discount prices off the course.

The idea was so revolutionary that Bonaventure Discount Golf is the oldest off-course retailer of Wilson and Spalding equipment, Mr. Waters said.

While Mr. Waters' brothers developed the golf business, he came back to Augusta and for the next 25 years, worked off the course.

In 1965, he co-founded a weekly newspaper, the Martinez-Evans Times. The paper was bought by its main competitor, the Columbia News, in 1971.

The consolidated paper was purchased by The Augusta Chronicle in 1998 and is now the Columbia County News-Times.

"It was a headache," he said. "Between the two of us, we were fighting for the same advertising market and one of us had to go. I made an offer and they made an offer. Their offer was better so I sold."

Mr. Waters then took to the waterfront, serving on the Augusta Ports Authority from 1979 to 1984, part of which was spent as chairman.

During that time, he developed the Water's Edge condominium community along the Savannah River at the end of 15th Street. It was one of the first residential waterfront developments in the area.

But his wife, who was an avid golfer, brought him back to the sport he had given up in the mid-1970s.

"I've always been more of a businessman than a golfer," Mr. Waters said.

Kandy Waters persuaded her husband to bring a Bonaventure Golf store, which had grown under the command of his brothers, to Augusta. He agreed, and in 1979, the first Bonaventure store opened in Daniel Village.

Though the store started small, it grew quickly. Before long, Mr. Waters had three locations, in Augusta, Columbia County and Aiken. He consolidated all three stores in 1991 into the 10,000- square-foot warehouse the store occupies today.

Though the building is large, more than $2 million in merchandise, most notably the extensive selection of FootJoy golf shoes, makes it feel small and cramped.

"I've grown so much through the years. I'm as much as I can be," he said, referring to the store's crowded aisles.

Having professionals check out his store is exciting, but Mr. Waters takes more delight in watching how his sales compare to articles in golf magazines.

"You see a write-up in Golf Digest and suddenly sales go up."

The Nike Slingshot irons are the most recent example. He said he sold two sets of the clubs, which have a metal band fabricated across the back, in the first six months they were available. Once articles and advertisements hit the magazines, he started selling two sets a week.

And Mr. Waters is still in the real estate business. He recently bought 75 acres on Thurmond Lake in Lincoln County with plans to develop the lakefront property.

But golf fills his time. Though he still avoids playing, he can almost always be found fitting customers for irons or discussing the advantages of a graphite shaft over steel. A few years ago, he began the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic, a stop on the Hooters Pro Golf Tour. The annual event is now held at the Monticello Golf Club in McCormick, S.C., in late April.

Mr. Waters named the event for his late wife, who had managed the store and died in 1998.

"Going back to the 1960s, ladies didn't have but one day a week the course was open to them. She fought all the battles to get women on the golf courses; that's why I did the golf tournament," he said.

L.D. WATERS

BORN: Oct. 12, 1929

FAMILY: Late wife, Kandy, one daughter and one son

TITLE: Owner, Bonaventure Discount Golf

HISTORY: After a series of successful business ventures in Augusta, Mr. Waters and his brothers opened the first Bonaventure Discount Golf in Savannah in 1955. He and his wife opened the Augusta store in Daniel Village in 1979.

Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227

or james.gallagher@augustachronicle.com.



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