Originally created 04/12/06

Season is open for golf retailers

The financial boon that the Masters Tournament brings to the Augusta economy every year doesn't end when the winner sinks the final putt. For golf stores, awarding of the green jacket is like waving a green flag, signalling a fast start to the sales season.

"It's definitely inspiration from the Masters," Augusta Custom Golf owner Steve Leoni says of the brisk sales he's seeing now.

"I always look at the Monday after Masters as the opening day of the season. Basically, when the tour hits the (Ford Championship at) Doral, I call that the preseason."

Mr. Leoni says when the pros hit the Augusta National, local golfers bring in their clubs for regripping and other work after a dormant winter stretch.

"They start looking at them (their clubs) and say, 'OK, it's time,'" he said.

Scott Vernon, co-owner of Aiken Golf Supply, said spring fever and Masters fever both play a part in the seasonal sales burst.

"It's both, but it's more the tournament," he said. "They want to see the newest and hottest equipment, and the newest balls."

April is a profitable month that area golf retailers say they can count on.

"Avid golfers are looking to see what's new for the season, and the new golfers are feeling the Masters excitement," said Pete Runyan, manager of Pro Golf Discount in Augusta.

"We have two months (April and December) every year that make up about 25 percent of our business. It's like two Christmases every year."

Mr. Runyan said sales of drivers manufactured by Callaway Golf, sponsor of 2006 Masters champion Phil Mickelson, are up at his store.

That hasn't been the case at Midland Valley Golf Club in Aiken, where assistant pro Tommy Carpenter says his golfers prefer Taylor Made and Nike products. But he does agree that the Augusta tournament inspires local golfers to revisit the links each spring.

"I think it perks everyone up for a while," he said Tuesday.

Reach J.C. Lexow at (706) 828-3904 or jc.lexow@augustachronicle.com.


Golf equipment is the second-biggest sporting goods seller behind exercise equipment. Below are the wholesale values for the 10 largest categories of equipment shipped by manufacturers in 2004, the date for which the latest figures are available.

Exercise equipment..........$3.94 billion

Golf equipment..........$2.50 billion

Firearms/hunting..........$2.03 billion

Camping..........$1.74 billion

Fishing..........$1.05 billion

Baseball/softball..........$489 million

Paintball..........$417 million

Basketball..........$383 million

Billiards..........$264 million

Soccer..........$252 million

Source: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 2005 Recreation Market Report


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