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."
A TIGER-KILLER LOOKS FOR HELP IN THE U.S.
During the summer of 1995, Gordon Sherry was a celebrated
21-year-old Scottish amateur who was beating Tiger Woods
regularly, even getting into Woods's pocket for a 1 [pound] bet
for low finish at the Scottish Open. Now Sherry is a struggling
pro in Scottsdale, Ariz., trying to avoid becoming golf's
The 6'8", 230-pound Sherry won the '95 British Amateur, then a
month later dusted Woods at the Scottish Open, tying for fourth
while Woods was 49th. The next week Sherry was in contention in
the first two rounds of the British Open before finishing 40th,
28 spots better than Woods. Sherry ended the season by winning
both of his singles matches in Great Britain-Ireland's defeat of
the Woods-led U.S. team in the Walker Cup. Instead of joining
the European tour, Sherry returned to Stirling University and
earned a degree in biochemistry. He turned pro last May and was
expected to make headlines, but a string of bad luck ruined his
debut. He played in only 12 European events (his best finish was
39th at the Loch Lomond World Invitational) and pulled out of
six others because of a variety of ailments--including one of
the strangest ever to befall a power-forward-sized golf pro.
Sherry had to withdraw from the Scottish Open after an
overzealous fan head-butted him at a soccer game and gave him
By summer Sherry had mononucleosis but didn't know it and was
sleepwalking through tournaments when he should have been
resting. "There was a lot of pressure to play," says Sherry, who
won $19,302 and failed to regain his card at the European
qualifying school in December. "A lot of people wanted me to
play, and I wanted to. Thinking back, there were plenty of
tournaments I never should have entered."
To rejuvenate his career, Sherry is spending the winter in
Scottsdale, practicing at Desert Mountain Golf Club. Recently he
visited Titleist's plant in Carlsbad, Calif., and was fitted for
new clubs. Sherry had been using standard-length irons his whole
career. His new set has shafts that are an inch and a half
longer. "The difference is just incredible," he says.
As for his schedule, Sherry is exempt on the Challenge tour,
Europe's equivalent of the Nike tour. He's also trying to get
exemptions into tournaments on the Tour's West Coast swing.
Perhaps he should give his old pal Tiger a ring.
HOLE FROM HELL
Pro golfers are able to play in the rain, but a strong wind can
stop them cold, which is precisely what happened during the
first round of last week's MasterCard Championship, the
season-opening event on the Senior tour, featuring a field of
last year's winners.
When a storm packing 40-mph winds slammed Kailua-Kona, Hawaii,
last Friday, the normally docile 7,053-yard, par-72 course at
Hualalai resort was transformed into a monster. The hardest hole
was the 505-yard par-5 4th, which was played into the teeth of
the wind. Dale Douglass hit driver three times and was still
short of the green. He wound up making a 9. Jack Nicklaus and
Dave Stockton each made 8--without a penalty shot. Overall, the
25-man field played the hole in an even 6.00 strokes. "You
weren't sure what would happen," said Walter Morgan, who made a
7 at the 4th and finished with a career-high round of 86. "It
was a four- or five-club wind."
THE SHAG BAG
With the help of a different pro in each round, Atlanta Braves
pitchers Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz went 47 under
par as a team in the Hope and finished 12th of 128 entries, 12
shots behind winners Warren Ashmann, Steve Kauffman and Peter
Lewine.... Nike will unveil the Tiger Woods shoe and apparel
lines in September at the International PGA Merchandise Show in
Las Vegas.... Mark McNulty won the South African Masters, in
Durban, on Sunday for his third victory in his last four
tournaments. McNulty shot 276, 12 under par, to beat Adilson da
Silva of Brazil by four shots and Andy Bean, who finished in
last place, by 39.... By beating Karrie Webb on the first hole
of sudden death on Sunday in the LPGA's HealthSouth Classic in
Orlando, Michelle McGann ran her playoff record to 4-0.... After
making a triple-bogey 7 on the first hole of the final round of
the Hope, Andrew Magee reeled off six birdies, an eagle and a
par to shoot 31, five under par, on the front nine. He shot 35
on the back, and the 66 jumped him to 26th place.... Kelli
Kuehne expects to get an exemption and make her LPGA debut as a
pro at the Nabisco Dinah Shore in March.... Jack Nicklaus's 78
in the first round of the MasterCard Championship matched the
worst score in his Senior tour career. He has had two other 78s,
at the 1993 Ford Senior Players and the 1990 PGA Seniors. He
shot 72-68 on the weekend to finish 14th, nine shots behind the
winner, Hale Irwin.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Despite humble roots, Watts stepped up to become a big player in the golf industry. [Edwin Watts on ladder holding long golf club]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Once the toast of Scotland, Sherry hopes '97 is a vintage year. robert beck [Gordon Sherry golfing]
BOOM AND BUST
Phoenix native Billy Mayfair has never been a model of
consistency, but the last few seasons have been a roller-coaster
ride even by his standards. Mayfair set a single-season Tour
record in 1995 when he increased his earnings by $1.35 million.
Then in '96 he set another record, for the biggest decrease.
Here are the Tour's five biggest single-season declines.
Billy Mayfair $1,543,192 (1995)
$357,654 (1996) $1,185,538
Peter Jacobsen $1,075,057 (1995)
$127,197 (1996) $947,860
Nick Price $1,499,927 (1994)
$611,700 (1995) $888,227
Fuzzy Zoeller $1,016,805 (1994)
$170,706 (1995) $846,099
Mark McCumber $1,208,209 (1994)
$375,923 (1995) $832,286
Cost, in dollars, of a seven-night stay on the QEII, docked off
Sotogrande, Spain, during the Ryder Cup, including tickets and a
round at Valderamma.