When Rogue Valley Country Club head pro Jim Wise retired at the end of 2011 it created both a void and opportunity in the pro shop.
Wise, like many club pros across the country, operated the shop as a separate retail entity but had no interest in continuing to mind the store.
"We had to make a decision over whether we wanted to own merchandise and deal with retail sales or go to an outside vendor," said Jim Norris, RVCC's general manager.
That led Norris to Golf Etc. owner Jim Zentgraf's door.
Zentgraf and his wife, Lorraine, opened Golf Etc. in McAndrews Marketplace five years ago. Business has been steady during rough economic times, but the country club offered a real growth opportunity.
"It's directly proportionate to the economy," Zentgraf said of the golf industry. "But a lot of businesses can say the same thing."
Zentgraf refers to the rented 1,300-square-foot pro shop operation as an extension of his existing business, rather than an expansion to two stores.
"The club employees who handle the tee-times and starts open and close the shop and they are paid a commission on sales," he said.
Norris, who has been in the industry for 20 years, said such an arrangement is fairly rare.
"In the southeast United States, the pro typically owns the merchandise and in the West, typically the club owns the merchandise.
Historically, club professionals have augmented their salary by operating the pro shop as a separate entity from country clubs.
"That way the club doesn't have to reduce payroll or invest in inventory and manage inventory," Norris said.
While the RVCC pro shop sports 60 percent apparel versus 40 percent irons, woods and putters, the McAndrews store leans heavily on clubs and other gear as well as repairs and fittings.
"I'd say we're 80 percent hard goods and 20 percent apparel," Zentgraf said. "There are needs at both places unique to the clientele. Apparel with the country club logos is proprietary to members and guests of the club."
Zentgraf nearly made a similar deal with Ashland's city-owned Oak Knoll Golf Course when a pro departed. Ultimately, he said, the parks and recreation department opted to not have a pro shop.
Whether it's supplying tee-prizes and other commemorative materials for tournaments, or handling golf fashions, the pro shop remains much the same, Norris said.
"To me," he said, "it's no different than when Jim Wise ran it, because he was an outside company."
Following RVCC's schedule and ordering supplies for tournaments are becoming second nature for Zentgraf.
"We'll stay the course here," he said. "We want to put our fingers on the pulse of the members and adjust our business accordingly. The upside to our business plan is considerable."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: The subhead on this story has been corrected since in appeared in print.