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Golf Companies Gather Under One Roof

November 24, 1998

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) _ Except for the 900-square-foot putting green with water hazards, the 60 television monitors and aisles that look more like cart paths, the PGA Tour Stop would seem like any other department store.

It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s not.

Inside the two-story building that sits across from the World Golf Hall of Fame is an electronic leaderboard that gives up-to-minute results of tournaments halfway around the globe.

Three miniature replicas of famous golf holes are set in the tile and covered by a thick slab of glass on the ground floor, where clothing lines such as Liz Claiborne, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo have their own departments.

The Titleist department is on the second floor, complete with the bags of touring pros David Duval and Dottie Pepper _ hers has the picture of a chow stitched in gold. Across the way and out the patio door are five driving stations, where shoppers can try out equipment from Callaway, Taylor Made, Ping and other major manufacturers.

Any questions? Meet Kevin Perrigo, one of the employees. He can tell you the difference between graphite and steel, custom-fit you for clubs and then provide swing tips you can only get from a teaching pro _ because he is one.

Clearly, this is no ordinary department store.

``It’s like a PGA merchandise show that’s open for 365 days a year,″ said Perrigo, one of two Class A teaching pros on staff. ``Only here, you can actually buy things.″

That’s what the PGA Tour had in mind when it licensed W.C. Bradley Co. to run its first retail store, a 31,000-square-foot shrine to shopping in the World Golf Village.

``I’ve tried to describe it as the ultimate retail experience for golfers and non-golfers alike,″ said Chris Martin, executive vice president of W.C. Bradley. ``What we want to do is create an entertaining and educational environmental with the highest line of qualify products you could ever find under one roof.″

The Tour Stop brings together every major company that sells golf goods _ clothing, clubs, shoes, balls, books, furniture, paintings, video games, bags _ all under one very large roof.

The store at the World Golf Village is the flagship. Others are planned in either major markets (New York, Chicago) or golf markets (Las Vegas, Palm Springs).

``Most of the golf manufacturers are not retailers,″ said Leo McCullagh, vice president of retail licensing and consumer marketing for the PGA Tour. ``They didn’t want to have to operate this, so part of our mission was to find somebody who would operate for them and allow them a chance to do their branding.″

That goes for the PGA Tour, as well, which is on a brand-building mission. Retail is simply one more way to bring people into golf, whether through fashion or furniture, video games or paintings that come with authentic scorecards signed by a tournament champion.

``The more people we can touch and have associated with our sport, the more people we’re attracting to the game,″ McCullagh said.

For the most part, apparel can be found among the 18,000 square feet on the lower level. Ashworth, Cutter & Buck and Izod Club are divided into ``concept shops,″ where each has its own identity.

The most popular department belongs to FootJoy, which has a three-dimensional, computerized Laser Fitting System that can’t be found in any other store in the world.

``I think it’s worked out terrific,″ said Christine Kasper, public relations and advertising director for the Greg Norman Collection, which occupies 1,400 square feet and one of the prime corner locations in the Tour Stop.

``You would think with so many vendors it would look kind of choppy, but everyone is able to keep within their brand identity,″ she said. ``If it was just a shop and no one had any identity, it would just be a lot of stuff. This is laid out in a smart way.″

Upstairs is the equipment manufacturers. Titleist, Ping, Callaway and Taylor Made anchor the four corners, with Orlimar and Adams fairway metals, Cleveland wedges and Cobra among those with sections linking it all together.

``Golf has always been five to 10 years behind other products,″ said Steve Bostwick, the marketing product manager for Ping. ``It has finally reached where it should be in merchandising.″

Finding something to buy is not a problem; neither is finding something to do.

W.C. Bradley, a Georgia company that has been privately owned for 113 years, thinks customers must be not only educated on the goods available but also entertained.

``The whole idea was to get someone in there and to stay in our store for more than 15 minutes,″ Martin said. ``And to do that with a wide variety of shopping. We have the putting green, interactive areas where people can play the video games, the club demonstration area.″

The store has only been open 10 days, but Martin already has surveyed some shoppers from the minute they walked in the door to the minute they walked out _ two hours later.

``I think we’re accomplishing what we wanted,″ he said.

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