Another one bites the dust

November 8, 2013

The golf industry continues to show signs of struggling through the country’s tepid, alleged economic recovery.

The famous Edwin Watts Golf Shops filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Nov. 3, at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. The current owners, a private equity firm called Sun Capital Partners, are seeking a court-supervised auction of its assets by Dec. 6, according to press accounts.

PNC Bank is owed $50 million by the golf shops under a secured financing agreement. The press releases noted that the bank will also put up $38 million to keep the 90-store outfit running until the sale is completed.

For many boomer golfers, Edwin Watts was among the best-known chains of golf equipment stores. It also has had a strong web presence and featured a remarkably wide variety of golf-related items.

Edwin Watts began the store as a very young golf professional in the 1960s, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He sold the successful store chain, now in 15 states, to Wellspring Capital Management in 2003. That company sold the operation to Sun Capital in 2007. According to a northwest Florida newspaper, Watts would like to see about buying back the company that still bears his name.

The company’s press release noted a decline in the golf industry over the last five years. In addition to reduced consumer demand, the company also suggested that the year’s poor weather that plagued many parts of country also had an impact on its bottom line.

The Cape Region has already seen the effects of the downturn in the golf economy, especially in the storefront part of the business. The Golf Day outlet that did so well at the turn of the century eventually failed. A subsequent attempt to keep a golf store at the foot of Rehoboth Avenue also foundered. Ruddo’s Golf is the only golf-only store remaining in the Cape Region.

Golf movie, anyone?

The Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival is running this year from Nov. 6 through 10. Last year’s sales record of about 19,000 tickets may be surpassed, which would be a good thing, by the way.

With more than 100 movies on the schedule, this year’s festival should have plenty of enjoyable viewing options.

Unlike past years, however, none of this year’s crop includes movies with a golf-related theme. That’s not to say you couldn’t have your own golf movie festival with a big screen TV and a DVD player, if you were so inclined.

For example, "Keeping Mum" ran at the 2006 festival, and is available in DVD. Patrick Swayze plays a sleazy golf professional on the make with a preacher’s wife, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Rowan Atkinson, better known as Mr. Bean, is the preacher. This is a charming little comedy, if a bit on the dark side.

Here are some additional golf movie options, which I’ve noted in previous columns.

"The Caddy" (1953) - Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis took their comic shtick to the golf course, with Martin as a pro golfer and Lewis as his caddy. This movie will not help your golf game, but it might improve your singing. That’s because this is the film where Martin sings "That’s Amore," which earned an Oscar nomination. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson play themselves, and a very pretty, very young Donna Reed is in a supporting role.

"Caddyshack" (1980) - Following the Martin/Lewis tradition, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray tried their hand at a comedy centered around golf. The raunchy movie is now recognized as one of the best such movies of all time. Among other running gags, Murray plays a demented groundskeeper trying to eliminate an obviously fake groundhog, with eventually explosive results.

"Tin Cup" (1996) - The writer of "Bull Durham" switched sports, but kept Kevin Costner as the hero in this wry, funny movie about a golf pro at a down-market driving range. Rene Russo plays the love interest. Cheech Marin is a wise-cracking caddie who helps Costner when he somehow makes the finals of the U.S. Open.

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