Catch The Flying Tiger

African American interest in golf is growing rapidly, but how do we profit from the windfall?

creating a minimum of 1,200 items of clothing. When you’re a start-up, that’s a risk because there’s a danger of getting stuck with unsold inventory,” says Smith.
After locating shippers and manufacturers who were willing to work with him, Smith’s Gofu Wear had a modestly successful 1996 with sales of $ 15,000. He is projecting sales of $50,000 this year as he creates a Web site to expand his consumer base and looks for partnership opportunities with organizations like the PGA of America.

The NGF’s Beditz believes it is possible for small start-ups with limited overhead, like Gofu Wear, to make a small regional impact and turn a profit. “If you’re a small company looking to exploit a regional niche, then you’re probably doing pretty well,” he says. It’s the companies in the middle trying to bump heads against the Nikes and Titleists that are getting crunched because so much money needs to be spent on advertising and marketing.” He advises those looking to get into the golf industry to create ancillary products for the game. “You don’t break into the auto industry by building a car. You build a gasket. You create something that you can control a little better.”

That’s what Joe Louis Barrow did–sort of. He is president and COO of IZZO Systems Inc., a Lakewood, Colorado-based company that produces the IZZO Dual Strap. The white-owned company was founded in 1991 by T.J. Izzo and specializes in an ergonomically designed golf club carrying system. The dual strap allows golfers to carry a golf bag evenly over both shoulders, much like a backpack. Barrow says he became sold on the product after using it before joining the company.

“I’d been playing golf using a single strap and probably ended up taking five or six Tylenols because of the pain in my shoulder,” says Barrow, son of boxer doe Louis. “It didn’t take me long to realize there was potential for this product because it made sense,” he says.

By focusing on a unique peripheral device for the game, Barrow helped IZZO grow to revenues of approximately $3 million last year. After joining IZZO in 1992 as senior vice president of sales and marketing, he became president/COO in 1996. Barrow is now responsible for directing the company’s operations, domestically and internationally. Today, the company estimates some 300 professional caddies on the PGA, LPGA, Senior PGA and Nike Tours use the IZZO strap. IZZO has 5,000 accounts and 28 sales reps.

Barrow says joining the firm was the right move for him because IZZO recognized early that minorities were playing the game in greater numbers. “And as that trend grows, it will require golf companies like IZZO and others to recruit in a broader sense than they historically did,” he says.

Barriers to entry aside, Craig Bowen has managed to break into this exclusive industry. When he was named a sales representative with Titleist in 1995, it marked the first time an African American was given such an appointment with a major golf equipment company in the

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