When it comes to the business of golf, few have the knowledge, experience and passion of Lyle Edwards.
The native of Saskatoon, Sask., has headed one of the world’s top golf retailers, built one of Calgary’s finest layouts and survived a round of Pro-Am with the tempestuous John Daly.
Edwards resigned as president and CEO of troubled golf retailer Nevada Bob’s Canada in July, but he’s still going strong in the retail game after recently buying six of the debt-riddled company’s franchises, including the five Calgary stores.
He is operating the stores as the parent company goes through a restructuring phase while under the protection of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Edwards also is president and CEO of Cottonwood Golf & Country Club, the private club that opened near DeWinton in 1990.
|Mike Sturk, Business Edge|
|Lyle Edwards bought six of the Nevada Bob's franchises, five of them in Calgary.|
Here, Edwards talks about his life in golf.
1. What went wrong with Nevada Bob’s Canada?
“When Nevada Bob’s Pro Shops (in the U.S.) went into bankruptcy, we amalgamated the Canadian company with them (1999). A group from Texas owned 60 per cent of the company. We forged ahead operating a business plan that was clearly flawed. It didn’t have the capital required although the capital was consistently promised to us. I still maintain that had that capital been injected into the company when promised, the company would’ve been fine. The capital was promised every day. It was always coming tomorrow and tomorrow never came.”
2. If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
“Hindsight is 20-20. We probably never would have gotten involved in the amalgamation. It was very frustrating for me.”
3. When the company started selling its franchises, why did you buy the Calgary stores?
“I saw it as a good opportunity because the Calgary stores are good stores. I also own an 8,000-sq.-ft. store in downtown Toronto. Despite all the problems the company has had corporately, the guy on the street still recognizes Nevada Bob’s as a place where he can get good service and buy quality golf equipment.”
4. So where did your passion for golf come from?
“When I was a teenager growing up in Saskatoon, I golfed fairly regularly. That was in the days when it was not cool to golf as a kid. It’s very cool today. A group of us guys would pedal our bikes to the Pansy Nine with our clubs over our backs. It was a nine-hole course attached to the Saskatoon Golf & Country Club.”
5. Did you have a boyhood idol in golf?
“Arnold Palmer was big then so, as a kid, I used to pretend I was Arnold Palmer.”
6. Why is the game so big with today’s youth?
“When I was a kid, you didn’t see golf on TV. Now, you’ve got the Golf Channel. Also, there’s the emergence of people like Tiger Woods, who is a great ambassador of the game.”
7. How often do you play?
“It’s one of those strange things where you’re in the golf industry and you tend to find little time to golf.”
8. How’s your game?
“I’m probably a 13 handicap. One of these days, I’ll work at it and get it down.”
9. The shot of your life?
“The year that we opened Cottonwood, I got a two on a par 5 (an albatross). It was on the first hole, which is now the 10th. I’m still the only one that has done that on that hole. I had a great drive, then I hit a three-iron. I went up to the green and I assumed it was in the sandtrap next to the green. One of my partners, Bill Newis, who was the architect of the course, found my ball in the hole. If you say 40,000 rounds a year for 10 years on that hole, that’s about 400,000 rounds without anyone beating that. I’ve never had a hole-in-one, but this is rarer.”
10. How do you cope with a bad day on the course?
“Oh, I’m not serious enough about it. If I’m having a bad day on the course, I’m having a bad day. A bad day on the golf course is better than anything else I can think of.”
11. Who’s your favourite golfer today?
“Tiger Woods. He’s a classy guy and he’s done a lot for the game. Him and Mike Weir, the Canadian.”
12. Did you have a pleasant afternoon golfing with John Daly when you were teamed with him in the 1998 Vancouver Open Pro-Am?
“He was an unbelievably good guy. He was two or three under that day and I was in complete and utter shock at how he was totally under control. The press was all over us (Daly’s partners) about what it was like to play with John.”
13. So he wasn’t the same player you’ve watched on television?
“The guy that I spent four or five hours with that day was not the guy on TV. He was a gentleman, the perfect pro partner.”
14. Your favourite famous course?
“The greatest course I’ve played is Pebble Beach (California). It’s a fabulous, fabulous course and, with all the history there and the scenery, you’re in awe.”
15. Do you think the manufacturers will ever run out of new high-tech concepts for clubs?
“You keep saying: ‘How can they do it any differently?’ But they do. It’s game-improvement stuff. To the average Joe, it seems to make a difference.”
16. Your thoughts about the controversy over high-tech clubs that have been ruled illegal?
“I look at Callaway Golf and their ERC II (forged titanium driver) that is deemed to be illegal (by the U.S. Golf Association). But what great advertising for Callaway! Because it’s illegal, everybody feels like they have to go out and get one.”
17. Do you think too much fuss is being made over these clubs?
“Oh, I personally do. We sell them. We sell lots of them. It’s very expensive, but if I’m going out to play with my pals and I think this driver’s going to help me, I’m going to buy it.”
18. Do you expect technology and the Internet to make an impact in how golf courses operate in the future?
“Very much so. The program that EarlyRain has for tee-time booking will make a tremendous difference. That kind of thing is absolutely fabulous. They’ve also got a system with a smart card that keeps statistics like they keep on the tour.”
19. What do you see in your life’s crystal ball?
“It’s going to be golf. Of all the things I do, that’s what I enjoy. I’m looking at a lot of different golf opportunities.”
20. Are you looking at more golf-course development?
“Ultimately, we’ll look at building another 18 holes at Cottonwood. Our neighbours to the north are Rolling-Mix Management, the gravel company. We have had preliminary discussions about joint-venturing with them to build another 18 holes when the land becomes available.”
IN PROFILE: Lyle Edwards
* Born/Raised/Age: Saskatoon, Sask./Saskatoon, Edmonton/53.
* Title: president, chief executive officer, Cottonwood Golf & Country Club; president/owner, six Nevada Bob’s Canada franchises, including five Calgary stores.
* Family: Wife Patti, children Leanne, 22, Kyle, 25, Jeff 28.
* Education: University of Alberta, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Science.
* Idol: Arnold Palmer.
* Claim to fame: Edwards is the only golfer to have scored a two (albatross) at the par-five 10th hole at his own club, Cottonwood, in 1990 (it was then the first hole).
* Passions: Golf, old-timers’ hockey.
THE COMPANY: Cottonwood Golf & Country Club
* Brass: Lyle Edwards, president/CEO; Tiffany Gordon, general manager.
* Head pro: Tiffany Gordon.
* Location: Cottonwood, a private club that began play in 1990, is on the Bow River, south of the city limits off Dunbow Road.
* Web site: www.cottonwoodgc.com
* Address: Box 28, Site 2, RR #1 DeWinton TOL OXO.
* Phone/Fax: 938-7200, 938-7412.