Golfcraft – The Ted Woolley Story

    EDWARD ROBERT (TED) WOOLLEY “From shop boy to owner”

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    Scottish Heritage

    The Woolley family can trace their roots in Scotland to the villages on the coast of the Firth of Forth. In the 1880’s Ted’s grandparents lived in Stirling where his grandfather Robert Woolley worked as a wine merchant. By 1890 the family had moved to Edinburgh. The family consisted of three sons: James, Ted’s father, Robert, and George. Grandfather Robert operated a hotel. During the late 1890’s James apprenticed as a club maker in the Gibson’s Golf Club factory in Kinghorn, Scotland.

    About 1901 James Woolley married Kezia Jane Cox in Warwickshire, England. The couple moved to Bakefield, Derbyshire so James could become the keeper of the green and the head professional for the local golf club. The couple had three children: Nelson Charles b 1901, Edward Robert b 1903, and Dorothy Hilda b 1910. Shortly after the birth of Dorothy, James died of an unknown cause. After a short stay with her parents in Birmingham, England Kezia moved the family to Kinghorn, Scotland. In 1966 Ted Woolley recounted how he became a club maker. “Because I was only twelve my mother while working as a housekeeper paid a monthly fee to the Gibson’s factory in Kinghorn, Scotland for me to have the privilege to sweep the floors. At age thirteen I could begin my apprenticeship like my father had done.”

    After completion of his apprenticeship as a club maker, young Edward “Ted” Woolley assumed the professional job at the newly opened Prestonfield GC in Edinburgh. Sometime in the next three years he met the famous Scottish professional Tommy Armour. This encounter changed his life forever. Armour encouraged the young Scot to immigrate to America. Every fledgling course in America desired a Scottish professional to operate their course. On June 25th, 1922 Ted boarded the SS Cameronia in Glasgow to begin a new life in New York. He joined the hundreds of young Scotsmen who arrived on Ellis Island, New York Island seeking a new prosperous life. Ted’s group comprised five additional  “golf club makers” who had trained with the leading Scottish club makers. The group included three club makers Ronald Auchterlonie, William Henry Brown, and David Anderson, from the St Andrews firms like Forgan, Stewart and Auchterlonie; Ted Woolley and Daniel Mann Grey from Gibson’s and Andrew Gray from Nichol in Leven. . Entries on the passenger logs indicated each club maker travelled to a specific destination to assume a golf professional position. Ted intended to work for the Westchester-Biltmore course in New York.

    Professional with an eye for marketing

    In 1927 sister Dorothy and mother Kezia arrived in a Kalamazoo, Michigan to live with Ted. At that time he served as the local professional/club maker at the local Maple Hills GC. During this posting he attracted the attention of the Graffis brothers who published the Golfdom Magazine, – a publication that served the business side of golf on a national level. In the March 1928 issue Herb singled out Ted Woolley for his sales skills in an article titled Pros who sell themselves and merchandise.

    Ted had just produced a small 6-page booklet titled “The Gateway to Opportunity” for his winter golf school. The booklet not only outlined the simple principles necessary to learn golf but also offered a discount to his members.

    “You your family and your friends are invited to visit my golf school at 128 E. Water St.

    The indoor golf instruction idea has been demonstrated to be basically sound; it certainly is the most practiced and convenient manner in which the average golfer can improve his or her game. Practice and instruction are the best ways to keep fit. My two nets and an interesting putting course will give you a lot of pleasure and add considerably to your golfing ability. Why not accept my invitation to make use of them this winter?

    To my members of the Maple Hills GC I am offering special rates, as it is my ambition to improve the playing average of my club. I want you to come to me school and have a workout.  There will also be educational and slow motion pictures of some of the leading golfers of the day. This will be free to my patrons. “

    Resided in San Diego from 1928 – 1933

    It is unclear why Ted moved to San Diego but it is likely the opportunity to construct his dream course attracted him. Charles C. Crouch, a San Diego attorney, basically gave Ted an unlimited budget to build a spectacular public golf course. Crouch described the endeavour to the San Diego Union as follows: “ From the looks of the bills coming in Woolley took me at my word. We are making this course not only perfect from the golfer’s standpoint, but are making its policy of operating different. San Diego wants to be the playground of America and it should be. As a contribution towards that end we are throwing this course open to everyone. You do not need top belong to anything to enjoy it. If you like golf pay a nominal fee and play, enjoy the clubhouse, make yourself at home.”

    Woolley described his dream course in the following terms. “ From the first hole to the last the golfer will enjoy one thrill after another. On the first hole the golfer starts by driving over a 100-yard lake. On number 3 the golfer must drive over a canyon of 155 yards. On the next hole all of San Diego is below, and to the west is the San Miguel Mountains; to the northeast are the tall towers of the Cholias Heights. Across every difficult ravine or canyon is a little Japanese bridge. I am proud of this course. Anyone who can play this course acceptably won’t be afraid to play any course. It is one of the few all – grass golf courses in California.”

    Created the golf division for the J.A. Dubow Company

    J.A.Dubow specialized principally in manufacturing every product for the baseball market. The company basically focused on the mid west hardware stores to sell their wide range of products. To promote their products Dubow signed many of the top major league baseball stars to lucrative contracts to use their gloves and bats.

    In the fall of 1932 Woolley returned to Chicago to investigate a new opportunity. Dubow hired him to establish a new golf division. This new challenge provided Ted with the opportunity to create a new golf division for them from scratch. Utilizing the knowledge he gained from his apprenticeship at the William Gibson factory Woolley now had total freedom to test his golf club making skills in the new golf division. Woolley designed the clubs manufactured in the Dubois plant. His success can be noted in the 1940 US census. Ted Woolley earned $5,000 per year, owned a $5,000 house, and managed 50 employees at the Dubow plant.

    Golfcraft began on Oct 10th, 1944

    After his success at Dubow Ted now sought the opportunity to operate his own golf club manufacturing company. In 1945 he purchased the Volkman Manufacturing Company’s golf division, the first crucial step to creating the Golfcraft Corporation. At the US patent office he applied for the use of the trademark “Golfcraft”. He stated he began using this trademark on October 10th, 1945. Over the next twenty years Ted utilized all his skills to expand Golfcraft to the point where the Wall Street Journal in 1966 declared Ted Woolley’s Golfcraft Corp. as the “largest golf club manufacturing company in the world.”

    To create this leader in the golf industry Woolley made several strategic moves along the journey.

    • In 1946 he hired Ralph Guldahl to endorse a new line of Guldahl clubs.
    • In 1948 he constructed the most modern golf club manufacturing plant built to date.
    • In 1948 he introduced TRU-GOOSE line of golf clubs designed by him.
    • In 1952 he relocated his operation Escondido CA.
    • In 1954 he introduced the new fibreglass golf shaft to the industry.
    • In 1955 he purchased the Frank Johnson Putter Company so Frank could become the putter guru of the PGA Tour.
    • In 1955 Gordon Southam the new owner of the Pro-Made Golf Company in Vancouver, British Columbia purchased the Canadian franchise rights to manufacture Golfcraft equipment in Vancouver BC.
    • In 1956 he enticed Scotty Richardson to head his quality control division and Bill Glasson became The Brain of product development.
    • In 1957 Golfcraft signed an agreement with the North American department store giant, Sears, to supply golf clubs to the Sears sporting goods section of their catalogue.
    • In 1959 Woolley required a marketer to expand Golfcraft to a new level in the golf industry so he enticed Mark Cox from the Wilson Golf Club Company to join his firm.
    • In 1962 & 1963 Golfcraft introduced their line of Fleetwood and Eldorado clubs.with the square toed woods.
    • In 1965 Golfcraft introduced the Continental line, their most successful model for irons and woods.
    • In 1964 Woolley turned to his roots to sign a contract with Pringle of Scotland to supply high quality clothing goods.
    • In 1965 Golfcraft purchased the Trenton Golf Bag Company in New Jersey.
    • In 1966 The Wall Street Journal names Golfcraft as the “largest golf club manufacturing company in the world”.
    • In 1968 after many years of prodding by several buyers Woolley agreed to sell his operation to the Achushnet Company.

    In fifty years Ted Woolley rose from the position of shop boy at the Gibson’s factory in Kinghorn, Scotland, the largest golf club manufacturing company in the world to the owner of Golfcraft, the largest golf club manufacturing company in the world.

    This synopsis is only meant to outline the key points in Ted Woolley’s incredible journey. The Golfcraft story and how Ted accomplished his feat is told in his biography that is being finalized now.

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