Saturday, February 24, 2007

The club maker

My first job was a paperboy.

Delivering The Canton Repository newspaper on bicycle throughout our rural neighborhood of about 60 families was a big deal for me because I was making money for the first time.
It was also great for my parents as it kept me out of trouble.
After enduring the winter of '75, which involved slogging through four feet of snow at times, I realized early-on that I needed a goal to provide me the motivation to wake up at 5 am on Sundays so I could finish my deliveries earn the Holy Grail of paperboy-dom: the Christmas bonus collection.

That is how I got into golf. The money I made in bonuses that year paid for my first set of golf clubs

I bought them at Ofer's.

John Ofer was one of the original club makers of our time. He started as a cabinetmaker, and to make ends meet, worked a second job at a local steel company. It was the this culmination of jobs in the late 50's that he started building golf clubs as a hobby. This hobby eventually took over as his main line of work, and in the 60's he opened a little shop tucked in between an apple orchard and the 4 lane interstate in my hometown.

Crack-resistant woods were his specialty...he made them from the popular persimmon...but also apple, pear and other hardwood species. As his fame grew, his club selection grew, creating Swing-Fit irons to add to his portfolio.

The Firestone World Series of Golf was the tournament in my hometown, and every year there was always a story in the paper of a PGA Tour player making the trek to his little shop to buy his coveted clubs. Golfers like Ken Venturi, Hale Irwin, and Isao Aoki it seemed, were always quoted in the newspaper I delivered (before I started my route I would sneak-off to read the Sports section...I wanted to be the first to know what was going on in the world of sports so I could tell my customers if they happened to meet me at the door).

So I was saddened to read the Business section of The Repository mailed to me by an alert-reader (thanks Dad!) about the closing of Ofers' golf shop. After 46 years...forced by age...he decided to flip over the "Closed for the day" sign, one last time.

John Ofer was inducted into the Professional Clubmakers' Society Hall of Fame in Louisville Kentucky in 1995.

For me it's bittersweet, as once again, I see my hometown lose another landmark of my childhood.

Thank for reading. Keep it in the short-grass,



Anonymous said...

How are you, My name is Andy Cook. I was reading your blog when I ran across this and found it ironic. My dad (Bill Cook) worked for Ofer's for 23 years making these clubs and its so cool to hear stories about how much this place meant to some people. Ofer's is still doing some small work out of their garage but nothing like it used to be. Great blog! email me if you would like more information or just want to chat.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I bought my 'swing fit' clubs after working all summer as a beach guard down at Atwood Lake in 1988. My whole summer's earnings went into my custom clubs that I still use today. Just now getting a new driver but keeping my irons. I've been a mid to low 80's golfer and have never wanted different clubs. Even shot a 76 on the grey course at Ohio State, my best ever. Last time I was back home I did drive over to the Shop and was disappointed they were gone. John Ofer's clubs were ahead of their time and very high quality, mine are still in play today with no end in site. Thanks for the article.

Scott Ballou