MEET YOUR MERCHANT: Despite recession, passion for golf keeps man busy
While the days have become quieter for Bob Wetzel, he says he stays busy.
Wetzel owns Sierra Tahoe Golf, where he makes his signature golf clubs and repairs equipment.
He said he got his start in the golf business not necessarily by choice – his father designed golf courses and also repaired golf clubs – but it’s a passion he’s kept throughout the years, in good times and bad.
“They forced it on me,” he said with a smile. “I was more interested in football and track than I was interested in golf.”
Today, the 83-year-old business owner still repairs golf clubs in a workshop behind his storefront where an assortment of tools are scattered on top of his workbench surrounded by hundreds of golf club shafts.
“The golf business is really slow right now,” he said. “People come in and they want a $5 item, they want plastic. It’s ridiculous.”
And with the recession and the cutbacks, more and more customers are repairing golf clubs instead of buying new sets.
“I just don’t think people have the money,” Wetzel said. “If they do, they’re not spending it, they’re not buying anything new. I’m doing a lot of repairs.”
But he add, “It keeps me busy.”
Wetzel said he’s had his challenges through the years, including the recent death of his wife that resulted in him closing the shop January and February.
Wetzel, a Marine who fought in the Pacific theater during World War II, has lived throughout the West, including Oregon, where he was raised.
In the 1950s, while working for a Lake Tahoe casino, Wetzel said his friends would come to him to repair golf clubs given his experience with the family business.
“That kind of got me started,” he said.
Eventually, after moving to Las Vegas to work as a casino manager, he opened Sierra Tahoe Golf in a store near the Strip in 1969. Among his customers were celebrities including Jackie Gleason.
“(He) was one of my better customers,” Wetzel said. “I made him two different sets and he brought me a lot of customers.”
Wetzel eventually moved the business to Carson City, to be closer to his children.
Today, Wetzel said he still tries to go out and golf, but he admits “I don’t play that well anymore.”
For now, he said he’ll continue working at his shop in North Carson City, repairing golf clubs and maybe selling a new set.
If you go
Sierra Tahoe Golf
Where: 403 A Hot Springs Rd.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday