by RENEE PATRICK Cascade Business News Feature Writer
The recent partnership between golf professional Andy Heinly and veteran golf retail expert Nelson Von Stroh has revitalized the local business, Pro Golf of Bend. While Pro Golf has been a part of the Central Oregon community since 2006, the two passionate golfers became partners in December to keep the doors open on the region’s only off-course golf shop.
“Golf is a community, and it has been fun to see people thank us for keeping the store open,” commented Heinly. Von Stroh echoed the sentiment saying, “I felt like being part of this golf shop was a good way for me to make an impact on the community and plant deeper roots as far as servicing the area in sales and instruction.”
With over 20 golf courses in Central Oregon, the game has seen a full cycle of boom and slump from the early 90s when golf exploded nationwide to the economic downturn of the past few years. “We have seen the competition [among golf courses]heating up,” said Von Stroh. “Courses are trying harder to attract players, prices and accessibility have changed, and local public golfers have noticed it.”
What hasn’t changed, he remarked, is that the passionate golfer always makes a way to play and buy new equipment, and now the business wants to reach a broader market. “We are trying to expand the business so that the beginning golfer can get help in the sport as well,” he said. “We want to help people not be intimidated by the game and make it fun through our education and relationships.”
Heinly, a golf professional in the area since 1998, is an expert on the green and hopes Pro Golf’s relaxed attitude can help take some of the stigma out of the game to get more kids, women and beginners on the local courses.
“I’m excited about the juniors,” Heinly said. “The best way to prove the longevity of the game is to reach the kids.” Von Stroh agreed and commented, “Andy has had a great long standing with junior athletics in the area and is a great partner to help cultivate the relationship with the community.”
Heinly helped to establish the boy’s Summit High School Golf Team, is on the Central Oregon Junior Golf Board and has a son who plays golf in college. Author of the book, The Forget-about-it Guide to Better Golf – How to Lower Your Scores By Limiting What You Learn, he takes the stance that learning the game of golf doesn’t mean you always have to follow the rules.
“Golf courses are beautiful. [For many beginners], it’s just nice to be out there having a good time,” he said. With a background as head pro, director of golf and manager, Heinly has the unique perspective of a professional golfer looking to make a difference in the community; the partners are dreaming up ways of creating a golf shop that will meet the many needs of Central Oregon golfers.
“We would like to cultivate a local Pro Golf of Bend Club with a card that gives people an attachment to the store; they can find out about travel specials, tournaments, equipment, leagues…we want to be the hub and have the pulse on golf in Central Oregon. It is our expertise,” said Von Stroh.
“We also are making a big push to make the internet a larger component of the business,” said Heinly. The partners want to create an online system based out of in-store inventory. By selling lines of products Pro Golf can trust, they hope to provide a reliable method of purchasing golf merchandise online.
As the only golf specialty shop in the area, Pro Golf and their employees work hard to meet the needs of every golfer. “We still want to be that place where the golf fanatic can come and get the latest and greatest…but we want to make it better,” concluded Von Stroh. From the repair shop to the virtual golf simulator, Von Stroh and Heinly have a great platform with which to expand their services and offerings to the golfers of Central Oregon.
541-593-4653, www.progolfbend.com, 100 NE Bend River Mall Ave. Suite 102 (Next to Shopko).