Bob Martin Still Means Golf

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Wilson Golf Reed On The Greens February 1, 2016
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

In the winter of 1963, when Londoner Bob Martin moved his golf retail outlet from the East Park Golf Gardens pro shop to a tiny basement store at 609 William Street in London, it didn’t make headlines. In fact, Martin was simply trying to make a buck during the winter when the golf course was closed.

Yet that move marked the beginning of making Bob Martin a household name, not only in Southwestern Ontario but within every golf community from coast to coast. Chuck Brown’s Golf Shop in Ottawa was the first off-course golf retailer in Canada; Martin’s was second. In 1978, Martin left his post as East Park managing golf professional, and opened his off-course shop year-round. He operated Bob Martin’s Golf, and later Bob Martin’s Golf and Fashions, until he sold his business in 2002 – three years before Bob’s Range opened on Wonderland Road South.

logomartinAn idea man, never complacent, and with a driving passion to not only succeed in business but also to fiercely protect his image – even today at age 76 – Bob Martin is synonymous with local golf. During his 55-year career (he was assistant golf pro at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club from 1957-60), Martin has never stopped reinventing himself, all the while supporting endless local charities. He has given away thousands of free golf clubs to junior golfers, and continues to work tirelessly as an ambassador for the game.

For those reasons and many more, LondonOntarioGolf.com has named Martin the 2016 recipient of the London Ontario Golf Heart Award. Martin will be honoured June 14 at Greenhills Golf Club.

Between running his William Street shop under his own name, Martin did business with the Nevada Bob’s franchises, was part-owner of Oakville SportDomes, and operated the Wally World golf range with the Spivak family from 1999-2003. From the late-1990s to 2013, he teamed up with senior long drive competitor Ron Lampman of St. Thomas as part of the Golf Unleashed clinic/demonstration and long-drive show. Today, in addition to supporting golfers of all ages – including junior golfers, through his summer golf camps and continued philanthropic efforts – he joins London golf instructor Derek Highly of Canadian Fade at golf clinics and demonstrations.

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“When I see my name (on the Heart Award) alongside such names as Mike Weir and Patty Howard, I feel very proud,” said Martin. “I have always had the support of my family and friends, along with loyal fellow workers, customers and clients. I have been truly blessed to be surrounded with such positivity, and it is my pleasure to help grow the game of golf.”

It’s fitting that Martin receives the Heart Award following the 2015 winner, East Park. He worked closely with London homebuilder Roy James, a member of the East Park founding group, as the new leisure hot spot prepared for its 1963 opening. Martin helped plant small trees along the fairways, and learned how to operate a golf and family fun park. Said Martin, “Those trees today stand 50 feet tall.

“(James) was my mentor,” Martin said. “I helped develop the golf course’s second nine holes. And when it came to naming the park, the owners said, ‘It’s on the east side of London, it has a parkland setting, it features golf and there are a lot of gardens here.”

Martin said during East Park’s early years, he “booked 174 picnics and parties. Young couples could play mini golf and swim. I turned a shuffleboard court into a dance floor, and we would barbecue and dance until midnight. All of that cost just $1.50 per person.”

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The cost to rent clubs at East Park’s pro shop was also $1.50. Martin would sell off each of those rental clubs during the fall, and then buy new sets for spring. In 1978, Martin’s first full year on William Street, annual sales jumped from about $200,000 to $900,000, he said.

Certainly, Martin was a Canadian golf pioneer, thanks to his deft commerce skills. And for that reason alone, he is a golf legend. But when you consider how, for 55 years, he has worked tirelessly to promote the game while giving back to the London community, it’s easy to see why he is this year’s Heart Award winner.

Today, Martin and his wife, Kathy, are proudly supported by their daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Mike Stoner, parents of Bob’s grandson, Griffin, who no doubt will always have a golf club in his hands courtesy of his grandfather.

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“I am a big believer in the three Cs for both golf and life,” said Martin. “Concentration plus consistency creates confidence. You need all three Cs to be your best. May your health be above par, and your golf score below.”

During his retail heyday, Martin ran a radio jingle, “Bob Martin Means Golf,” which still plays in the ears of local golfers. When this scribe sang (poorly, I may add) that same jingle to Martin during a recent coffee chat, his eyes twinkled and he smiled like a proud parent.

Indeed, Bob Martin still means golf, and you’ll never take that away from him. And now, he rightfully takes home the 2016 London Ontario Golf Heart Award.

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About Wilson Golf

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For a century, Wilson Golf has designed, manufactured and distributed premium and recreational golf equipment throughout the world. Since 1914, Wilson Staff irons have won 61 major championships, more than any other iron manufacturer in history. That winning tradition continues today by delivering the highest quality golf equipment to all golfers to enhance performance on the course and overall enjoyment of the game.

In 2013, Wilson Staff’s D100 irons, driver and hybrid, as well as the DUO golf ball and FG Tour TC wedges, were all honored with Golf Digest’s Hot List awards. Wilson Golf is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment by Amer Sports. Consumers can log onto wilsongolf.com or call (800) 622-0444 for more information.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.

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