on July 4, 2014 - 6:30 PM
Donna Henrich and Michele Litwin believe most Western New York golfers could benefit from a woman’s touch.
At least, that’s their business model. And they’re certain it’s on par with any other pro shop in the area.
As newly minted owners of Golf Headquarters of Buffalo, the pro shop located inside Wehrle Golf Dome in Clarence, Henrich and Litwin are in the middle of their first season as business partners.
They went in on the shop together when its previous owners put it up for sale in November.
With more than 60 years of experience in the local golf market between them, the local businesswomen felt they could offer a unique service by combining the Henrich reputation as one of the nation’s top most recognizable names in club repair with Litwin’s extensive golf retail background.
As individual tenants of the 100,000-square-foot golf dome, which includes a putt-putt course and more than 100 tees inside the dome and out, and the accompanying Billy Baroo’s restaurant, the pro shop provides an opportunity to be a part of one of the area’s unique golf experiences.
“We’re a destination with the dome and restaurant,” said Litwin, who first started working at the shop out of high school almost 25 years ago. “You can make an afternoon out of it. It’s really the whole package when you come here – everything from eating to looking good to improving your game to buying equipment.”
Litwin, now 43, has a degree in business from Canisius College but never envisioned getting into retail. The Williamsville resident has stuck around under several ownership changes through the years. She has worked with Henrich for many of those years.
Henrich, 58, of the Town of Tonawanda, is the daughter of longtime local Professional Golf Association pro and nationally renowned club repairman John “Jack” Henrich.
John Henrich was the pro at Elma Meadows Golf Course from the day it opened in 1960 until he retired in 1989.
A life member of the PGA, John Henrich won the organization’s Horton Smith Award in 1975 for his contributions to education as one of the first instructors to teach golf club repair for the PGA.
Woods to Wedges, his equipment sales and club repair business, spawned from his hobby of repairing golf clubs at home for friends and other golf pros in the area during the winter months.
Donna Henrich inherited the business and is in her 40th year repairing clubs. She had been operating out of the Wehrle Golf Dome pro shop since it opened.
When she and Litwin became owners, they combined the retail and repair ends to form the conglomerate pro shop that customers see today, selling everything from golf balls and apparel to clubs and fitting services – all within feet of the golf dome, where customers test-drive their new clubs.
A $25,000 machine used to custom tailor a club to a golfer’s swing, along with a vast selection of more than 100 grip combinations, allow for a wider range of fitting services that other outlets cannot accommodate.
Henrich has also recently begun fitting putters, a service exclusive to the shop, she said.
“With what we’ve introduced as far as the fitting aspect, I think that’s really helped us to grow,” Henrich said. “We saw a big need for something like this. We see a huge potential for that going forward.”
Henrich and Litwin said the less-than-ideal spring weather made for a difficult beginning to their first year in business, and Internet sales remain their biggest competitor.
But that’s where gender could give them an advantage.
“If anything else we’re probably even more open-minded,” Litwin said.
“I think people are surprised when they learn two women own the store,” Henrich said. “Sometimes a customer will come up to us and ask for the fitter, and we’ll say, ‘That’s us.’ ”