Wooden putters are labor of love for Victoria man (video)
May 4, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.
John R. Legg grabbed a putter and approached the turf in the back of a workshop. He took a breath, took aim and finally took a swing, watching the golf ball wander toward the hole.
That miniature course is more than a pastime or even a man cave bonus. For Legg, it's all business.
The Victoria resident and founder of Tejas Mesquite Putters crafts handmade putters from mesquite, huisache and other native South Texas woods. The effort, he said, is a labor of love.
"To me, working with a piece of wood is a lot of fun," said the longtime golfer with a knack for woodworking. "Taking the time to make something special, to really perfect it, is very rewarding."
Legg's hobby got its start about five years back, when he happened across a magazine feature about a man who created putters from exotic woods.
That planted the seed, he said, and the idea grew from there.
"I decided I wanted to try something like that, but I wanted to be true to Texas," said the man who moved from Louisiana in 2000 for his oil-field job. "I wanted to do something that was local and something that was handcrafted."
Armed with the tools and a general plan, the craftsman set to work. Still, ever the perfectionist, it was years before he found that just-right design - a putter with smooth, polished wood, Texas-themed inlays and his company engraving.
From start to finish, or block of wood to $200 putter, the process takes about a month, he said. That involves, among other steps, precise drilling, added weights, plenty of sanding and layer upon layer of polyurethane.
The finished product is a one-of-a-kind piece. The putters aren't perfect because they're handcrafted.
But that, he said, adds to the character.
"You can miss as many times with this one as you can with that one," he said with a laugh, holding his putter in one hand and a metal Ping version in the other.
Louisiana resident Paul McCullough got his first wooden putter a couple of years ago and said Legg's craftsmanship had him hooked.
"John is so good at being able to balance them just right," he said of the putter. "It's a totally different feel and putt than what you'd get from a mass-production putter."
McCullough, a business owner in the environmental industry, said he's gone on to purchase more putters for his own customers.
Legg might be the mastermind inside the workshop, but he admitted he doesn't do it alone.
Dottie Legg, his wife of nearly 23 years, is the brains behind the sales, he said. And after so many years, the two make a good team.
"Whatever she says, I do," he said, laughing. "It works well."
All joking aside, Dottie said she enjoys the chance to venture out to the shows. Visiting with the crowd, she said, is the best part.
"We've met so many good people through this," she said. "It really has been fun to just get to know people."
And although they've only made it to a handful of shows thus far, they've already learned how to size up the crowds.
"You'll know when they're going to buy," John said with a smile, noting he's probably sold 60 to 70 putters through the years. "They'll come through and really examine them, or they'll walk through - and then come around again. When they start putting, you know they'll either buy one there or you'll sell one online."
Looking ahead, John said he plans to use his recent retirement as a chance to expand his reach. The couple plans to explore larger shows - where higher-price items tend to sell better - and get their name out there.
New designs will likely join the mix, John said, explaining he recently began inlaying some putters with Texas-themed trinkets such as lapel pins and key chains to offer something different.
Regardless of what happens, however, both husband and wife said they plan to continue doing what they do and enjoying every minute of it.
"This is a fun project, and we love South Texas," John said. "We get to meet great people from all over. This is where we're gonna stay."