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Carl Paul, Golfsmith co-founder, died at 82

Carl Paul, Golfsmith co-founder, died at 82

AUSTIN, Texas — Before cell phones became an essential part of daily life, folks trying to track down Carl Paul on a Sunday knew exactly how to do it.

“It was easy — you just had to call his work phone,” said Barry Rinke, Paul’s son-in-law. “He was always at his desk, even on Sunday. He loved what he did. It was never about money for him. It was about loving what he did.”

What Paul did was take an avocation — a knack for custom-producing golf clubs — and create one of the biggest forces in the world of golf, Golfsmith. Co-founded with his wife, Barbara, Golfsmith started in the family’s two-bedroom apartment, forcing the couple’s daughters to move in with them. But by the time it was sold in 2002, Golfsmith grew from that bedroom to 35 brick-and-mortar retail stores across the country, employing 1,200 people and boasting a catalog distribution of 30 million per year, making it the biggest golf retail and component catalog in the world.

But to know Paul, who died on January 12 at the age of 83, was to understand that his passion was always around building a community. Family was essential to Paul, and so was his extended family of clubmakers that stretched out over the globe. When Carl and Barbara started the Golfsmith clubmaker’s school in Austin, Texas, they often invited those taking the weeklong seminar into their home.

“Years later, we started hosting a conference, and we’d have 500 customers from all over the world in Austin,” said Rinke, who worked for the family business for 17 years. “A huge percentage would say, ‘Yeah, I remember staying with Carl and Barbara in their house.’ It truly was a family. He touched so many lives.”

Incredibly, Paul used S&H green stamps — a rewards program from a bygone era — to purchase the drill that got the process started in the couple’s New York City-area home. At the time, Paul worked for the Federal Power Commission and was moonlighting in the club-making business.

Carl Paul moved to Austin in 1973. The co-founder of Golfsmith died at the age of 83 on Jan. 12. (Photo: contributed by Paul family)

Paul offered his brother Frank a one-third stake in the business, and soon after, he decided to quit his job, move the family to Austin and turn his hobby into a career. The move paid massive dividends.

“Carl was an advocate of taking calculated risks. That’s what he did with the move,” Rinke said. “And as things started to grow, he kept this a family business. He had…


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