By Jim Davis
The Louisville Golf Club Co. of Louisville, Ky. has been purchased by Jeremy Wright, of Houston, Texas.
Wright, a medical sales representative, has been negotiating for several months with the estate of Mike Just, the company’s former owner, who passed away in October 2016.
The estate, represented by Just’s widow, Lynn, and others weighed offers from several parties before deciding that Wright would be the best fit for the company.
Wright, 38, is clearly excited about the purchase and says he hopes to carry on the company in the same spirit as Mike Just has done.
“I have big shoes to fill with Mike’s legacy and all that he provided for us,” he says. “Mike has been a blessing to the game.”
Wright said he became aware about a year ago, through several sources in the hickory golf community, that Mike and his family were beginning to plan for a succession, or sale, of the company to a qualified buyer. He said his own name was offered by a mutual friend in the hickory golf community.
Wright said he plans no real changes in the day-to-day operations at Louisville Golf. Just’s brothers, Robert and Gerard, will remain as will other non-family members currently employed there.
“I am just going to be running the company,” he says. “We will still offer replica hickory clubs built to the same degree of accuracy that Mike would have wanted. We are going to be operating in the same spirit as before, with the same mix of persimmon clubs and replica hickory clubs.”
For those who often sent original clubs to Louisville Golf for refurbishment and restoration, Wright offers the reassurance that this work will continue. “There are guys in the shop, as well as myself, who are capable of continuing Mike’s work in this regard,” he says. “We plan to keep up his standards in this area.”
Wright and his wife, Yinyin, and their three children, plan to relocate to Louisville within a year.
Louisville Golf was founded in 1974 by Elmore Just. His brothers – Ron, Mike, Robert, and Gerard – joined him in the business and the Kentucky-based company quickly became a leader in the design and production of steel and graphite-shafted persimmon headed woods and custom putters.
A 1984 book by Elmore Just, called The Persimmon Story, details the company’s efforts to produce fine persimmon headed golf clubs. In the 1980s, such companies as Hogan, Wilson, Spalding, Tommy Armour, and Ram purchased their work.
Mike Just assumed leadership of the company after Elmore’s death in 2001. He began to craft replica hickory-shafted golf clubs for players in the National Hickory Championship. When interest in hickory golf expanded, so did the company’s line of hickory-shafted golf clubs. Today, its hickory-shafted woods, irons, and putter models are regarded as among the finest available, built to exacting specifications of earlier hickory-era clubs.
Mike Just became a fixture at many hickory golf tournaments and came to embody for many players the spirit of the hickory golf game. “We love this wonderful sport and we do not want it to lose touch with its endearing traditions,” he wrote for the company’s website. “In a game that has largely forgotten golf’s simple joys we take great pride in preserving the game’s grand legacy deeply rooted in wooden golf clubs. We are honored to be able to offer a wood golf club as a choice to the modern golfer… we are grateful that you have found us and invite you to join our humble company in the enduring spirit of the game.”
Mike Just was honored at the 2016 Wisconsin Hickory Open as “The Keeper of the Spirit.”
Lynn Just is pleased that Wright seems to have the same level of commitment to Louisville Golf as her late husband and that he understands the nature of the legacy that Mike Just built with the company.
“When I met Jeremy, I told him I had three expectations for any new owner,” she said. “First, Michael had a reputation for being honest and I wanted someone who would continue that. Second, any new owner would need to continue Michael’s legacy for making authentic replicas of older clubs as well as his support of hickory golf. And third, a new owner must be sure that those currently employed there would be able to keep their jobs.”
Wright passed with flying colors. He also displayed other qualities that caught her attention.
“Jeremy told me that he felt he was not just ‘buying a company,’ but rather a company with a legacy as well as a relationship with the artisans who made that legacy happen,” she said. “He is very aware of the history of the game and is determined to learn more about it and how the clubs were made.
“After so many conversations I had with Michael about the future of the company and how he wanted it to go, how could I not take a second, and a third, look at Jeremy? I feel like he and Michael would have hit it off.”
Wright is a 2004 graduate of the University of Wyoming, with a dual major in finance and economics. He was introduced to golf in 1992 by his father who began taking him to the local golf course.
“Since those days there has never been a day that I didn’t think about golf or play it,” he says. “I started with my dad’s old persimmon Hogans and to this day remain fond of them. Shortly afterward my father introduced me to the art of club-making which consumed my time from that day forward.”
Hickory golf entered his life in 2008 and he quickly joined the Society of Hickory Golfers (SoHG) where he carries a 7.2 tournament handicap. Wright also is involved in the Onion Creek Hickory Championship hosted by Pete League, Region 4 Director of the Golf Collectors Society (GCS); and helps organize informal hickory golf outings in the Houston area.
“I’ve traveled to and played in several tournaments and met quite a few people in the Midwest who are GCS and SoHG members,” Wright says. “I started out with a set of replicas but transitioned to original clubs and now have about 400 in my house. I’ve probably worked on all of them.”
Wright says that Bob Georgiade, (a long-time GCS and SoHG member) of Durham, N.C., was especially helpful in getting him started and becoming acquainted with the hickory golf community. “He has been a very helpful mentor to me.”
For his part, Georgiade thinks Wright will be a good fit for Louisville Golf. The two have never met in person, but have spent a good deal of time on the phone.
“Jeremy is so inquisitive about hickory golf and the history of the game that he is hard to get off the phone sometimes,” Georgiade says. “He is genuinely excited about this opportunity with Louisville Golf.”
Georgiade points to Wright’s youth and boundless energy for learning more about the clubs as positive values for the company. “He is genuinely interested in hickory golf and customer service, as was Mike, which is good for all of us. He is knowledgeable about the physics and dynamics of golf clubs, hickory or steel, and he knows a lot about repair – what it takes to make a playable club.
“I think he is a good choice.”
Wright surely has some big shoes to fill, given the beloved legacy established by his predecessor. But he has the blessings of Mike’s family as well as the good will of the entire hickory golf community for his success.
For his part, Wright says, “My plan is to follow Mike and do the things he would have done.”
Hard to top that formula.