Video: Going for the green

By Mike Hegedus Special Features Correspondent
CNBC
updated 7/25/2005 8:42:20 PM ET 2005-07-26T00:42:20

There may be no business with more gizmos and gadgets attached to it than the golf industry, and millions are spent on them every year.

But can you make a living just coming up with the latest golf thing? As it turns out, yes you can ... and a very good one at that.

Rick Reimers spends most of his time on the golf course. He has, in many ways, changed the way golfers carry their clubs — and even has had an impact on what they where.

Plus, he gets to live in Montana.

In the golf world, Reimers, the CEO of Sun Mountain, is considered a visionary.

A man who has invented products that have impacted the game around the world, and a man inspired by ... unemployment.

He's not anymore. Reimers presides over Sun Mountain, a Missoula, Mont.-based maker of golf accessories — primarily golf bags and some outerwear — that is sold worldwide. One hundred twenty employees work in the Big Sky manufacturing facility that turns out more golf bags — some of it private label work for the biggest names in the sport — than you can imagine the world actually needing.

“I often wonder that myself. We literally push hundreds of thousands of products here every year, now in Missoula for 20 years, companywide for 25,” says Bill Dahlgren, Sun Mountain's operations manager.

But people just keep buying, and Reimers just keeps thinking.

“Usually it just starts in my head on the golf course,” Reimers said.

It was Reimers that invented the prop-up bag — the one that comes with legs that pop out. It was Sun Mountain that developed the first two-ply wind shirt in teh U.S. He also developed the first push-along golf cart.

“I saw a baby jogger going down the street and thought, ‘That's probably a good idea,’” he said. “So I bought one, threw a golf bag in it, and it was unbelievable.”

And most recently the company has been working on the powered three-wheeled cart, one which you can set a particular distance and send it off down the fairway to your ball ... assuming your ball is in the fairway.

In a mature business with plenty of big name competion — Nike, Callaway, Titleist — Sun Mountain, the biggest of medium-sized players, has stayed on top of its game because of what it has developed on its own, right in its own tool room, and by selectively rolling out innovative product a little bit at a time.

“We're almost to the point sometimes with the product that it's excellent and it's better, but it's not the best it's going to be. That allows us to go back in a couple of years later with a new, improved version,” Reimers said.

Golf — it's often called ‘a thinking man's game’ — and Rick Reimers is always doing both.

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