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Is Wall Street the Next Natural Step for Natural Golf

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THE STOCK MARKET, NATURALLY: This doesnt seem like the time to launch a new golf stock, but instruction/equipment company Natural Golf is seriously considering an initial public offering this spring.
 
For five years, weve been concentrating on customer acquisition programs, said Andrew Wyant, Naturals president and CEO. It costs us anywhere from $20 to $50 to get a customer who will fall in love with our program, and then turn around and attend our schools and buy our clubs and other products.
 
For Natural, which teaches a simpler swing based on a wider stance and fewer moving parts, a particularly successful new program involves seeding the market with free demo videotapes. Radio, print, and television advertising support the initiative. Any money raised in an IPO would be used to finance the media buys necessary for a widespread message, Wyant said.
 
The only problem: Finding an underwriter for an IPO of this size, which Wyant admits is chump change in the big-dollar world of stock launches. But hes not giving up: Natural has a survey that shows interest among its own customers would generate enough subscribers to raise $100 million ' and even if half of those responded overenthusiastically, it would be enough for Natural to meet its needs, Wyant said.
 
CLEVELAND ROCKS: Relying on numbers from industry metrics leader Golf Datatech LLC, the folks at Cleveland Golf claim product growth in three categories in on-course and off-course golf shops for the November-December measurement period.
 
In woods, Cleveland went from 2 percent market share in dollar sales to 6.8 percent, which put it in fourth place. In irons, dollar share went from 4.5 to 6.7 percent, making Cleveland the No. 5 maker. And in wedges, Cleveland extended its domination from 31.5 percent of dollar sales to 38.5 percent.
 
Cleveland execs say the TA5 model irons led the iron growth; they expect the momentum to continue with the new TA7 irons, which the industry saw at the PGA Merchandise Show last month.
 
2001 ROUNDS DOWN SLIGHTLY: The rounds played report from Golf Datatech and the National Golf Course Owners Association showed a 1 percent drop for U.S. rounds last year, even after a relatively warm December that had some regions up as much 561 percent compared to the previous December.
 
Winning regions for the year: South Atlantic (West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida), up 1.6 percent, and East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama), up 1.5 percent. Losers: West North Central (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas), down 5.1 percent, and New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island), down 3.1 percent.
 
JUST A THOUGHT: The driving distance wars between golf equipment manufacturers and the U.S. Golf Association will seem like a schoolyard brawl if someone invents something that makes the ball go not longer but straighter.

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