There’s no rummaging in the rough and peeking under bushes for 80 year-old Terry Pace, the passionate golfer and astute entrepreneur who created Second Chance more than 20 years ago. When out playing with friends, he’s quite happy to drop a shot and reach into his bag. “I never look for a ball because, more than likely, I will get that ball back. It’s not in my interests to find it!” he laughs.
Pace’s shop in Durban North sells used golf balls collected from golf courses.
While new golf balls can cost anything from R10 to R40 per ball, at Second Chance golfers can purchase balls from as little as R3 to R4 per ball. “With the price of new balls, we have got a place in the market and have grown this into a sizeable business,” he says.
One average, Second Chance sells up to 100 000 balls a month – although both supply of balls and sales vary according to the season. Summer is golf ball boom time. “Father Christmas brings a lot of people boxes of golf balls. We see them coming in here from the first week after Christmas. They come to me brand new – shiny, once hit balls,” he smiles. An added plus is that the most popular balls are usually given as Christmas presents, so they are the ones that turn up at the shop.
Customers range from pros with good handicaps to amateurs who head to the greens only once in a while. Predict5ably, it is these irregular golfers, that are his biggest suppliers.
Second Chance has a loyal and growing following that comes from far and wide. Pace says balls are regularly dispatched by post to golfers in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Many visitors to Durban regularly stop by. “Golfers talk and when they get good service and good value, they will tell others,” he says.
The difference, says Pace, is that the balls that he buys are not simply poured into a massive barrel through which golfers can rummage. The thousands of balls that are stacked at the back of the shop are washed, sorted into brands according to condition and then packed into boxes which are labeled and priced before being placed on shelves.
“We are passionate about selling by brand. We believe golfers should use one make of ball on any one round for consistency of play. We don’t sell a mixed barrel,” he says.
Pace created Second Chance by accident after enjoying “a good working life” spent in the food business and many hours travelling. Whilst working and playing golf in Zimbabwe in 1990, he was asked by a local club to bring them some balls. Not long afterwards, he presented a good business opportunity.
Selling from home was short lived due to the constant knocks on the door and ongoing stream of buyers and sellers. He opened up in Durban North and has never looked back.
Soon customers started asking for other golf supplies and, although he does stock a small number of things, at least 90 percent of the business is dedicated to re-selling golf balls.
Pace arrives at the shop early each morning and buys balls from sellers that come from far and wide. He says sellers fit into two categories – clubs themselves and professional collectors who can range from caddies to those who have permission to search for balls on courses. It is usually these avid collectors who are even prepared to take a dunk in the water to retrieve balls.
While some bring in a small number of balls and earn a small amount to meet their daily needs, others collect balls over longer periods and bring them in in far larger numbers. He says he has suppliers that he has known for the duration of the business and has even seen some progress from rags to well dressed people driving cars. He has also proved an alternative outlet for the many sellers found hocking bags of balls on the sides of highways.
“It’s dangerous. I feel that I am doing something. It would be hard for people to sell as many balls if they did not have someone as organized as we are to help them. I have spoken to many of those people and explained that they spend all night collecting balls and then spend the whole day standing trying to sell them. If they come to me, I can give them their money in five to 10 minutes,” he says.
Key to running a good business is looking after his suppliers – and he is quick to point out that he needs his ball sellers as much as they need him. He says he pays well and even provides those working on more distant courses with travel allowances.
The only downside it that certain brands are so popular that he could probably sell far more balls than he receives.