News & Opinion

Moonshot: Retailer gears up as college host

MELBOURNE, Fla. – In the time that it took Anne Moon to describe the latest project she has in the works for her local golf shop, Moon Golf, she took two phone calls, regripped a set of golf clubs, sold a putter grip and applied it, too. Moon’s wheels are always turning just as her hands are always moving. It’s lucky for the women’s golf community that she has a constant eye out for ways to use her business as a platform to introduce more females to the game.

This week, Moon is hosting 13 NCAA Division I women’s golf teams in Melbourne, about 70 miles southeast of Orlando, on the Atlantic coast, for the inaugural Moon Golf Invitational. The event was born from a friendship with Louisville head coach Courtney Trimble – the two women were teammates at Auburn from 1999 to 2003, under their maiden names, Anne Hutto and Courtney Swaim. During that time, Auburn finished sixth, fourth, second and ninth, respectively, at the NCAA Championship.

Anne and Dan Moon own and operate Moon Golf, which is hosting an inaugural women’s college tournament this week at Duran Golf Club in Melbourne, Fla.

Anne and Dan Moon own and operate Moon Golf, which is hosting an inaugural women’s college tournament this week at Duran Golf Club in Melbourne, Fla.

“Anne doesn’t do anything halfway,” Trimble said of the event. “Everything is passionately done with all of her energy, and so she’s like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s make it good. I’ll sponsor the tournament.’ ”

The Moon Golf model is worth noting because of the rapid growth of the business and also for its owners’ forward thinking. Moon and her husband, Dan, former club and retail representatives – Anne with Callaway and Dan with Edwin Watts – took over an existing golf store in Melbourne in August 2015, adding 3,600 square feet to reach the present 8,400, installing two TrackMan simulators and putting an emphasis on custom fitting. Moon offers an unassuming presence – often in a store-logoed hat with her curly ponytail sticking out the back – that doesn’t quite do justice to the level of experience she brings from seeing every aspect of the industry, from player to retailer.

A second Moon Golf location opened last year in nearby Vero Beach. Moon said she and her husband haven’t ruled out opening more locations or an online sales component, but in the meantime, they’re taking a grassroots approach. A Moon Golf-sponsored junior tour always had lived in the idea pile, but a college tournament materialized first. 

“I love the idea of getting behind women’s golf and good college golf because the local girls around here in the high schools, a lot of them are going to come be volunteers in the tournament,” she said. “… Being a female business owner and having been a female college golfer, I just thought, How cool would it be to have our own college tournament?

Moon’s touch comes in everywhere, from helping Trimble secure a venue – Duran Golf Club, a course just down the road from the store that also features an extensive practice area – to offering player gifts and store credit. 

The visiting college players aren’t likely to become repeat customers at Moon Golf, but Moon is looking at the big picture.

“Women’s golf continues to be the biggest area of growth for the game, so for my business to succeed, I need more people to continue to play golf, so I have to invest in women and in juniors,” Moon said.

Moon and Trimble are aiming for the event to become a staple on the early-spring competition calendar. This week, four of the top 50 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings are in the field – including No. 8 Furman – making it a good opportunity for some of the mid-major teams to chase meaningful head-to-head victories. Florida is an attractive location for northern teams looking to shake off winter rust.

Moon’s backing of the event comes at a time when more and more college tournaments – with men’s and women’s fields – are finding corporate sponsorship. That can mean large corporations such as Northrup Grumman and 3M or a golf shop such as Moon’s. It shows that there’s value in college golf, and Trimble attributes that to the increased exposure that TV and social media bring. Not only are the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I national championships televised on Golf Channel, but commentators are more frequently pointing out professional players’ ties to college programs during PGA Tour and LPGA coverage.

“I think it’s much easier because of that type of exposure to get the backing of corporate sponsorships,” Trimble said. “I also think we’re seeing ad value to not just the golf part, but maybe after people graduate, female golfers and athletes are good hires for companies.”

There always has been value in college athletics, and women’s golf is now seeing a piece of that pie.

Julie Williams is a former college golfer and Golfweek writer who teaches eighth-grade English and coaches a high school girls golf team in Cocoa Beach, Fla.; Twitter: @BTSD_Jules