THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: RISING FROM THE ASHES: After a fire gutted his business, Reid Hatley rebuilt his company, and rediscovered his golf game ... and both are flourishing

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  • Photo courtesy REID HATLEY A look at the damage the day after a burglary and arson fire at Reid Hatley Industries on June 16, 2015.

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    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley and his mom, Karen, at St. Andrews in 2018.

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    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley played Carnoustie last year, with the bleachers set up for the upcoming British Open.

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    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley hits out of a pot bunker at Carnoustie in 2018.

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    LOREN BENOIT/Press As a pro, Hatley played on the Nationwide Tour (now recently renamed the Korn Ferry Tour, after years as the Web.com Tour). He also played on the Canadian Tour and the Gateway Tour. Displayed on the wall are caddie bibs from different golf tournaments.

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    Reid Hatley Industries in Hayden designs tee markers (seen here), closest-to-the-pin and long-drive signs, tee benches, tee box signs, trophies, awards, etc. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    A robbery and arson fire in 2015 torched Reid Hatley’s business. The cost was a total loss. His RHI logo from the old building, noticeably singed a bit from the fire, adorns the front of the new building. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Courtesy photo Reid Hatley of Hayden Lake has won around 100 tournaments in his career, most recently the Oregon Open in June in Bend.

  • Photo courtesy REID HATLEY A look at the damage the day after a burglary and arson fire at Reid Hatley Industries on June 16, 2015.

  • 1

    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley and his mom, Karen, at St. Andrews in 2018.

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    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley played Carnoustie last year, with the bleachers set up for the upcoming British Open.

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    Photo courtesy REID HATLEY Reid Hatley hits out of a pot bunker at Carnoustie in 2018.

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    LOREN BENOIT/Press As a pro, Hatley played on the Nationwide Tour (now recently renamed the Korn Ferry Tour, after years as the Web.com Tour). He also played on the Canadian Tour and the Gateway Tour. Displayed on the wall are caddie bibs from different golf tournaments.

  • 5

    Reid Hatley Industries in Hayden designs tee markers (seen here), closest-to-the-pin and long-drive signs, tee benches, tee box signs, trophies, awards, etc. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    A robbery and arson fire in 2015 torched Reid Hatley’s business. The cost was a total loss. His RHI logo from the old building, noticeably singed a bit from the fire, adorns the front of the new building. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Courtesy photo Reid Hatley of Hayden Lake has won around 100 tournaments in his career, most recently the Oregon Open in June in Bend.

In a way, it took a fire to light a fire under Reid Hatley.

A burglary and arson fire in June 2015 torched his business, Reid Hatley Industries in Hayden.

His business, which makes accessories for golf courses and their tournaments (tee markers, closest-to-the-pin and long-drive signs, tee benches, tee box signs, trophies, awards, etc.), was a total loss.

Hatley had been a standout golfer at Ferris High in Spokane, graduating in 1999, then was an All-American at the University of Arizona.

He was an assistant pro for four years at some area courses (Hayden Lake, Black Rock, Creek at Qualchan and Avondale). He was the Pacific Northwest PGA Chapter Player of the Year one year.

But after a while, he wasn’t having fun at the game.

While playing some of the country’s nicest courses in colleges, Hatley was intrigued by the tee box signs, the benches and the other accessories. Years later, during quiet time while he was working at Hayden Lake Country Club, he would go out on his boat, find a secluded spot, and type ideas on his laptop.

In 2008, he decided to become a businessman.

“I think burnout pretty much caused me to start this,” Hatley said recently, sitting in the upstairs office of his new building, where the business has operated since 2015 — roughly one block away from the old building that housed the company for the first seven years. “Because I never would have put the time in to finish the business plan, and go approach customers, until I decided ... I didn’t want to be that 33-year-old that was playing mini tours. And I wasn’t enjoying golf at that time, and that’s the most important thing to me.”

By 2015, his RHI business was doing very well.

Until it burned to the ground.

An acquaintance offered a nearby building for him to restart his business. But there was a few months of lag time.

He could only boat so much.

He chatted with his father, Allen Hatley, as well as with Stan Kohls, a successful businessman, a member at Hayden Lake Country Club, and Reid’s initial founder/backer/mentor.

“Stan and my dad both said, ‘You know what, you should go try and play in a couple tournaments, and see if that is a good thing,’” Reid said.

As he recalls, Hatley played in a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier in Sammamish, Wash. His dad caddied for him, speaking with authorities on Reid’s cell phone about the fire as Reid played in the tournament, a few feet away.

Hatley, amazingly, won the tournament, which got him into the U.S. Mid-Am, where he made the cut.

He played a couple more tournaments, also with success.

“So that just triggered, ‘I still can compete, still practice, hit shots I want to hit sometimes,’” Reid said. “So after that, I want to do it again.”

He kept playing, and was named Washington state and Pacific Northwest Mid-Amateur Player of the Year in 2015.

Then again in 2016. And 2017. And 2018.

In June, Hatley, 38, won the Oregon Open in Bend for his first PGA Section major, beating the region’s professionals — of which he used to be one.

Those in the golf business understand. After winning in Bend, he flew out of nearby Redmond that night and by the time his plane landed in Seattle, he had more than 100 text messages of congratulations.

“I’m in a different situation than most — the better I do, the better business we do,” Hatley said. “Roughly 60 of those text messages that I got after winning the Oregon Open were from customers around the country.”

HATLEY STILL vividly remembers the pounding on the door of his Hayden Lake home early that Tuesday morning in 2015.

It was two Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies.

“We’ve got some bad news for you,” they told him. “It looks like there’s been a break-in and arson fire at your building.”

Hatley’s first instinct was to rush to his building to see what was going on. But he had to answer some questions from the deputies — the first suspect in such a crime is the owner, he was told.

Once the deputies were satisfied with his answers, he headed to his building, perhaps a mile or so from his home, roughly three hours after that startling knock on his door, where he found family members and employees already there, sitting on the grass and watching the fire.

“They couldn’t put it out,” Hatley said. “I didn’t know (who did it) for over a year.”

(Sadly, it reminded him of back when he was a third-grader, sitting outside on the grass and watching while his childhood home on Spokane’s South Hill burned to the ground.)

Three welders were stolen from the business, as well as all the propane tanks. Close to $100,000 worth of equipment was stolen.

The suspect — an employee who had worked there for a couple weeks, on the night shift, someone Hatley had never met personally — gained entry by breaking a window.

“He must have spent 4 or 5 hours in there,” Hatley said.

(Obviously, security has been increased since RHI moved into its new building.)

He said one thing he lost from the fire that was cherishable to him was the golf ball and scorecard from a 58 he had shot at Hayden Lake Country Club perhaps a year earlier.

“So I knew I could still play; I just wasn’t playing,” Hatley said.

He has a few reminders of the fire in his new building — a photo of the charred remains that he looks at daily, for one. His RHI logo from the old building, noticeably singed a bit from the fire, adorns the front of the new building. He glances at it every day as he shows up for work.

HATLEY HAD 9 or 10 employees in the old building. Now, he has roughly 14 to 16.

He said customers were understanding and supportive following the fire, and business has continued to grow since RHI got back on its feet. Courses which had ordered awards for their tournaments instead gave out pictures of the awards to the winners until the actual awards could be remade and delivered.

His company provides accessories for some of the local courses, but also has clients nationwide and worldwide.

Two of Hatley’s customers are Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

“I flew down last year (to Florida) with my mom, and we rode around in the dirt with Michael Jordan,” Hatley recalled. “He was smoking a cigar ... it was so much fun to hang out with him.”

For Tiger’s course — Bluejack National, located just north of Houston — Hatley said his company produced “almost everything — the benches, the hole signs, the tee markers, the entire driving range, the par-3 course, pretty much from start to finish.”

Same with MJ’s new course that is opening in Florida. Hatley has met both of them, and got involved in supplying their courses through a group which manages high-end country clubs.

“Last I looked, we have 98 of the top 100 country clubs in the U.S. as customers,” Hatley said. “So it’s kind of a sneaky little business we have here. It’s high-end (products), but because we build it all here, we can compete with the mass-production (places) you see all over the country.

“We’re a big company for this area, but we’re a small company for the world.

“I always liked the whole design thing. I never wanted to be a mass-production type person, I wanted to push ourselves to do something new all the time ... some guy will say ‘I’ve got a crazy idea, do you want to try it?’

When Hatley started the company in 2008, RHI had maybe five products — tee markers, bag stands and proximity markers among them. Now, the company has well over 10,000.

When Hatley first pitched his business idea to Kohls, he was advised to learn how such a business would operate. So Hatley worked at a machine shop in Rathdrum, learning how to weld and run some of the other machines, and starting to sell some of his products.

Soon, he branched out on his own.

Hatley was also pretty good at baseball growing up. But at roughly 5-foot-3 and 100 pounds at age 16, college baseball coaches weren’t quite as interested as college golf coaches.

By 2015, Reid Hatley Industries was doing well.

Until the one day it wasn’t.

“I was having a tough time sleeping,” Hatley said of that time shortly after the fire. “I was having nightmares ... because at that point I didn’t know what happened. No one had been arrested … Did I make someone mad? Were they out to get me? What happened?

“They (the authorities) would always ask me, ‘What are you going to do when you find out who it is?’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything. I’ll let you guys take care of that. There’s nothing we can do about it now.’”

Even after Hatley found out who did it, he said he held no ill feelings toward the person.

It did provide closure, “but then you have to think ... I wonder if I could have helped?” he said. “Everyone makes their choices, I can’t control their choices. I can’t do anything about it but take care of the people here, and their families. We’re still recovering from (the fire), with files, and things that we lost.”

AS A pro, Hatley played on the Nationwide Tour (now recently renamed the Korn Ferry Tour, after years as the Web.com Tour). He also played on the Canadian Tour and the Gateway Tour. At that time the Canadian Tour (now called the Mackenzie Tour) was not a feeder tour to the Web.com Tour. He remembers coming up just short several times in Monday qualifiers on the Web.com Tour.

When he decided to apply for reinstatement to the USGA as an amateur in 2008, he had to submit all his results from those events. Apparently he did well enough in those events that the USGA put him in a “holding period” of two years before he could regain his amateur status.

That’s a long time for most. But not for Hatley.

“Not when you’re not playing golf,” he said. “It (the two-year holding period) didn’t bother me at all. It was two years that I was really focused on the company.”

Even when he received his letter of reinstatement as an amateur in 2010, it was still four more years before he played in an event.

Hatley played in one tournament between 2007 and 2014 — the Washington state Mid-Amateur, in 2014, he said. His mom, Karen, caddied for him, and he lost in a playoff.

According to the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking, Hatley is ranked 468th among amateurs worldwide, and ranked 21st among Mid-Amateurs (age 25 and older). He was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world as a Mid-Am a couple years ago. Often he plays in tournaments with college All-Americans.

Two years ago, he played with Joaquin Niemann at the U.S. Amateur. He’s also played with Viktor Hovland, who won the U.S. Amateur last year.

Hatley has played in the U.S. Amateur four times (and is an alternate this year), reaching the Round of 16 when he was in college. Ditto the U.S. Mid-Amateur — four appearances, one trip to the Round of 16.

His goal is to win the U.S. Mid-Am, which would get him into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.

“That would be pretty incredible for me,” he said.

This year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur is in September in Aurora, Colo.

Last year, Hatley’s ranking was high enough that he qualified for the British Amateur. He took his mom, who caddied for him. He also played in the European Amateur. And, what the heck, while he was there, he played St. Andrews, and also played Carnoustie just before it hosted the British Open, with the bleachers surrounding the tees and greens already in place.

STILL, THERE was a time recently when Hatley thought he might be done with competitive golf.

Again.

Playing at the Washington Open in May in Kent, Wash., and feeling “so stressed out, so overwhelmed with everything,” he was 3-over on the front nine.

“Went to the bathroom and texted my dad and said ‘This will probably be the last tournament I play in,’” Hatley said.

“He’s like, ‘If you’re not enjoying it ... ’”

Hatley then shot like 3 under on the back nine to get it back to even par. He played pretty well the next two days, took a week off, played in a tournament in Mexico City, where he and his partner won the two-man team title, and he finished top-five individually.

Then came the Oregon Open.

But it was that night after struggling in the first round of the Washington Open that turned things around.

He was in pain from an ailing shoulder. There was some personal stuff going on in his family. He was thinking about his business. His mind wasn’t where it needed to be to play competitive golf, he said.

That night, he face-timed with his niece and nephew, ages 10 and 6, who live in Spokane.

“And it put things into perspective ... who cares about how you’re playing,” Hatley said.

Hatley would understand perspective.

Watching his family home burn down.

Becoming a successful amateur golfer, then turning pro. Then deciding to go back to being an amateur.

Then starting his own business, then watching that burn down. Then rebuilding — his business, as well as his golf career.

“It all comes down to, I just love this business — the whole golf industry. Just being able to do something you love,” Hatley said. “I get to do both ... I get to travel, I get to play the best golf courses in the world, and I get to compete. Not many people that get to do that.”

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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