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More Than Clubs

Paul Boehmer’s equipment trailer is an LPGA institution

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I was always terrible about maintaining my clubs. My grips especially were worn and slippery. Something had to be done: I was entering my first year of professional golf at the LPGA qualifying school in 2011. But I was a classic rookie who didn’t know the available perks. Exasperated, I told a fellow player that I somehow needed my grips redone before the tournament started. That’s when I first learned about Paul. 

“He’s the club-repair guy for the Tour,” she explained. “Just go to the trailer on the range and he’ll change them for you.”

Relief. It got even better when upon entering the trailer a friendly face greeted me. Paul Boehmer was absorbed with another set of clubs, and I nervously asked him if he could change my grips. 

He looked at me, then pointed to a couple of sets of clubs resting on the counter near three jars of delicious-looking candy. 

“You’re gonna have to come back later,” he said. “But we’ll get them done.” 

Boehmer told me to get in line behind all the other players who needed his services, but not in an unwelcoming way. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship we would develop during my professional playing days. What I did not realize at the time was how many other players had similar relationships with him, and just how invaluable Boehmer is to everyone on the LPGA. 

Unlike the PGA Tour, where myriad gleaming equipment trailers line up side by side at every tournament, Boehmer’s is the only one at the majority of LPGA events. When club reps do show, they generally use his trailer.

For many LPGA players, the trailer is more than just a repair shop. It is a sanctuary for those who need a pick-me-up after a bad round, some empathy from someone who knows the particular hardships of professional golf life, or just a little slice of home in an otherwise unfamiliar town. Of course the trailer itself isn’t the main draw; it’s Boehmer, who has been a fixture on the LPGA for 19 years and counting.

Every Saturday morning, he loads the trailer to his Ford F-350 and makes the trek to the next tournament so he can open shop again on Monday. In 2017 alone, he was on the road 28 weeks.

It’s a life Boehmer never dreamed of getting into as a child. His roots are in the deep south of Texas; he was born in Mission—“It’s the home of me and Mr. Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys longtime head coach,” he told me during a recent visit—and still lives in Plano. He grew up when the oil boom was in full effect and went into oil sales. As a necessity of the job, he picked up golf at 27 years old. “One of the big deals for customers was that they wanted to play golf, so I took up the game,” he said. 

He quickly discovered that he was a natural. “I don’t think I’ve ever shot in the 100s from the get-go. I just swung hard, and for me it was easy to get it to go straight, but then,” he said to great effect, “people started telling me how to play, and it screwed my game up for a couple years.”

Boehmer’s Texas charm and lightheartedness easily captivate people around him. So when he decided to get out of the oil business, he used his wiley ways to land a job at a golf shop that had just opened. “The only thing they had open was an assistant manager’s job, and the first question they asked was, ‘Can you speak Spanish?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely!’ Really, though, I could speak enough to go to a bar and get a drink and find a bathroom.” 

While speaking first and figuring things out second can be a dangerous game—especially in Texas—Boehmer’s penchant for it ultimately led to his current position. “[The golf shop] needed someone that was also good with club repair and asked if I had done it before. I said, ‘Oh, I do it all the time!’” He paused for a mischievous smile. “I had never even re-gripped a golf club.” 

When it came time to actually grip his first set of clubs, Boehmer turned to club expert Ralph Maltby’s book, Golf Club Design, Fitting, Alteration and Repair: The Principles and Procedures.

“We didn’t have Google and YouTube back then,” he said. Just like playing the game, Boehmer immediately found he had a talent for club repair. But in this area he had a built-in advantage.

“I think it all goes back to growing up with my dad, who was a carpenter,” he said. “As we grew up, we learned how to fix and make things; that’s why our thumbs are all flat, from missing the nail. We worked with our hands a lot and grew up on a farm, so you didn’t run down to the pizza place or pinball place. You sat there and did woodworking. I was good at doing the little meticulous things that you have to do for club repair, especially for back then.”

In Boehmer’s early days, persimmon woods were still prominent. “I enjoyed the repair part, and that’s when it was real wood. You learned how to whip woods, and you learned how a driver performed by how you bent the shaft, so that was interesting.”

He gestured to the size of his fist and said, “I was around when the first Pittsburgh Persimmon came out, when the driver head was this big. You had to actually put your balls through a ring to see if they were still round, and you couldn’t leave your balls in the trunk or they would melt and get all wobbly. Those were the days.”

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When his golf shop encountered financial problems, Boehmer’s friend Doug Quirie asked if he would like to go into business with him in San Antonio. Boehmer made the move and began his club-fitting apprenticeship in earnest.

“We opened what I still think is the first indoor fitting center in Texas with a swing computer,” he said. “Doug had worked with a lot of the pros around the area, like Terry Dill and Frank Conner, so a bunch of the touring pros came.”

In addition to expertise with a club, Boehmer learned the golf swing. He would squat behind a player, watch them hit balls, write down their numbers and information and devise a plan best suited for that player’s set of clubs. 

Word got out among the San Antonio Spurs players who played golf, and they began coming in. “We had to fit David Robinson, who is 7-foot-1, and I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, this will be interesting…’ His grips were this big around,” he said, gesturing to his forearm. 

Boehmer and Quirie found some success, but after a few years their shop also ran into financial issues. It became clear that they could afford to have only one person work there full-time. Boehmer remembers they made the decision at 10 a.m. on July 1, 1999, that he would be the one to leave. As usual, however, Boehmer had a plan. At 11 a.m., he received a call from the LPGA. 

Mindy Moore made the call. 

“The LPGA had made a decision to bring in a club-repair person since we didn’t have manufacturers coming out to the tournaments,” says Moore, who was working for the LPGA at the time. 

LPGA player Wendy Ward served on the player committee and had originally    recommended Boehmer’s business partner. After Quirie went to a couple of tournaments, he told the committee that Boehmer would be a better fit, considering the travel involved: Boehmer was a bachelor and Quirie had a family. 

“[Boehmer] was a great hire. Nobody motivates him more than he motivates himself,” Moore recalls. 

Within Boehmer’s first week, Moore noticed something nearly as important as his technical ability: He was dedicated to the players and to ensuring that they received the best service possible. 

“We had a guy who would come out to our tournaments before him, and when we brought Boehmer on he found an appointment book in the trailer,” she says.

“I remember that appointment book,” said Boehmer when I asked him about it. “I looked at the listings and they had from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. where you could sign in.”

Boehmer asked Moore why the appointments started at 9 a.m. and she told him that’s when the former equipment pro came to work. That did not sit well with Boehmer. During his first week at an event in Toledo, Ohio, he gave those nine-to-four hours a try and immediately decided to run the ship differently. 

“Hardly anyone came to the trailer,” Boehmer said. “I didn’t do much of anything. It was kind of weird; I felt like I was just getting paid to stand around.” The following week, in Youngstown, Ohio, he set up the trailer at 7 a.m. Attendance jumped.

“I figured if the players were going to be out when the sun came up, I should be out when the sun came up,” he said.

Boehmer remains dedicated to the players’ needs and is meticulous about his work, saving the specs of nearly every player he’s worked with over the years. While scrolling through his archives, World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies’ name popped up. 

“I have a good story about her,” he beamed.

In 2000, the Tour made a stop in Onion Creek, Texas. Davies had been struggling with finding any kind of consistent play. On the morning of the first round, Davies came into Boehmer’s truck an hour before her tee time and asked if he could make her a 1-iron.

“I wanted to use a 1-iron off the tee because the fairways were really tight,” Davies recalls. 

Boehmer looked up the specs of her old irons and noticed that they had similar shafts to the ones in his personal set. So he pulled his 2-iron out of his bag, put a new shaft in it and bent it to 1-iron specs. The change worked: She won by two over Dottie Pepper.

Davies and Boehmer were at it again at the 2001 Wegmans Championship in Rochester, New York. Having missed four cuts that season after switching from a graphite shaft to steel, on Tuesday afternoon she went to the trailer and said, “Paulie, I can’t hit these irons. I’d like to reshaft them. I need something different.” Boehmer reshafted all of her irons with his shafts. 

She won by three strokes.

“You can say he’s been pretty instrumental in good things happening to me over the years,” Davies says. 

Earlier in 2001, Boehmer had a front-row seat to LPGA history when he worked the Standard Register Ping event, where Annika Sorenstam shot her historic 59 at the Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix. 

“When I was looking at the scoreboards that day, I truly thought that they were screwed up,” he said. “I caught up with her on the back nine and started watching her on 10. It was phenomenal and the only time I’ve shut down the trailer to watch golf.” 

That stunning round created another first for him when he asked Sorenstam to autograph his copy of Golf World with her on the cover and give him a ball. “She wrote ‘Annika Sorenstam’ on it and it’s in a shadowbox in my house, with a 59 ball up there,” he said.

While Boehmer has a few other precious mementos alongside Sorenstam’s and myriad more examples of working his club magic for LPGA winners, he prefers to stay out of the limelight and in his trailer. “I don’t want the blame or the credit. I just want to make sure it’s right,” he said. 

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The family feel in Boehmer’s trailer is unmistakable: The candy jars are decorated by daughters of LPGA players Karine Icher, Heather Daly-Donofrio, Jeong Jang and Laura Diaz; last year, Laetitia Beck, Kelly Shon, Ginger Howard and others dressed up as minions and brought him a cake for his birthday. He’s been surprised with crepes, baked goods and other assorted treats from many others throughout the years.

During weeks that Boehmer isn’t at a tournament, players are known to have a bit of a conniption. “When we would give him the week off, players would all be clamoring, wanting to know where he was,” Moore says. “He’s a wanted man out there.” 

I met up with Boehmer at a recent tournament. We sat in his trailer and watched the scores on the computer, and he continued to share his memories. LPGA veteran Michelle Ellis casually walked into the trailer straight to Boehmer’s coffee pot and poured herself a cup. 

“The girls all trust him, and he works hard for us every day,” she said. “We spend a lot of time in here, and it’s not just for club repair. You know he’s always been a great friend to talk to if you’re having a tough time. He’s part of the Tour and it wouldn’t be the same without him.”

Boehmer’s skills were recognized when he was invited to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics to service the men and women who played golf for gold medals for the first time since 1904. “I was the first club guy ever in the Olympics; I made history and I didn’t even get arrested!” he joked. Boehmer made his usual impression: He’s already been invited to the 2020 games in Tokyo.

And it won’t end there: Boehmer says he’s unlikely to retire soon. In fact, there is not much that can keep him away from the Tour. After triple-bypass heart surgery in 2012, he missed two events and drove out to finish the season at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. 

From the outside looking in, it appears that Boehmer cannot walk away for reasons beyond merely loving to repair clubs. He admits that technology has changed his day-to-day job dramatically since he began. “It used to be about gluing the clubs, actually building the clubs, and it used to be about finding the right fit here and there and [making] sure that it works,” he said. 

What really keeps him driving from event to event are the relationships. He considers the Tour his family, an extension of himself. And when he gets to share his passion for club building with kids, his heart swells. “In Arkansas, they brought six [young] girls who did reporting for the week and we talked about what I do,” he said. “I gave them a piece of candy and a pen, and I got thank-you notes from them that just tore my heart out. I mean, it’s just awesome to know that they actually pay attention. I’ve packed 40 kids in here before and it’s cool as hell.”  

The more time he spends traveling with the Tour, the more memories he collects and the more appreciation he has for the women in his trailer. “I wasn’t a fan of women’s golf before I came out here,” he said. “I liked to play golf, but that was the extent of it. You know, I was a typical male golfer: I had no idea [about] the talent level that was out here.”

Then, with the easygoing confidence that draws so many people to him, he reflected on his unexpected path. “I never thought I’d be out on the ladies’ tour,” he said. “But it was supposed to happen. I’ve been through four generations of golf out here, and I feel like I’ve built this program, and that it’s better than when I got here, so I’ve done what I needed to do.” 

Gruff but good-hearted, Paul Boehmer has allowed LPGA players to turn his ubiquitous trailer into an impromptu clubhouse. From candy jars decorated by players’ daughters to a kind word after a tough round, the trailer is a happy place. Photo by Kohjiro Kinno
Gruff but good-hearted, Paul Boehmer has allowed LPGA players to turn his ubiquitous trailer into an impromptu clubhouse. From candy jars decorated by players’ daughters to a kind word after a tough round, the trailer is a happy place.