WORCESTER, Mass – Clem Lamarre grew up playing soccer, not golf, but his life changed when a friend in the golf business took him to the 1991 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
“I fell in love with the industry,” he said.
At the show, Lamarre landed a part-time job as a sales rep for Bullet Golf, which was mostly known for inventing the rolling travel bag, and he maintained his full-time job selling packaging materials for a distributor in his home state of New Hampshire.
After he worked both jobs for about a year, the distribution company owner called him into his office.
“He had my golf business card on his desk,” Lamarre said. “He told me I had to make a decision and I shook his hand and walked out.”
Lamarre, 57, became a sales rep for Ram Golf, a job he held until he received a call on his honeymoon in Hawaii in 1996 from Cleveland Golf, offering him a position as its New England rep. He worked for Cleveland Golf for 10 years and Nike for three and a half before joining Cobra Puma Golf in 2010.
“If my friend hadn’t taken me to that show, I never would have gotten into this industry,” he said. “I didn’t even know it existed.”
One of 10 children, Lamarre grew up in Amherst, N.H., and played soccer for Milford Area Senior High School and for St. Anselm College before tearing up his left knee as a sophomore.
After graduating from college in 1986, he played soccer in a men’s league and his teammates got him into golf, a game he had played only a couple of times in his life.
Last year, Puma moved its North American headquarters from Westford, Massachusetts, to Somerville, Massachusetts, and Lamarre was scheduled to be on hand there this week when Bryson DeChambeau meets with the company’s U.S. global sales team.
As an independent sales rep, he sells Cobra golf clubs and Puma golf apparel to retailers and country clubs in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Bermuda. The cost to ship clubs to Bermuda and the duty charged is expensive so most Bermudians purchase their clubs off the island, but Puma is the No. 1 golf apparel in Bermuda.
According to Lamarre, the Cobra LTD is one of the top selling drivers this year and Puma footwear has risen to third in the market. The new Puma Proadapt Alphacat shoe is especially popular.
In 2006, Lamarre was named one of the top 25 sales reps in the golf industry.
“There have been a ton of good stories,” he said, “and I met a ton of great people. My best friends in the world are from the golf industry.”
Lamarre has met several high profile golfers. As top salesman for Cleveland Golf one year, he earned the right to play 36 holes with Vijay Singh at TPC Sawgrass.
“Vijay is very misunderstood, kind of like Bryson,” Lamarre said. “They’re both tremendous guys. Vijay was a ton of fun to play with.”
Lamarre said Singh and DeChambeau can be misjudged on the golf course when they wear their game faces.
“But when they’re away from the golf course,” Lamarre said, “they’re great guys, fun to be around, funny guys. Like pretty much all golfers, they do a tremendous amount for charity. I’ve talked to people who have played with Bryson in Pro-Ams and they say he’s one of the best guys they’ve ever played with. I heard the same thing about Patrick Reed recently.”
When Lamarre worked for Ram, he played with Tom Watson near the company’s headquarters in Chicago. He’s also played with Gary Koch, Joe Durant, David Toms, Olin Browne and close friend P.J. Horgan. An 8-handicap, Lamarre belongs to the Country Club of New Bedford and he tries to play at least once a week. He hasn’t played as much since undergoing knee replacement surgery in January of 2021, the seventh operation he’s had on the knee since injuring it playing soccer decades ago
“Hopefully, it’s my last,” he said.
Lamarre has attended every PGA Merchandise Show held since 1991 and his top memory occurred when he was working for Cleveland Golf in the early 2000s. Golf legend Byron Nelson attended Cleveland’s sales meeting at the show and Lamarre got to meet him, shake his hand and have his photo taken with him. At the show the following year, Lamarre was talking to a customer near a long line of fans waiting to get Nelson’s autograph at Cleveland’s booth.
When Nelson arrived, he spotted Lamarre.
“He comes over,” Lamarre recalled, “and he shakes my hand and he says, ‘Hey Clem, how are you doing?’”
Lamarre was surprised that Nelson, who was in his 90s, had remembered his name from their meeting a year earlier.
“I figured he had read my badge,” Lamarre said, “but I looked down and my badge was turned over. So he had remembered my name from a year before.”
When Lamarre began as a sales rep three decades ago, small independent retailers and big box retailers were commonplace. These days, some retail golf chains continue to exist, but online business has forced many mom and pop golf shops to close.
The equipment has improved a great deal over the years.
“The technology keeps improving every year,” he said. “Everyone wonders where it can go next. Drivers have gotten bigger, lighter, faster with faster ball speeds. Everything about them has made the game a lot easier for people to play.”
Lamarre recommends golfers change drivers within three years and irons within five because of the improved technology.
Lamarre said golf clothing has evolved as well, from cotton to tech fabrics that breathe better and hold up longer.
The pandemic has impacted the golf industry positively and negatively, Lamarre said.
The popularity of golf exploded because it provides a safe, outdoor activity in which social distancing can be easily practiced.
Lamarre said his club, CC of New Bedford, had been close to considering closing due to dwindling membership, but last week the club announced membership was full at 420 and there’s a wait list and initiation fee for the first time in more than 20 years.
On the downside, however, the supply chain has become a problem.
“So it’s very difficult to get product right now,” he said, “whether it’s golf clubs, golf shoes, apparel, there are tremendous delays in getting a lot of the raw goods we need to make these products.”
Lamarre lives in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, with his wife, Terri, who last week was sworn in as a Circuit Justice of the District Court for Plymouth, Bristol, Barnstable and Dukes Counties. She had been assistant clerk magistrate in Wareham District Court.
The Lamarres have two children. Jack, 23, will graduate from UMass-Dartmouth on Friday May 6 and has begun working with his father as a demo technician and sales trainee. Julia, 21, just completed her junior year in the nursing program at Villanova.
If everything goes to plan Clem Lamarre hopes to transition his business to son Jack in the next few years, and then play more golf – the game he loves!