Retail Golf Pioneer Voss Boreta Passes

Voss Boreta is credited with helping to revolutionize the golf retail mail-order business in the 1970s. At one time, he operated more than 70 Las Vegas Discount Golf and Tennis franchises nationwide. On October 1, Boreta died at the age of 79.

At the time of his passing he was still active in the golf business, overseeing, two Las Vegas Golf and Tennis locations in Las Vegas plus the TaylorMade Golf Experience (formerly the Callaway Golf Center). Many friends and family members attended a memorial service in his honor October 10 at TPC Summerlin.

"Everyone who played golf in Las Vegas knew Voss and liked him," says Jack Sheehan, a writer who co-authored two books with Peter Jacobsen. "He looked like a movie star, one who might have been pals in an earlier time with (gangster) Bugsy Siegel or (tough-guy actor) George Raft, and he always had a big smile and the attitude that he was going to give his customers a great deal. In this town he was like Cher or Liberace or Elvis. When you said Voss, everyone knew who you were talking about."

While he was popular in Las Vegas, Boreta was also known as a golf industry pioneer and shrewd operator. He got started in business in San Francisco where he operated nightclubs before shifting his sights to Las Vegas. After breaking his 7-iron during a Vegas golf outing he discovered there was nobody in the city that could fix it. He sent it to a friend in San Francisco and, after hearing the story, the friend encouraged Boreta to open a golf store.

He opened the original Las Vegas Discount Golf and Tennis location at Tropicana and Paradise in 1974 and grossed about $275,000 the first year. A strong local following, the store's location near the airport, and his willingness to take a gamble on the mail-order business combined to turn Boreta's little store into a national brand.

"We put a little ad in Golf Digest that people had to call with their own dime," Boreta told AP Golf writer Tim Dahlberg in 1989. "When they called, we told them we'd send them a catalog when we didn't even have one put together yet. But the next thing you know, here comes a couple of orders in."

Boreta was off and running. He capitalized on a golf boom that coincided with national golf manufacturers creating "game improvement" clubs, such as oversized drivers. His stores sold many items, and his opinion held sway with major manufacturers. Boreta sold his national stores in 1995, but kept the Vegas locations. Over the years two of his sons, Ron and John, joined him in the golf business; in recent years, Ron took over the day-to-day operations with assistance from John.

Voss Boreta also founded, with longtime manager, Bill Stauffer, the Las Vegas Golf and Tennis Experience in 2004. More recently, Boreta and his sons entered into an agreement with TaylorMade Golf to re-brand and renovate the Callaway Golf Center as the TaylorMade Golf Experience. At the time of his passing, work was continuing on the facility (which remains open during construction).

Boreta's memorial was a fun-filled event, something he requested. "My Dad hated funerals, and told me after every one that we ever attended, 'I don't want any part of that,' " said his son Ron. "All he wanted was for his friends to get together, tell some stories, and have some drinks. And he wanted to make sure I picked up the check and gave the bartenders a big (tip). That's the kind of guy he was. A regular guy who loved life and lived it to the fullest."

Boreta is survived by his long-time partner, Araceli, and his three sons, four grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.