by Craig Smith
The young man from Spokane who won the 1998 PNGA Junior Boys’ Amateur Championship is now in his mid-30s and owns and operates a thriving golf course accessories business in Hayden, Idaho.
He also is playing some of the best golf of his life.
But it hasn’t been all roses and sunshine in the past year for Reid Hatley, who performed the biggest off-course comeback of his life after an arson fire shut down his company for four months. The yet-unsolved arson occurred June 16 and is believed to have been set as a cover-up for the theft of some expensive machinery. It destroyed the building that housed RHI Golf, a company that makes everything from driving range and yardage signs to other items with course logos such as benches, tee markers, holders for outdoor clocks and even tournament trophies.
The company reopened in a larger leased building and gradually has made its way back to full strength with 14 employees and a backlog of orders. The business opened in 2009 and the more than 1,000 customers have included some of the world’s most famous courses such as Winged Foot, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Medinah, Baltusrol and Merion. One new customer is Bluejack National outside Houston, which is Tiger Woods’ first U.S. design.
To get away from the 24/7 hamster wheel of rebuilding the company last year, Hatley returned to competitive golf for the first time since 2008.
“It kept me sane,” he said.
And it was quite a return. His stellar play earned him the 2015 Mid-Amateur Player of the Year honors for both the PNGA and Washington State Golf Association.
He tied for fifth in the Washington State Amateur, tied for third in the PNGA Men’s Mid-Amateur, made it to the Round of 16 in the PNGA Men’s Amateur and was medalist in the U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier. At the U.S. Mid-Amateur in Vero Beach, Fla., he shot 69 in the first round of stroke play, won his first match, then was eliminated in the Round of 32.
He qualified with Nate Hair, husband of LPGA Tour player Wendy Ward, for this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, to be held in May at Winged Foot in New York. Hatley’s summer also included two rounds of 66 in the Rosauers Open Invitational at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane.
And all of this earned him a spot on the amateur team in the 2015 Hudson Cup matches.
“I’m playing the best golf of my life,” said Hatley, whose college career and attempts at tour golf were affected by a knee injury most likely suffered on a ski slope.
Surgery has repaired the knee, and working with a trainer he has added 30 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame and has more power and distance. He admits watching golf on TV comes complete with the thought that maybe he could be good enough to be playing instead of watching.
Hatley plans a competitive schedule of regional and national events this season, including trying to qualify for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur. He said he is surprised how many of his customers use the internet to track his rounds at national events.
At Ferris High School in Spokane, Hatley was a two-time Greater Spokane League champion. He finished second in the 1999 Washington 4A high school golf championship while playing on one of the state’s all-time best teams. His home course was Manito Golf & Country Club.
Hatley’s junior golf included winning an AJGA event at Trophy Lake outside Bremerton as well as the PNGA Junior Boys’ Amateur, held in ’98 at Pinecrest Golf Course in Idaho Falls.
His accomplishments earned him a scholarship to the University of Arizona where his roommate for three years was teammate Ricky Barnes, a PGA Tour member since 2009. Hatley finished tied for 15th at the 2000 NCAA Championship and advanced to match play in the 2001 U.S. Amateur.
After college, Hatley played some Canadian Tour and mini-tour events, then worked as an assistant pro and gave golf lessons in Northern Idaho. He also learned how to operate woodworking and other equipment with an eye toward opening his business, which he did with backing from Stan Kohls, former owner of the Seattle outdoor apparel maker Filson. Hatley now owns the company outright.
Hatley inherited some practical-skill genes from his father, Allen, who grew up on a farm outside Pullman and went to Washington State University.
One small perk among the hassle and heartache of moving to a new business facility is that Hatley’s office now has a golf cup cut into the floor and carpet good enough for practice putting.
This is a guy to keep an eye on in 2016.
Craig Smith was a longtime sportswriter for The Seattle Times, and as a youth worked as a caddie at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore, Wash.