If you're one of those golfers who has bent a putter over your knee and then needed the club to be fixed, or if you accidentally broke the shaft of an iron when your swing crashed into a tree, you probably have witnessed the work of Mike Zguris.
Zguris is beginning his 30th year in the art of repairing golf clubs, which is something like having been a telephone repair expert who went from rotary phones to BlackBerrys.
"I've seen things reinvented five different times," he said in his shop, downstairs in his Medford home.
When he started, the heads of clubs known as woods really were wood. Almost all of the shafts were made of steel (except for the occasional antique wood shaft).
Now, he has to know all the nuances in titanium clubheads and composite shafts made by dozens of companies, large and small. "There's a lot of shafts out there that make me have to look things up: the specs, the torques, the weights, the flex points," he said. "Thank God for the Internet."
Still, he carries on, sanding and sawing and staining and painting. He loves it, serving 70 private and public clubs on Long Island in a business that changes by the day.
Zguris, 48, worked for and then bought the Total Golf shop in Patchogue. He closed that in 1994. "Just in the nick of time," he said, referring to a rush of golf discount stores and direct sales outlets on the Web. Customers would come in with damaged clubs, so he learned how to do repairs.
"A lot of it was trial and error, re-shafting and refinishing," he said. "After doing something a few years, you get good at it. Golf pros, between lessons and the things they have to do for members, don't have the time to do it. Guys just started coming to the store and the business just started to grow. I thought maybe we should offer a service of pickup and delivery and that's when it really started to boom."
He still does pickups and drop-offs for almost all of the courses, although he admits that sometimes he uses mail to service clubs from Montauk Downs. "I drive 40,000 miles a year," he said. "That's the hard part. Working on the clubs is great. Nobody talks back to me."
Many of his orders are rooted in what he calls "flat out anger." He added, "I see a lot of knee jobs, you can see the bend right in the middle." Sometimes the club just breaks at the hosel, where the shaft meets the head. Sometimes, he offsets decades of wear and tear.
Believe it or not, Zguris still sees many wooden headed clubs. Some golfers still actually use them, others like to have them as keepsakes. One man has a set of 15 that he wanted to make look like new for a display above his fireplace.
The painstaking aspect is sanding the finish off the club and using a sharp instrument to retrace "MacGregor" or whatever other manufacturer's name or endorser's signature might be there. Then he stains it and covers it with a layer of urethane.
As you would expect, he often counsels golfers to keep the clubs they have rather than buy new ones. He says the average golfer's money would be better spent on lessons and on finding the right shaft for his or her swing. "The shaft is the engine of the club," he said.
Golf clubs still keep his motor running, but they don't pay all the bills (which, for this hockey diehard and youth league coach, includes Rangers tickets). He is a part-time actor (he has a part in "Bounty Hunter") and model.
And there he was Wednesday at Augusta National for the Masters, getting his picture taken by a friend and attempting to drum up some business.
He'll keep repairing clubs as long as people keep breaking them, which he doesn't expect to end any time soon.