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Tuesday, June 15, 1999


Ex-attorney
tees off with
online golf
reservations

The entrepreneur says adding
Hawaii courses can
help boost tourism

By Jerry Tune
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Eric Campbell, a 35-year-old former attorney, is in a race to sign up 2,500 golf courses in the next 12 months for his Internet golf reservations system.

If he can do that, and get millions of hits to his Web site, Campbell figures that he will be a dominant company in a lucrative business.

So far, San Diego-based Select Tee Times has signed up 40 courses in San Diego; Palm Springs, Calif.; Phoenix; Orange County and Las Vegas. Today he held a seminar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to explain his service to local golf course operators.

On this first business trip to Hawaii, company president Campbell also will talk to officials at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, hotels and airlines.

Campbell said that the downturn in tourism -- especially from the Japanese -- has sharply cut golf course business in Hawaii.

"Our estimate is that Hawaii golf courses are doing two-thirds or one-half of what could be done," Campbell said.

His system does not change how golf courses do business. The courses continue to set policy on availability -- general public or types of tourist groups -- and they continue to set playing costs.

Select Tee Times gets a 10 to 15 percent commission from the golf courses. Golfers don't pay anything for using the Web site, www.selectteetimes.com.

The company supplies the golf courses with the computer equipment, data line, software and training for the system from Microsoft Corp., Campbell said.

A golfer can punch in the date and time he wants to play, do a search of area golf courses and get a confirmation using a credit card. Digital photos are available of the courses.

Select Tee Times started two years ago, with $200,000 from Campbell for product development, computer equipment and software.

He said another $500,000 was raised in September 1998 from stockbrokers and executives from Internet providers, and that was used to hire sales people and build the company to 15 employees.

In the last 45 days another $2.5 million was added and the company now has 24 employees, Campbell added.

All of this is for the race to dominate the market for golf reservations.

Without a certain critical mass of business, Campbell expects eventually to be bought out by a big Internet provider or some other large company.

He is coming to Hawaii to meet demand. "We asked our customers where they wanted to golf and 10 percent said Hawaii was their first choice," Campbell said.

On the mainland, about 70 percent of the golfers who sign up using Select Tee Times are tourists but the system is open to anyone.

His competitors are smaller regional Internet reservation systems which, in some cases, are being bought out by Select Tee Times.

But Campbell's major competitor still is the old system of using brokers who charge golfers, and then make the reservation by telephone.

Select Tee Times has only four sales people, and right now two are in Hawaii and two in Phoenix.

"Our goal is to get 70 to 80 percent of the golf courses in a region," Campbell said.

From Hawaii, the race continues when Campbell goes to Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Monterey, Calif., and Seattle.

He claims the company already has signed contracts from several European countries although the systems are not yet in place.

The boost to hotels, airlines and tourism is obvious.

"If a golfer knows he has confirmed tee times, he will throw his golf clubs on the plane and play two or three times," Campbell said. "If he doesn't have confirmed times, he may play only once."



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