To get through college, Joe Hardy sold vegetables door-to-door. He went on to found 84 Lumber, America's largest privately held supplier of building materials. Last year the colorful octogenarian signed John Daly to a three-year endorsement deal and wooed the PGA Tour to his posh Pennsylvania resort, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa. In September the 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania debuts at Hardy's course, Mystic Rock.
First thing, Joe, why is your company called 84 Lumber?
It comes from the village we're in. Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, is eighty degrees and four minutes west in longitude. On a surveying trip, George Washington located a saloon at eighty-four degrees west of the general store, and the land is on the eighty-fourth tract carved out by the Northwest Ordinance.
Is that all true?
Your guess is as good as mine.
How did you get into the lumber business?
After I got back from the Second World War, I worked in the family's jewelry business. It sucked. The jewelry business was too slow. So I switched to lumber and started from nothing. After three years, we had $2 million in sales. We moved to Eighty Four in 1956. Now we have more than 400 stores and $2 billion in sales.
How did golf fit in?
It was in my family. We were members of a club in Pittsburgh. But my interest in golf didn't pick up until about fifteen years ago, when I bought Nemacolin Woodlands out of bankruptcy. It's now a five-star resort. We've got everything for families—amenities like one of the finest clay-shooting stations in the country. Guests come up to thank me and I say, "What the hell are you thanking me for?You're paying $500 for a room."
What else do you need at the resort?
About all we don't have is an ocean, and we're working on that.
Why did you sign John Daly as a company spokesman?
He's loaded with charisma. He's Happy Gilmore. John calls me his father half the time. He's good for us to sponsor because we deal with builders and they like his attitude—grip it and rip it. If he throws a club in the pond, they understand.
Daly's drinking and gambling problems led Callaway to cancel its deal with him. Does he come with too much baggage?
Don't we all?We are protected—it's in his contract that he can't embarrass us. But I've got no complaints with John. He has a great heart, and I'd like to stick with him through thick and thin.
Have you played with other Tour pros?
The first time I teed it up with Tiger, I was so nervous. I played terribly, hitting it all over the place, but he just kept saying what a beautiful shot I'd hit. And I played with Arnold Palmer at a senior event. I was a foot from the hole and picked my ball up. Arnold said, "Hey, you put that back. I lost three tournaments to Nicklaus because I missed putts like that."
Pete Dye built your course, Mystic Rock.
Pete's the character of them all. When he looks at a piece of land he walks and walks, studying every detail, and draws on the back of an envelope. When I brought him to the property it was all trees and huge boulders. Pete said he couldn't build the course. He said maybe his son would. I said, "Either you build it or get out of here." So he built the damn thing.
What's the future of 84 Lumber?
My daughter Maggie is running the show. She's thirty-seven now, but she's been in training since she was seven. She's stepping things up through acquisitions and internal growth.
You sound like a happy man.
Every day when I get up, I wonder what I'm going to blow up next.
Scorecard: JOE HARDY
BEST SCORE 84 at the Links course at Nemacolin Woodlands in Farmington, Pennsylvania
HOME COURSE Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands
CLUBS Wilson Deep Red driver, Ping seven-wood, TaylorMade irons, Titleist Pro V1 balls