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Edwin Watts Golf Shops, a Florida-based chain that in 2010 opened its first Utah outlet inside the Sears store at the Fashion Place mall in Murray, said it has agreed to purchase Uinta Golf's five stores.

As part of the acquisition, the Uinta stores in Salt Lake City, Sandy, Riverdale, Orem and St. George, will operate under the name Edwin Watts Golf Uinta.

In addition, the Salt Lake location will serve as Edwin Watts' new western regional office.

"We've been in the golf business for a long time, and our vendors always told us that if we ever had the chance to do something with Uinta we should jump at it," said John Watson, the CEO of the Edwin Watts Golf Shops. "They have a great reputation."

Watson said all of Uinta Golf's (65) employees will keep their jobs under the new ownership.

"Our goal if to make this acquisition as seamless as possible," he said, adding that Uinta's employees have much the same work ethic, mores' and depth of experience found at Edwin Watt's other 90 stores. "Those are things we really value."

Sean Smith, who in 1998 purchased the single Uinta Golf store operated by founder Gordon O'Neil and subsequently grew the business to include five stores, said Edwin Watts offered him a fair price for his company.

He declined to reveal the purchase price, as did Watson.

"There has been one unsettling fact that has overshadowed this business, and that is 45 percent of all off-course golf stores have closed their doors since 2006," Smith said. "So when I looked at the competitive landscape, I realized if Uinta was going to stick around it either had to grow aggressively or become part of something bigger."

Smith added he would not have agreed to sell Uinta unless he was sure that his employees would be taken care of by the new owner.

"Edwin Watts may be a bigger company but they haven't forgotten where they came from," Smith said.

And he pointed out that with Uinta's 65 employees joining a bigger company they have the opportunity to move up within the golf business, which is an industry many of them love.

Edwin Watts' entry into the Utah market in 2010 was part of a 12-store test to determine if its new "store within a store" concept would be successful, Watson said.

"As a whole, those stores didn't perform as well as we expected," he said, indicating the test was terminated and the stores closed down over the past couple of months. "Our Utah store was actually one of the best-performing among that group, but unfortunately, it fell victim to the overall test."

The Edwin Watts shops were family-owned for most of the company's 44-year history. In 2007, the company was acquired by Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm.

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