In Search of Duffers' Dollars: New Fund Invests in Golf Stocks

But simply liking a sport doesn't necessarily make it a good investment.
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If you spend as much time thinking about your backswing as the state of your investments, this might be the mutual fund for you.

The

Value Trend Links

fund teed off this week with the aim of investing in companies connected to the game of golf. But while the fund will have a position in the company that makes your

Big Berthas

, don't assume the entire portfolio will revolve around that little white ball to the same degree your life might.

Other potential holdings include

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

Daimler Chrysler

(DCX)

-- not exactly names that come to mind while you're sitting around the clubhouse. But both firms sponsor golf tournaments -- the

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

and the

Mercedes Classic

. And for San Diego-based

Value Trend Funds'

father-son management team of Ross and Jeff Provence, that's reason enough to include them in the portfolio.

To qualify for the portfolio, stocks "must be in the golfing industry, in the manufacturing, production or sale of golf equipment or the sponsor of a major event in the golfing industry," says Ross Provence.

Fund watchers -- including

TSC's

own

Brenda Buttner

-- aren't crazy about so-called gimmick funds that focus in on a specific business or industry to entice investors who share an interest in them.

The Links fund is "a gimmick developed by the people who market the funds," says Ed Foster, director of research at

Fabian Investment Resources

in Huntington Beach, Calif. "I really feel that people are being led down the wrong path by investing in these types of funds because it plays on people's feelings, especially with golf. It's the latest fad."

But Jeff Provence defends the fund as a way to give golfers a chance to invest in what they know.

"This is an opportunity for investors to participate in the golfing industry and diversify" away from golf equipment makers, such as

Callaway

(ELY) - Get Report

, maker of those Big Berthas. That stock was down 64.1% in 1998.

Other holdings might include

Fortune Brands

, which owns

Titelist

golf balls and equipment, and

Textron

(TXT) - Get Report

, maker of the

E-Z-GO

golf cart.

Other Narrow-Interest Funds

To be sure, the Links fund is not alone when it comes to focusing on a fast-growing sport. In fact, there's not one, but -- count 'em -- two funds dedicated to car racing, though neither has attracted significant assets.

Both the

Motorsports Associated Growth and Income

fund, with $239,000 in assets, and the

StockCar Stocks Mutual

fund, with $813,000 in assets, look for companies connected to the loudest sport on earth, such as

Speedway Motor Sports

(TRK) - Get Report

, operator of several racetracks. Both funds launched in 1998; the Motorsports fund has posted a negative 4.3% return since its inception in June, while the StockCar Stocks fund boasts a 25.9% return since its inception in October, according to the fund's Web site.

Jack Plymale, a spokesperson for the Motorsports fund, notes that his fund was launched shortly before the market swoon last summer and thus shows a negative return. He's quick to point out that while there may be two racing funds out there, his was first.

"Ours is the original," Plymale says. "I won't say where they got their idea from."

Moving away from sports, you can invest in such industry-specific vehicles as the

Pauze Tombstone

fund, which invests in the funeral and death industry, and has a sickly return of negative 3.2% since its inception in May 1997. Or if you like watching TV, you could take a flier on a better-known gimmick fund -- or at least one with a gimmicky name -- the $66.5 million

(GICPX) - Get Report

Gabelli Global Interactive Couch Potato fund, which invests in companies involved in the communication and creative industries. It returned 28.9% in 1998, on par with the

S&P 500's

return of 28.7%, with dividends reinvested daily.

Tough '98 for Golf Stocks

But if golf is your passion, be aware that some golfing-related stocks were in the rough last year. Take

Adams Golf

(ADGO)

, which Value Trend Links bought Tuesday. The stock lost 77.7% in 1998 after going public in July. But if that stock needs to work on its game, it should have some company. Fortune Brands was down 14.7% in 1998, and

Ashworth Golf

(ASHW)

, another name touted by the Provences, was down 49.7% for the year.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with buying low. You've just got to hope that the stocks will go up -- which, by the way, is exactly the opposite of what you want to happen with your golf score.

And while both Ross and Jeff Provence are avid and experienced golfers -- Ross has been putting around for more than 30 years -- they have less experience in the mutual-fund world. Value Trend, started in 1995, has $10 million under management in larger individual accounts, Jeff says. But the father-son duo hasn't run a mutual fund before.

The Links fund is no-load and requires a minimum investment of $1,000. Its expense ratio is 1.35% -- about average. It has no 12b-1 fee.

Lack of a track record aside, Jeff Provence says investing offers an alternative for folks who might go a little overboard with their green fees.

"If you put as much money into any investment as you did into golf, you'd probably be way ahead, let's just say that," Jeff Provence says.