Wesley “Wes” Zulty, a real estate developer and lawyer much better known for such entrepreneurial efforts as the introduction of colored golf balls to Madison duffers, died Tuesday. He was 85.

Zulty, a UW Law School graduate, got into the sports business when, as a student, he invested $132 on two sets of golf clubs during a trip to Chicago. He brought them back to Madison, sold both sets, then returned to Chicago and bought three more sets. Soon his parents’ home on Spaight Street was filled with golf equipment, and the business — along with playing the saxophone in bands — saw him through law school.

From that beginning, Wes Zulty Sports evolved, as did a successful though “part-time” law career. He started with a law office in front of an auto body shop at 1309 Williamson St. in 1953 and eventually operated four sports stores for more than 40 years and a successful business supplying schools with sports team uniforms and equipment. His most popular store was at 1440 E. Washington Ave., but he opened stores on Odana Road, John Nolen Drive and University Avenue before retiring in 1993.

Zulty served on numerous boards and committees in Madison and also dipped into politics in the village of Shorewood Hills. He was an early crusader for accurate labeling of ingredients in foods.

He was always forthright about his business successes and failures. While he brought the first oversize tennis rackets to Madison, he said in 1983, “I didn’t think the Hula Hoop would sell, so I didn’t get into that game, and I did think women bowlers would buy pink bowling shirts. They wouldn’t.”

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Gunderson Funeral Home, 5203 Monona Drive.

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