Callaway Reluctantly Yields the Helm
Ely Callaway has finally felt the need to do what he resisted for so long. With his recovery from gall bladder surgery taking longer than expected, the 81-year-old founder of Callaway Golf resigned from two of his three top executive posts to save his company ' and Wall Street ' from a breath-holding wait for the beginning of Callaway Golfs next chapter.
The successor, picked from a deep pool of inside executive talent, is Ron Drapeau, 54, Callaways manufacturing chief. Drapeau brings a solid industry reputation and varied experience to the helm. He was chief of Lynx Golf all the way back to the days when it was a division of Zurn Industries, the plumbing fixtures company. He also served at Odyssey Golf, which is now a part of Callaway, before becoming a Callaway executive in 1996.
Drapeau inherits something akin to an enormous cruise ship whose engine is so finely tuned it seems to require little maintenance, or even stoking. It simply parts the sea before it with its prodigious bow, sailing along at full speed. (Callaway posted record sales of $261 million for the first quarter of 2001.)
But he will never be the host at the captains table that Ely was. Drapeau is certainly not a drip; on the contrary, he is an energetic, intelligent and engaging man who has earned his confidence with long experience. But no one could easily follow the one-of-a-kind act of the charismatic Mr. Callaway, who in his active career combined razor-sharp business acumen with a folksy southern charm ingrained in him from birth near Lagrange, Ga. in 1919.
Nobody in the industry has walked the Wall Street walk more effectively than Mr. Callaway. His policy of easy press accessibility helped launch the career of more than one golf journalist, and his frequent appearances in the mainstream press and on financial and golf television ' including The Golf Channel ' helped cement his reputation as a business media star since the days of the first Big Bertha in the early 1990s.
Journalists and business colleagues in and out of golf marveled at Mr. Callaways vitality, a seemingly ceaseless verve that belied his lined face and rich experience. Thats why many were shocked in the days following April 23, when his company announced that Mr. Callaway had his gall bladder removed. During surgery, doctors discovered a tumor on Mr. Callaways pancreas. This raised fears that Mr. Callaway might be suffering from a very quick-killing form of cancer. (Metalwood pioneer Gary Adams lived for years with the wasting condition, but his case was an exception. Once discovered, pancreatic cancer can kill in a matter of weeks.)
Company officials refuse to discuss pathology results on the tumor, saying it will be Mr. Callaways personal decision whether to reveal them. But it appears now that even if the tumor is malignant, it has been discovered early enough to prevent a quick demise. Company officials continue to describe Mr. Callaways condition as manageable, even though minor post-operative complications have kept him in the hospital longer than planned. In the first week after surgery, both doctors and the company believed Mr. Callaway would be back at his desk in two weeks.
His desk is where he longs to be; Ely Callaway may be the happiest workaholic in golf. And his company will not be entirely without him. He will continue in the less-demanding position of chairman of the board, perhaps because of his sense of his value as an icon to his shareholders and to Wall Street.
The executive succession committee of Callaways board chose Drapeau in accordance with Mr. Callaways recommendation, and reportedly that advice was based on research. Before his illness, Mr. Callaway privately polled each member of his executive team as to who should succeed him. Drapeau was the overwhelming choice.
What Drapeau inherits is one of the most successful brands, not only in golf, but in consumer products. Mr. Callaways cherished business principles have always included the notion that people will pay premium prices for premium products, and so far he has not broken the rim of any price envelope he has chosen to push. That confidence (some competitors have called it arrogance) has moved Callaway closer every year to $1 billion in sales. One could say that all Drapeau has to do is not screw it up.
But sure there is more to it than that. Callaways club operation may be cruising, but its golf ball operation is still a child in need of guidance. Even though the 2000 introduction of the Callaway Rule 35 ball was the most successful golf ball launch (from scratch) ever, Callaways market share foothold is still in the single digits.
And Callaways gentlemanly but heated conflict with the U.S. Golf Association over nonconforming drivers is a situation that will require special management skills over the short and long terms. The introduction of the ERC II nonconforming driver set off many sparks, some of which still float in the air, looking for something to fall on and ignite. Callaway sees the conflict as nothing less than a battle for control over the future of the game, and was moved to create a special department to steer efforts toward that objective.
That departments chief, Chuck Yash, was at one time tapped as Elys successor. But plans changed after Mr. Callaway changed his mind about retiring before a self-imposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2000. Yash, a former naval officer who plays things close to the vest, would never admit it even if he did feel passed over for this latest appointment. But he is just one of a number of talented executives Drapeau will have at his disposal ' and have to manage.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.