Imagining a Callaway Without Callaway
Ill bet you said Ely Callaway. If youre a real golf business fan and watch this space a lot, perhaps you said Wally Uihlein (Titleist), Mark King (TaylorMade-adidas), Eddie Binder (Spalding) or John Solheim (Ping). But Ill bet you still came up with Callaway first.
And therein has laid the blessing ' and curse ' for Callaway Golf of its founders inimitable charm. For better or worse, the corporate persona of Callaway Golf has depended on Ely Callaway. And now that his retirement seems imminent 'because of succession plans, disease, or both ' one has to wonder if Elys absence from the scene will alter the balance of power in the golf industry.
Last week, surgeons removed Mr. Callaways gall bladder. During the operation, they found a tumor on his pancreas. The company, timing its announcements carefully to minimize the effect on its stock, described its condition as manageable. Mr. Callaway was expected to be back at his desk in a few weeks. As of this writing (May 4), he is still in the hospital, but is said to be mobile and in good spirits and appetite.
But the company has not conclusively answered questions about the pathology results on the pancreatic tumor. Depending on its state of advancement, pancreatic cancer can kill in a matter of weeks, although it doesnt always. Malignant pancreatic tumors dont respond to ordinary cancer treatments, say medical experts. And operations to remove the pancreas have a low survival rate, especially among older men. Mr. Callaway is 81.
Those of us who know him, even those of us who have had serious disagreements with him, hope Mr. Callaway will retire pursuant to his plans to let loose the reins of power, not because of disease or worse. Mr. Callaway said even before his medical problems came to light that he would retire some time this year.
So what will happen then? Who will reporters go to for some of the best copy in golf journalism? Since Callaway rose to prominence in the early 1990s, Mr. Callaway has made himself available more often than most executives at his level. His Georgia accent, undiluted by years in California, immediately attracts attention. His devotion to his companys message holds it. I recall being amazed in 1993 that I could get him on the phone any time, even though I was no more than a cub reporter in the golf press.
Callaways depth chart of capable executives is long, but not one of the contenders has as much affection for the limelight as his current boss. So Callaway will have to dream up new strategies to make up for the publicity Mr. Callaway garnered. Perhaps the best thing to do is not make the successor try to be like Ely. It cant be done.
And how will other companies respond? Likely by rushing into any perceived gap in leadership at Callaway. If there is any uncertainty, any lag between our definite knowledge of who leads Callaway and our learning of who will, competitors will take advantage. Expect a lot of ink and air time for competing execs.
Of course, Callaways media relations skills may make such a window very narrow, if it allows one to open at all.
In the end, its product quality that sustains this industry, as it is with any worthwhile business. But getting consumer and trade attention is the first step. When Ely Callaway has to stop doing that, it will be the end of an era. Callaway Golf will have to reinvent itself, at least in part.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.