Nike Golf's equipment shutdown has ripple effect on industry

By Matt GinellaAugust 4, 2016, 1:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Goodbye, world … of equipment.

Almost 20 years since launching the iconic “Hello, World” ad campaign with a 20-year-old Tiger Woods, Nike is exiting the equipment industry. As of Wednesday, the mega brand will no longer be producing golf clubs, bags or balls.

Their focus, according to a news release, will be shoes and clothes.

Which leaves their tour pros, coming off of four major championships and into the Travelers Championship, scratching their headcovers.

“I can’t comment at this time,” Paul Casey, a Nike ambassador for 12 years said via text. “Wish I could, but I’m still digesting it.”

Tony Finau, who signed a five-year deal to wear and play all things Nike to start the 2015-16 season, had a similar reaction.

“My agent texted me today and said we needed to talk,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure it all out. It’s now on Nike to reach out and help each one of us understand the future.”

Being a publicly traded company, Nike was required to keep employees and ambassadors in the dark until something like shutting down a branch of their portfolio is public information.

Patrick Rodgers, a Nike player who made his pro debut at the Travelers three years ago, and his caddie, Thomas Maples, were at the Nike equipment truck Wednesday morning. They talked to staff about testing wedges. The two returned in the afternoon, after news had broken, and were met with: "I don’t think we need to do any more testing of wedges. We all just lost our jobs."

As Maples said, the players will be fine. They'll play what they have for now and move on. Sympathy is for those no longer employed.

After a day of Nike Golf laying off employees, including their tour reps, there were at least some industry insiders not surprised.


Timeline: Nike in the golf industry


“To be honest, I can’t believe it didn’t happen five years ago,” said Harry Arnett, Callaway’s chief marketing officer. “They’ve been throwing a lot of good money after bad for a long time now. And at some point you need to justify the spend. There needs to be a return on your investment.”

As Arnett pointed out, with only three percent of the U.S. equipment market and not much more globally, that wasn’t happening for Nike. What has been happening has been decades of seismic deals ending in lots of zeros.

Woods signed the first of his four deals with Nike in 1996 for $40 million. Then another contract in 2001, reportedly worth $20 million a year. After another contract in 2006, and another in 2013, it looked like Woods would finish his career with the company.

In 2005, at age 15, Michelle Wie signed a Nike and Sony contract worth an estimated $10 million per year. (More than $3 million more than what Annika Sorenstam was making per year, and Sorenstam had already won nine of her 10 major championships.)

And in 2013, under the lights and through smoke machines of a stage in Dubai, Rory McIlroy, who had won two of his four majors, became what many business insiders projected was Nike’s “$200 million man.”

Woods, Wie, McIlroy, Finau, Casey, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Rodgers and Nick Watney are all golf ambassadors for Nike. And there are more. But for how long?

"Just like his comeback to golf, I think timelines inhibit you,” Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, told GolfChannel.com. "So we'll do this methodically, and in a proper way."

Given the context of the Tour season, Finau says he will also take his time if he were to make a change.

“I’m going to stay focused on golf right now,” Finau said. “I will finish the season playing Nike. I’m happy with my equipment right now and I need to keep playing for the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup.”

Arnett raised another good point.

“When you think of Jordan Spieth, what brand do think of?” he asked.

Under Armour is the clear answer.

“Exactly.”

What we see are hats, shirts, bags and shoes, to Arnett's point. And then we see the logos. And although we see clubs and balls, it’s not always easy to identify the equipment brand a player is using.

So, Nike is going back to doing what it does best: shoes and apparel. And thus, the potential for less money down and more coming back.

"We're committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel," said Trevor Edwards, president of Nike in a statement. "We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf."

Nike was not immediately available for further comment to Golf Channel.

So, how would a mega successful brand like Nike plug the public perception of loss or failure?

Some industry insiders say it wouldn’t surprise them to see Jason Day become a Nike ambassador for clothes and shoes, while continuing to play TaylorMade clubs and balls. Adidas announced earlier this year that it will be selling TaylorMade and Ashworth.

Nike has said goodbye to equipment, but it’s still difficult to imagine the company will not continue to offer more hellos to the best players in the world.

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.