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Adams Golf Moves Forward Despite the Gloom

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Lately, when golf industry tte--ttes turn to the subject of Adams Golf, theres a lot of clucking and head shaking. What will become of the company, once an aggressive leader in the alternative fairway wood niche, whose earnings and stock prices have been wallowing over the past year? (Insert more gloomy head-shaking here.)
 
Someone forgot to tell Adams Golf about all the gloom.
 
At its headquarters north of Dallas, founder Barney Adams and his team have been busy ignoring naysayers and moving ahead. The company recently bit the downsizing bullet, eliminating some positions and switching its sales representatives from company employees to independent reps. That amounted a total staff cut of about 25 percent.
 
And some employees got new job descriptions, starting at the top.
 
Chip Brewer, already president, became the chief executive officer this week. Barney Adams stepped aside for him, but remains chairman of the board. That kind of news usually heralds retirement, but its just the opposite for Adams.
 
This was my idea, Adams said Jan. 17.
 
But he admits an ulterior motive as well. Barney Adams never fell in love with behind-the-desk duties, and never fell out of love with making and fitting clubs. He longs to get back to the practice range at Hank Haneys Golf Ranch, where he had his first fitting shop.
 
Its more testing than anything else, Adams said. Our whole philosophy is based on clubs that are easier to hit. This move allows me to make sure everything we do conforms with that philosophy.
 
And by testing, Adams means human testing. He wants to see different players swing all kinds of clubs, so he can understand their needs.
 
Name me a player, at any skill level, who doesnt want clubs that are easier to hit, Adams said. Thats swing speed 65 to warp.
Brewer, 38, is a Harvard graduate who seems perfectly comfortable with the strategic role. And while he will not stay out of the product area, and Barney will not shun the boardroom, Brewer sees this change as a good use of the founders skills.
 
You think I can replicate the Tight Lies? Brewer asked with a smile, referring to the companys signature wood from the late 1990s. Id love to sit back and watch Barney do that.
 
Im not going to go out and set goals publicly as to revenues and such. The first priority is to get us through this restructuring, to make sure the right people are in the right places performing the right functions.
 
Spoken like a strategy guy. As for product, the companys GT irons havent quite set the world on fire. But Brewer is undeterred, and like a good golfer, is returning to fundamentals.
 
We participate in all categories now, Brewer said. But we want to make sure we protect our position in metalwoods.
 
In 2001, that position was third behind TaylorMade-adidas Golf and Callaway Golf.
 
Astute industry watchers will note the common name Brewer shares with O. Gordon Brewer Jr., former head of the U.S. Golf Associations Implement and Ball Committee. Thats because Chip is his son. Chips given name is Oliver Gordon Brewer III.
 
Was Dads reputation as an equipment hardliner ever a matter of contention for someone ascending the ladder at an innovative equipment company?
 
It never really came up, said Brewer the Younger. Ive been kind of a behind-the-scenes guy, and will likely remain so, in large part.
 
I told the USGA that if an issue about equipment and compliance ever arose with Adams Golf, naturally I would abstain, said Brewer the Elder from his home in Florida. Both Chip and I really love and respect the game, and we respected each others positions. We figured if we did that, then in the long run, wed serve both our interests.
 
Were very proud of him.
 
So is Barney Adams, it appears.