RE-AIMING THE ARTILLERY: Promises by Callaway Golf and others to pump up their golf ball counts on the pro tours have the market leader preparing for battle. Look for Titleist to adjust its endorsement strategy in coming weeks, especially on the LPGA Tour and the Champions Tour.
We didnt declare war, said Titleist chief Wally Uihlein, but we have no choice but to counterattack on all tours.
Defense of its high weekly ball use by pros, as well as tough business conditions, has prompted Titleist to offer less than full-line endorsements to players who previously carried Titleist clubs and bags. Karrie Webb, Kelly Robbins, Dottie Pepper and Deb Richard will all be offered less lucrative ball-shoe-glove (and perhaps cap) deals for next season. No word yet on who will accept and who will move on, but such cutbacks often chase players away. Expect only Pepper and Richard to remain from the above quartet, say inside sources.
On the Champions Tour, Jay Sigel, Allen Doyle and Lanny Wadkins will be offered narrower deals along the lines of what the ladies will see. Tom Kite, who has some time left on his current deal, will remain a full-line Titleist endorser. But you wont see Hale Irwin playing Titleist sister brand Cobra; that label is looking for a younger, edgier image.
Titleist will probably end up spending more on tour next year than this year, despite business conditions, but the concentration will be more heavily on golf balls.
Rumors hover around Callaway Golf like butterflies around a flower this time of year, but the company will neither confirm nor deny whispers that it plans to cut its LPGA staff to Annika Sorenstam, Rachel Teske and Kelli Kuehne. Callaways current staff includes those three and Alison Nicholas, Emilee Klein, Jane Geddes, Jill McGill, Leta Lindley, Liselotte Neumann and Rosie Jones. Insiders say Callaway is hammering out its player strategies on all tours this week.
USGA DISTRIBUTES FALL GRANTS: The autumn meeting of the U.S. Golf Association grants committee yielded 43 grants to programs in 26 states. More than $1.1 million went to game-growth initiatives, bringing the USGA grant total to more than $5.5 million this year.
Among the recipients from the fall meeting: The Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia ($100,000), the Butler County (Pa.) Family YMCA ($16,000), the Mescalero Apache Tribe Recreation Dept. ($1,725) and the Mississippi Community Development Corp. ($75,000).