Golf Business Stories of the Year


Theres talk of a movement among the Time editorial staff to make Osama Bin Laden the magazines Man of the Year. Public outrage has followed the mere idea, of course, because of the prospective nominees purity of evil. But Time chooses its recipient not on goodness or honor, but newsworthiness (Hitler was once an honoree).
The same principle applies to my informal selection for golf business stories of the year. Im most interested in what made news, without value judgments. So if I leave something off or dont rank it as you see fit, by all means tell me about your disagreement. But please, leave questions about my ancestry out of it.
That said, here we go:
Top Golf Business Story of 2001: Without question, the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball. Its not so much how the ball worked, although some credible people extolled that performance (jeez, did Phil Mickelson talk about anything else all spring?). The marketing blitz was phenomenal. Even Callaway doesnt get on the front page (not the front sports page, the front page of the whole paper), but Pro V1 had a weekday feature story of the kind usually reserved for something Oprah does.
Add to that the fact that Titleist couldnt make the ball fast enough ' leading to a supply problem that increased the mystique ' and you have a commercial juggernaut that made even aggressive competitor Nike take notice.
Most Surprising Story of the Year: The Precept MC Lady. In a sense, its a marketing embarrassment for the industry that its notion about which golfers want what is so out of whack with what they really want. More men played the ball than the gender it was intended for. But the upside is that Precept and its competitors learned what their customers would go ga-ga over ' and adapted immediately to fill the outsize demand. To most observers, it looked as if Precept hadnt missed a step. And if you dont think the MC Lady started a soft-ball movement that will take flight next year, you may be a little soft yourself.
Taking It On Tour Award: Drivers in the TaylorMade-adidas 300 Series were all over the PGA Tour this year, thanks to an aggressive campaign by the company. That attitude, straight from the playbook of company chief Mark King, has led to the 200 Series, which is steel instead of titanium and easier on sensitive wallets. Look for it to do well in 2002.
Best Company Under $100 Million in Annual Sales: Not just a wedge company any more, Cleveland Golf courageously broke out and capitalized on endorser Vijay Singhs 1999 PGA Championship and 2000 Masters wins and started selling more clubs with less loft. The wedge franchise is still big and always will be, but people are taking Clevelands irons and its Launcher driver more seriously now. The secret: The only people who didnt doubt Cleveland werethe folks at Cleveland.
Ely Callaway Biggest Loss: It wasnt on the balance sheet. The death of Ely Callaway in July left a space in reporters notebooks and a hole in colleagues hearts. Callaway had a knack, not so much for golf as for business. His unrelenting application of tried and true, mainstream business tactics to golf may have made the industry less of the old boys network it used to be, but it also modernized the way business is done. That was especially important when titanium came on the scene and golf officially went big-ticket.
Ely would have been the first to admit that there was a lot he didnt know. But he knew how to find people who knew what he didnt, and he made a habit of hiring them.
The Real Story of the Year: Of course, it had nothing to do with golf. Best wishes and sympathies to the brave folks who will endure the ache of empty spaces at their holiday tables this year because of the selfishness of Times Man of the Year candidate. We who play the honorable game think of you always.
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