Tom Stites knows golf clubs. After designing them for 26 years – the last 10 as the head designer for Nike Golf – there's no reason why he shouldn't.
So where was Nike’s elite club brainchild hiding out during the madness of the PGA Merchandise show? Right amongst the attendee common-folk in the Nike Golf hitting bay at the south side of the Orange County Convention center. And, unless you’ve put his promotional video from the Nike Golf site on repeat or really know your stuff, you’d probably have no idea who he was even if he was just 5 feet behind watching you hit his creations.
Stites says Nike Golf has progressed in the golf industry during his 10-year tenure, but it's the other, more storied manufacturers in the business that get all the credit for moving the industry forward.
“I do feel like we’ve set some trends the last 10 years that have quietly been overlooked and have led to a lot of other technologies every other manufacture has followed suit with,” explained Stites. “Especially with our Sasquatch (driver). That was one of the technologies that led the USGA and R&A to speed up a lot of things they have over the last number of years.”
Encompassing a true inventor's mentality, when likened to Thomas Edison and his noted multiple failures before correctly inventing the light bulb, Stites offered a similar, yet more Texan explanation, about the process of creating new and improved technologies for Nike Golf.
“I call it kissin’ frogs,” Stites laughed. “It’s like the old saying that you kiss a ton of frogs before you find your prince, or in our case, you get what you’re working on right.”
Stites says his designs have about a “one-to-50” ratio of success rate to market rate.
That may seem low, but 'Leading Edge' has a feeling that sets just fine for Stites, because, after all, when he does finally get it right, he still seems to find the most pleasure in simply watching eager golfers hit his special 'one.'