ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s no secret that elite professional golfers get paid by sponsors to play certain equipment and wear specific clothing. What may come as a surprise is the fact that many forgo such sponsorship contracts in favor of the freedom to employ anything they would like.
Consider it the ultimate compliment for a company. A player eschewing guaranteed money in favor of supporting that brand.
FootJoy knows all about that compliment. The only PGA Tour player currently under contract to wear the company’s apparel is Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner Steve Stricker. The other 14 regular members who brandish the clothes are simply doing so because they feel it’s the best.
“Steve Stricker is under contract to wear our product,” FootJoy director of marketing Whitney Trimble said during the PGA Merchandise Show on Friday. “Everybody else does it voluntarily. They choose to. It’s a testament to the apparel.”
This season’s line includes more vibrant colors, but also focuses on new material.
“We’re going for updated, traditional designs, but performance fabrics, so all polyester, man-made fabrics that have that look and feel of mercerized cotton, but with all the attributes of performance,” Trimble explained. “It wicks moisture, has UV sun protection, it holds its color and doesn’t shrink, it holds its shape and lasts longer. But all in that updated, traditional design.”
Updated and traditional also describes FootJoy’s newest line of footwear, so it should come as no surprise that even more players are wearing spikes from the company without being under any contractual obligation.
There are currently three players in the top-25 on the Official World Golf Ranking who aren't under contract to put their feet in FootJoy, but still do – and there are many more cases amongst those ranked in the top-50, top-100 and beyond.
“The key for us is plurality,” FootJoy president Jim Connor said. “It’s to have a balance throughout our Tour roster. From the first-class group in the top-20, the business class group from 30-50, then the coach group, which is all the way up to 125 and non-exempt. We’re always looking to make sure we’re balanced and have representation in all of those groups. We’re never looking for one or two players to drive our business. To us, that’s a risky strategy and it’s not effective.”
Meanwhile, the players wearing FootJoy shoes speak to the impact it has on their performance level.
“Golf is a game from the ground up. It starts with your feet. If your feet are bad and you can't have balance, you can't have any of those so that is where it starts,” said Bo Van Pelt, who wears the DryJoys Tour. “You look at any great athlete they are always on balance no matter what the sport and golf is no different. … When I'm at a tournament, it's time to go to work. So I need to make sure I have all the necessary tools to perform at the highest level. That includes shoes.”