Who Gets Spalding -- and Do You Care

By Adam BarrAugust 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
Just after Labor Day, a court will hold an auction to determine who will own what remains of one of the oldest names in sporting goods.
And golf consumers everywhere will turn right to the Red Sox box score.
Whatever wincing is done September 4 will likely be more related to the inevitable dog-day slide of the anti-Yankees than to the other New England disintegration, the dividing up of the remains of Spalding Golf.
Actually, Spalding is technically already gone. The non-golf assets of the century-old sporting goods company were sold off earlier this year, leaving the substantial golf component, which was then called Top-Flite Golf after its most prominent brand. When Top-Flite went on the block, TaylorMade-adidas Golf kicked the tires. But finally, Callaway Golf emerged as the preliminary winning bidder in a special bankruptcy proceeding that allows Top-Flite to declare bankruptcy and then show up in court with a ready buyer who will take the company out of insolvency. The proposed price: $125 million. But the law says the court must give other bidders a chance, just in case someone else can top the offer.
Whats actually for sale? Most prominently, there are the proven Top-Flite and Strata golf ball brands (Top-Flite has been used on clubs at various times over the years as well), plus the venerable Ben Hogan club brand. There are two golf ball plants, one in Chicopee, Mass., north of Hartford, Conn., and another in Gloversville, N.Y. Their combined capacity is about 30 million dozen per year, although they are said by industry sources to be producing only about 19 million dozen annually in this depressed golf economy. And there is the Hogan club facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The main reason the Red Sox will cause more heartburn than this sale is not the Babes Curse, but the fact that nothing about this bankruptcy deal is likely to change the lives of golf consumers, even avid ones. The brands involved are not likely to vanish any time soon no matter who buys them. Their equity is simply too strong, even in their owners insolvency, for the industry to ignore. Pull the rug out from under Strata, Hogan and the related brands, and everyone who admires Jim Furyk enough to buy the gear he used to win the U.S. Open will go to another company. That would be the kind of business misstep a new owner cant afford.
Still, the business chess is interesting. Only two approved bidders are expected at next weeks auction: Callaway and TaylorMade, through its corporate parent, adidas. Each bidder has a unique interest and could take over under a collection of scenarios ' and those dont always involve actually owning or operating these brands.
Callaway, whose ball business hasnt taken off the way it had hoped, would love an excuse to close its expensive, state-of-the-art golf ball plant in Carlsbad, Calif. Almost everything you do industrially in California is expensive, and that plant has a capacity of only about six million dozen. Selling the small plant and gaining 30 million dozen in capacity, either for itself or subcontract manufacturing, could be seen by the Wall Street analysts who watch Callaway as a shrewd move.
But dont jump to the conclusion that Callaway would not, under the right circumstances, want to operate the former Spalding brands. The Hogan irons especially would make Callaway an immediate player in the better-player iron category. (Callaway says its the No. 1 maker of irons in the world. But although its irons have their own following among better players, Callaway irons in general carry a game-improvement reputation.)
TaylorMade-adidas has been famously tight-lipped about its plans, probably because of the strict controls and European business style of its German-based parent, the second-largest sporting goods company in the world. But back channel word is that TaylorMade would operate the brands, and do so aggressively. Its also possible that adidas could run the brands outside the TaylorMade umbrella.
Many accuse TaylorMade of simply trying to frustrate cross-town rival Callaway, and TaylorMade hasnt denied it. But theres not a lot of profit in inflicting frustration for its own sake.
In recent weeks, speculation has spilled over to other golf brands as well. Titleist looked like it might be in the picture as well, but it let the deadline pass for becoming a qualified bidder under court rules. Inside sources say Titleist was concerned about allowing a competitor to pick up a lot of extra capacity for cents on the dollar, but more worried about getting stuck with an antitrust mess. Titleist and its parent company, Acushnet, own about 55 percent of the golf ball market already.
As usual whenever a big event is expected in the sporting goods business, there are rumors about Nikes possible interest. But Nike isnt discussing the matter, and word is it is not an approved bidder.
The eventual landing place of Top-Flite golf might not raise a lot of questions among consumers. But the real question for whoever walks away from the auction will be, whos the winner? We may not know for a few years, until we see just how able the new owner-managers are.
Getty Images

Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



Getty Images

Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

Getty Images

Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

Getty Images

Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”