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Bag Chatter: An Interview with Steurer & Jacoby

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Will Jacoby of Steurer & Jacoby.

“I’d love to have you come and visit our shop sometime so you can see what we do,” Will Jacoby said. “The reason I’d like to have you here in person as opposed to just a phone call is because the story is in our product. It’s in our seamstresses. I’m not the story. I’m just some old guy. But once you come in and you see everything first-hand and you touch it and experience it, I think you’ll be impressed.”

The above is a synopsis of my first phone conversation with Will Jacoby, an affable gentleman who can tell stories for days of playing golf with Sam Snead or making golf bags for Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan. He tells me about his repeat customers from Switzerland to Singapore. They’re his “Johnny Appleseeds,” as he calls them, spreading the gospel of his products wherever they go.

As far as credentials go, Will has been in the golf industry for over 40 years in some capacity. In the 1960’s, his first job out of college was as a sales rep for Wilson Sporting Goods, who offered him his choice of three territories. He chose Kentucky because it was the closest to his roots in the Chicago area.

In the 1970’s, he went to work for Brunswick, then-owner of MacGregor Golf Clubs. He rose up the ranks in its plant in Eminence, KY, that made golf bags and bowling bags. Then in the 1980’s, Will established his own company called Royal Dublin Golf. That company made golf bags for the likes of MacGregor (which shut down it plant after Will left the company), Hogan, and many others.

For roughly 20 years, he was behind countless golf bags around the industry under various manufacturers’ names. He was granted several patents, most notably for the cart bag he developed that had a reversed top to allow for better access to the clubs and pockets when mounted on a cart. Ultimately, he retired to Florida in the late 1990’s. He then grew tired of the retirement life, which ultimately led him to run for mayor of his town in Florida.

“Thank God I lost,” he says.

In 2012, he got a call from his friend, the late Mike Just, owner of Louisville Golf, who enlisted Will to produce a quality, period-correct pencil bag for his customers’ hickory shafted clubs. Will’s first call was to his right hand man, pattern maker Steve Steurer, to figure out how to make it work. As a nod to Steve (who started designing products with Will in 1981), Will decided to add his name to the bag, even if he wasn’t interested in participating beyond that initial layout. And that’s how Steurer & Jacoby was born.

All of this has resulted in a guy who will only use solid brass D rings, steel frames, and waxed canvas that’s roughly 7 times the price of the nylon used in today’s bags. It’s also the guy who sews all those components together with the same threads and fabrics used to assemble parachutes for the military. It’s also resulted in a guy who opened his door to me until 9 p.m. on a Thursday night.

“I’m just so grateful,” he says. “I can talk your ear off, but I admit I haven’t embraced social media and the internet like I probably should have.”

He may be just some old guy (to some), but he’s definitely an old guy with a story. The product isn’t too bad either.

Steurer & Jacoby bag with oak stand at Whistling Straits

I think every person I’ve spoken to has said that their quality is striking with their products. I’m not saying anyone is wrong, but my point is that it’s a word that’s thrown around a lot. What does that mean to you? How did you get to this point?

I suppose it really started when I was at Wilson. The chairman drove quality into everyone’s head. It was the mission for everything that was done. In those days, Wilson was a leader. We had Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller… you name it. And we won a ton of majors. Wilson also had the NBA basketball and the NFL football. They were almost obsessed with being the best. Having the highest quality in the industry was drummed into my head and it just became a part of me. When I went to Brunswick, I told them we had to get out of K-Mart and stop selling $19 golf bags. That was an unpopular conversation, but I still to this day stand by that decision. If you’re going to make a quality product, that’s who you are. You can’t make a Chevette in the same plant as the Cadillac. Our defect rate was less than half of one percent in the plant that I ran. I was really proud of that. I just always wanted to have the best. I wanted to be the best. I don’t think I know any other way. Since we’ve opened our doors, I can count on one hand the number of defects I’ve had to rectify with customers.

How do you think the game of golf developed you as a person? Tell me about how the game helped you personally and how it helped this business.

Golf is a game of integrity. You can tell a lot about a person when you play golf with them. Do they use a foot wedge? Do they give you questionable scores to write down? Do they have a temper? All of that stuff gets revealed over the course of a round of golf. It reveals things that are already in you. Here’s the thing. In golf, you’re playing against yourself first, then your opponent. You have to gather from within. I remember one time I got an 11 on a hole at Mid Pines. Now, not many people would admit to that, but I’d rather not lie to myself. There’s no reason to lie or cheat in golf because you’re only lying and cheating on yourself. I think it’s a very good game for character building. It teaches you so much. There are bad breaks and good breaks and you have to be able to handle all of it. It’s served me well in life and in business.

You’re pretty big in the hickory golf world, which is kind of a niche within a niche. To those who are unfamiliar with it, what are we missing? Do you think anything is lost when playing modern golf as opposed to hickory golf? Are you hitting modern golf balls with hickory clubs? What yardage do you play from?

We play from about 5500 yards, maybe 6000 at most. Yes, we use modern golf balls. I have a friend named David Brown of McIntyre Golf Ball Company who takes modern balls and overmolds them for a slightly more period correct golf ball. I took a friend of mine to a hickory tournament. He’s a very low handicapper, but he had never played hickory golf. Then he took second place in the tournament! For a good golfer, it doesn’t make a difference. You learn how to club yourself. No one is hitting 300-yard drives, but you learn to adjust. To be honest, though, I didn’t really know a whole lot before Mike Just got me involved in 2012. I sold to these guys before I played with them. My brochures say “Tradition and Quality.” That’s who we are. That happened to resonate with this group. They wanted something of exquisite quality that didn’t have a brand name plastered all over it. We do brand our bags, but it’s not a billboard. Our bags are something that takes you back to the birth of golf.

The Most Interesting Man in Golf with his Steurer & Jacoby golf bag

Another market you do well in is in Europe, where nearly all golfers walk (either carrying or using a push cart/trolley). Here in America, the vast majority of golfers ride in carts, yet the lightweight stand bags persist as the most popular option. What are the European customers “getting” that most American golfers aren’t?

I think we do well in Europe because of our quality. They’re probably more frugal than us in some ways. They spend money on things and hold on to them, whereas we are a pretty disposable society in America. We just throw stuff away. Lots of people will spend thousands of dollars on golf clubs, and then go and buy a $100 golf bag to put it in. Maybe they’re just used to them breaking. I don’t know. This stuff is like your favorite baseball glove. It’s functional. It wears well over time and starts to look and feel like your favorite pair of blue jeans. If you want something disposable, go for it. We’ll stand behind our product for years to come.

As far as the carry bag discussion goes, sure the bags from the common manufacturers are lighter. We’re not going to dispute that. Nylon is lighter than cotton and it’s completely consistent, whereas each piece of waxed canvas and leather is somewhat unique, but that’s what makes our products what we are. Our bags are going to have workmanship that others won’t. We have at most 2 or 3 people that will touch your bag. The bags from the major manufacturers will have no less than 6 people touching it before it leaves the plant, and almost certainly more. How can you accurately control quality in that environment? I’ll tell ya. You can’t.

What’s the hardest, but most important lesson you had to learn to succeed in this business?

As far as what it takes to succeed, I would say, “Give the customer an excellent product at a fair price and stand behind it.” That’s my ethos. I had one customer who was really on the fence about spending so much money on a golf bag. I told him, “I’ll tell you what. You place an order. I’ll ship it to you on my dollar. If you just don’t like it, you send it back to me on your dollar and I’ll refund your money.” He called after the bag arrived and just raved about it. I’m pretty proud of stories like that. I always get letters, post cards, emails, and phone calls from customers telling me how they love their new bag. I’ve never had anyone tell me I sold them a bad product. And I’m very proud of that. I always strive to exceed my customer’s expectations.

The hardest lesson I learned was putting too many eggs in one basket. I used to have a lot of business with one customer and they went out of business. It nearly killed me.

What’s something that might surprise people about Steurer & Jacoby?

We do a lot of work for businesses in the area. Jim Beam is a huge account for us. We do things all the time for CEO’s, presidents, royalty, you name it. Golf bags are 80 percent of our business, but the other stuff pays the bills nicely. We make duffle bags, shoe bags, head covers, even down to coasters. There’s a lot of stuff available. People have told me you get more than a golf bag; you get a lifestyle with our product. You’ll start with a golf bag and then you think, “Now I need a shoe bag.” A couple months later you’ll need a duffle bag. Give it a year and you’ll think, “I love my golf bag, but I’m getting tired of looking at green. I think I want a navy one now.” The whole process seems to snowball from there. I guarantee you’ll get tired of the color before it wears out.

Steurer & Jacoby golf bags with oak stands at Del Monte Golf Course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you.

So, we started this whole thing by making a pencil bag for hickory golfers. We’ve grown into what we call “The Airliner,” which has a 7-inch opening, but we’re now going to be releasing an 8-inch bag. Our 7-inch bag is quite workable for the modern golfer, but the 8-inch bag is really going to give that guy what he needs. We’ve also got some new head covers in the works. Those will be made with authentic wool tartan we’ve imported from a woolen mill in Scotland and also with a leather we are having tanned specifically for us. We’re also going to be using those materials on some new duffel bags, which will be great overnight bags, gym bags, or what have you. I’m not trying to get my product on the shelves at Golf Galaxy. I couldn’t possibly care less about that. But I am trying to reach the golfer who’s serious about his game, his equipment, and his investment. If you want something everyone else has, then go to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I’m not going to judge you for it. We’re not trying to sell thousands of golf bags a year. We’re more concerned about reaching the right customer.

Also, if you want something that isn’t shown on the website (www.steurerjacoby.com), give us a call or send us an email at info@steurerjacoby.com. If you want different color combinations or custom branding or something, we are more than happy to work with people on those types of requests. We’ve put fancy coat of arms and presidential seals on bags. We’ll do the same for anyone if you want it. We really are passionate about exceeding our customers’ expectations.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. onestogie

    Jan 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Will is a great guy, his company makes outstanding products. We are fortunate to have him as a member of the Society of Hickory Golfers.

  2. Peter Schmitt

    Jan 7, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for reading as always, folks. I will concede this was a long one. If it’s any consolation, I trimmed out a whole lot between my first draft and the finished product. I wound up with a whole lot more to say than I previously thought. Hope you enjoyed our visit. Till next time!

  3. NormW

    Jan 5, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Too long. Get to the point It’s a golf bag. Put it on a cart and go.

  4. carl spackler

    Jan 5, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Im sure they are nice bags, but as a walker who wants to mess with trying to pull out a couple of wood sticks to balance you bag on.

  5. Ric

    Jan 5, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I really enjoyed this interview on bag chatter.It’s so great to see someone who is so proud of their product and has stuck to his values of producing a product with such pride and comment to quality.. That’s rare this day and time.. I do like the 60’s and 70’s era of golf , the styles where so cool and sharp looking .. The bags were sleek and clean looking ..

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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