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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the world of PGA Tour reps

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The average golf fan probably doesn’t know much about tour reps. They’re masters of product knowledge, golf sense and interpersonal relations, and occupy the practice areas of the golf’s professional tours from Monday through Thursday to serve the players’ needs.

[quote_box_center]“It’s always been kind of a secret thing as far as what we do,” said David Wilson, a long-time tour rep who works for True Temper. “Most people show up on Thursday to watch the tournament, but we’re already gone. Once you tell people about what you do, they’re like, ‘We had no idea that even existed.'”[/quote_box_center]

Beyond the club and component reps, there are also “product” tour reps, eager to get their goods in the hands of golf’s professional elite. Rich Massey, tour rep for the DST Compressor training aid, is one such individual. He’s in the midst of an explosion of tour players using his product.

“Rich, he’s got that new club out,” Wilson said. “You get a couple of guys trying it, all of a sudden, they’ve got it on TV. I’m sure he’s getting hit up for guys to try it.”

Indeed he is.

The product ”kind of became viral,” Massey said. He explained that when he began showing the curved-shafted training club to teachers such as Sean Foley and Todd Anderson, every single one of them said, “This is genius.”

“It’s pretty powerful when you can get guys out there to talk about it like they are,” Massey said. “It makes my life easier.”

IMG_6891

Rich Massey at work, DST Compressor in hand.

But tour reps aren’t stalking PGA Tour ranges making the hard sell.

“In reality, I’m not selling it at all,” Massey said. “According to the standards, you’re not allowed to openly solicit a player … so I can’t just walk up to a player and say, ‘I have this great club. Want to try it?’”

So how does a product rep get his goods in the hands of a player he doesn’t know?

“Ryo Ishikawa is a perfect example,” Massey said. “I got introduced to him by his caddie. I showed him the club. He was interested right away.”

It’s as easy as that — if you have a product players like and that’s beneficial to them. If not, well, there’s not much you can do. Massey indicated he’s seen many products on the range that you can’t give away to the pros.

Of course, you don’t always need an intermediary to talk to a player about a product.

“The scenario is slightly different if a rep has an existing relationship with a player,” Massey said. “If I already have an existing relationship with a player, I can walk up to him and talk to him about anything I want.”

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Massey “socializing,” a key component of the job.

That leads us to the value of building relationships.

“Obviously, out there we’re doing a lot of socializing…talking to guys…telling stories,” David Wilson told me. “It’s all about enjoying those relationships, [enjoying] talking to the best players in the world about their lives and their families.”

There’s a lot of chitchat on the ranges of the PGA Tour. But as Massey noted, it’s not always about the subjects you might expect. One hot topic recently? Underwear. It seems that the new 2UNDR Swingshift Boxers are making quite a splash. One golfer has been particularly vocal about his delight with the support he’s getting: Jason Bohn.

“You would have thought he was a salesperson for the company,” Massey said of the 41-year-old tour veteran. (Sidebar: As you can see, Bohn enjoys bringing attention to that region of his anatomy).

So, how does one make it to the (usually) plush green grass of the PGA Tour’s ranges to pitch products and attend to players’ needs every Monday through Wednesday?

“There’s all kinds of different scenarios for how guys get to the PGA Tour,” Wilson said. “A lot of them are ex-players. I did half a year on the Web.com Tour … been doing the PGA Tour for the last 15 years. Keith [Sbarbaro], who works for TaylorMade, he was a good player. He played with Phil [Mickelson]. A lot of these guys, they’ve been in the industry for a long time.”

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David Wilson strikes a pose in a tour trailer.

And how many of these experts in product knowledge are there from each manufacturer? It varies, Wilson said.

“TaylorMade, they probably have three reps that are taking care of players on the range. You have a putter guy. You have two guys in the van that are doing all of the building. Titleist usually has one or two ball guys out. They’re doing testing, [they have] guys in the locker room stuffing lockers. For the last 14 years, I was the only individual representing Aldila.“

The average day for a tour rep is a long one. They usually get to the range around 7 a.m., so they can catch players early in the day. An once the players’ golf shoes hit the ground, it’s crunch time.

“We basically have three days to work with these guys,” Wilson said. “If there’s an issue, you know. If the driver is spinning too much, etc. We have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to try to get that figured out.”

The goal is simple for a rep, but the responsibility is huge, especially for those working for major OEMs.

[quote_box_center]“Your overall goal is to get the players to play your products,” Wilson said. “Having those friendships, building those relationships is super important. They put a lot of trust in me. We have the ability to use TrackMan. These guys are playing for a lot of money and you’d hate for them to be playing the wrong product. There’s a lot of emphasis on making sure that their drivers are right, making sure their lofts and lies are correct, making sure that their grips are what they want them to be. There’s a huge checklist.”[/quote_box_center]

Also huge? The payoff.

“For us to be able to work with them and know, ‘Hey, I had an influence on building that driver that Jordan Spieth just won with.’ It’s huge,” Wilson said.

There are innumerable moving parts in a PGA Tour pros’ success, and it’s a team effort for sure. The Tour pro of today is much more akin to a NASCAR driver than the pro of 75 years ago, who hocked balls in a shop and played events when he could.

“There are some really smart guys that work on the PGA Tour,” Wilson said. “There’s guys that have been doing it for 20-plus years.”

Being part of the team is, as you would imagine, rewarding, and turnover isn’t high.

“We’re all kind of a traveling circus…play golf together…have dinners together,” Wilson said. “Most guys that get out here, they don’t leave.”

Can you blame them?

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Carlos Danger

    Apr 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    What is done with all of the “Tour Issue” equipment once the players have tried it out and its taken out of the travel inventory? I see so many Tour Issue claims for clubs on Ebay as well as the classifieds here on WRX. Are all of these clubs really Tour Issue or just a way to get some dope like me to pay an extra 50 bucks? If they are TI, how do they get circulated out into the public?

  2. Tom Wishon

    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    This story brought back a pretty funny comment told to me by a product development exec with one of the OEMs from years back when we were killing time before a group meeting at a past PGA Show and we just happened to be talking about the tour and tour reps.

    I won’t get it verbatim but his comment went like this . . .

    “If your daughter comes home and tells you she has fallen in love with a PGA Tour Rep, tell her she’ll be fine as long as she is OK with him never being home and OK with her never having the last word in any discussion or argument.”

  3. Alex

    Apr 16, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Good read. It’s seems like a great job hanging around the big time pro golfers and best courses. A kind of a dream job.

  4. RG

    Apr 15, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    golf is like acting. It’s no way to make a living unless your at the very top.

  5. Johnny

    Apr 15, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Those jobs are definitely those whose been on the mini or Web.com tours but couldn’t hack it on the big tour. After all, with millions of dollars on the line every week who would the average PGA tour player trust? A person who just graduated from college in accounting or a guy whose been in their shoes and the same trenches they now occupy?

  6. Mike

    Apr 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Experience and who you know….That’s the way

  7. Walter Pendleton

    Apr 15, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Great job if you can get it…three day work week, two days of driving to the next event, two to three days off spending money not in your budget, eight to 10 weeks consecutively living in hotel rooms and eating on the road – with a limited hotel and food budget. Personally, I’d have to have a piece of the profits or project – if the secret to a club or product going viral is based on it being used by the players. FYI – They are probably a difficult client to keep happy…better have a home run product for this investment to work! DREAM JOB…I DOUBT IT ~ Walt in Augusta

  8. Matt

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Not really a dream job if you have a Family. You log a Gazillion miles every year and are gone for most of your young ones important milestones in life. If your a 20 something and like to travel then it could be a good fit.

  9. WLDCHLD22

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:38 am

    cool article.

  10. Kyle

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Pleaaaaseeee someone tell me how to get into this! I think about how awesome this job would be every day of my life. But I live a life with few connections lol

    • Jafar

      Apr 15, 2015 at 11:37 am

      You gotta make the Web.com tour and be a good player enough to chit chat with other good players… Hopefully some of them make the PGA circuit and then you quit the Web.com tour and start selling these products…

      • John smith

        Apr 15, 2015 at 11:58 pm

        One of the best reps on that tour is Matt Rollins. Basketball player. Worked his way up w a major club company…. U want something make goals, work hard. And don’t complain about not being “connected”

        • Jafar

          Apr 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm

          You mean like…connected to the Internet?

          Wifi is available in most hotels, so that’s not a problem.

  11. shimmy

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:02 am

    To each their own. Sounds like a death trap to me.

  12. Chris

    Apr 15, 2015 at 10:44 am

    my dream job

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Opinion & Analysis

What’s old is new again

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All of a sudden, today’s newest trend in golf is yesterday’s clubs.

Golfers are making a move towards old classics the way car enthusiasts would ogle a classic Porsche 911 before they would look twice at a new Tesla Model 3. On the spectrum of art to science, Tesla is peak science and focused on efficiency in every fathomable way. The other will absolutely get you from A to B, but you are more likely to have a smile on your face while you take the detour along the water while enjoying the journey to get there. It is the second type of club that is enjoying this latest resurgence, and I can’t get enough.

New businesses are springing up to refurbish old clubs such as @mulligansclubmakers and @twirledclubs with price tags approaching (and exceeding) the RRP at the time of release of many of the clubs in question. These old clubs are often found in pictures of major champions being used in the 1970s and 1980s, which serves to make them more valuable and interesting to enthusiasts. Other clubs are simply polished examples of the clubs many of us owned 25 years ago and now regret selling. The more polish on an old blade, the better, with classic designs from brands like Wilson Staff, Mizuno, or MacGregor seeing demand and prices increase every month. Seeing these old clubs reimagined with shiny BB&F co ferrules, updated shafts, and grips can get some golfers hot and bothered, and they will open their wallets accordingly.

Around 15 years ago, I bought an old set of blades from the brand Wood Brothers. For many years, I was unable to find out a single thing about those clubs, until @woodbrosgolf came out of hibernation this year onto Instagram and into a frothing market for handmade classic clubs from a forgotten past. I was able to get information that the blades had come out of the Endo forging house in Japan, and my decision to keep the clubs in the garage all these years was vindicated. Now I just need an irrationally expensive matching Wood Bros persimmon driver and fairway wood to complete the set…

Among other boutique brands, National Custom Works (@nationalcustom) has been making pure persimmon woods with the help of Tad Moore to match their incredible irons, wedges, and putters for some time, and now the market is catching up to the joy that can be experienced from striking a ball with the materials of the past. There is an illicit series of pictures of persimmon woods in all states of creation/undress from single blocks of wood through to the final polished and laminated artworks that are making their way into retro leather golf bags all over the world.

There are other accounts which triumph historic images and sets of clubs such as @oldsaltygolf. This account has reimagined the ‘What’s in the Bag’ of tour pros in magazines and made it cool to have a set of clubs from the same year that shows on your driver’s license. I hold them wholly to blame for an impulse buy of some BeCu Ping Eye 2 irons with matching Ping Zing woods… The joy to be found in their image feed from the 70s and 80s will get many golfers reminiscing and wishing they could go back and save those clubs, bags and accessories from their school days. If you want to see more moving pictures from the era, @classicgolfreplays is another account which shows this generation of clubs being used by the best of the best in their heyday. Even better than the clubs are the outfits, haircuts and all leather tour bags to match.

It seems that this new generation of golfer – partially borne out of COVID-19 — is in need of clubs that can’t be sourced fast enough from the major OEMs, so they have gone trawling for clubs that were cool in a different time, and they want them now. Those golfers who match the age of the clubs are also experiencing a golfing rebirth, as the technology gains from the OEMs become incremental, many are now finding enjoyment from the classic feel of clubs as much as they are searching for an extra couple of yards off the tee.

Either way, the result is the same, and people are dusting off the old blades and cavities from years past and hitting the fairways more than ever before. With the desire shifting towards fun over challenge, they are even creeping forward to the tees that their clubs were designed to be played from and finding even more enjoyment from the game. If only I hadn’t got rid of those old persimmons in high school…

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better

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A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium put on by Golf Digest’s research department. They explored the typical responses as to why people quit or don’t play more – too much time, too expensive, etc. But the magazine’s research department uncovered the real fact – by a large margin, the number one reason people give up the game is that they don’t get better!

So, with all that’s published and all the teaching pros available to help us learn, why is that? I have my rationale, so put on your steel toe work boots, because I’m probably going to step on some toes here.

The Top 4 Reasons Golfers Don’t Improve

  1. Most golfers don’t really understand the golf swing. You watch golf and you practice and you play, but you don’t really understand the dynamics of what is really happening at 100 mph during the golf swing. There are dozens of good books on the subject – my favorite is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” But pick any good one and READ IT. LEARN IT. It will help you immensely if you understand what the swing is really all about. Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos. All the practice in the world will not help if you are not building a sound fundamental golf swing.
  2. Learning golf doesn’t start in the middle. A sound golf swing is built like a house. First the foundation, then the framing, roof, exterior walls, interior, paint, and trim. You can’t do one before the other. In golf, it all starts with the grip. If you do not hold the club properly, you’ll never accomplish a sound golf swing. Then you learn good posture and setup. If you don’t start in a good position, the body can’t perform the swing motion properly. With a good grip and a sound setup posture, I believe anyone can learn a functional golf swing pretty easily. But if those two foundations are not sound, the walls and roof will never be reliable.
  3. Most bad shots are ordained before the swing ever begins. I am rarely surprised by a bad shot, or a good one, actually. The golf swing is not a very forgiving thing. If you are too close to the ball or too far, if it’s too far forward or backward, if you are aligned right or left of your intended line, your chances of success are diminished quickly and significantly. The ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, and the functional striking area on a golf club is about 1.5-inches wide. If you vary in your setup by even 3/4 inch, you have imposed a serious obstacle to success. If you do nothing else to improve your golf game, learn how to set up the same way every time.
  4. Learn to “swing” the club, not “hit” the ball. This sounds simple, but the golf swing is not a hitting action: it’s a swinging action. The baseball hitter is just that, because the ball is in a different place every time – high, low, inside, outside, curve. He has to rely on quick eye-hand coordination. In contrast, the golf swing is just that – a swing of the club. You have total control over where the ball is going to be so that you can be quite precise in the relationship between your body and the ball and the target line. You can swing when you want to at the pace you find comfortable. And you can take your time to make sure the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing.

Learning the golf swing doesn’t require a driving range at all. In fact, your backyard presents a much better learning environment because the ball is not in the way to give you false feedback. Your goal is only the swing itself.

Understand that you can make a great swing, and often do, but the shot doesn’t work out because it was in the wrong place, maybe by only 1/4 inch or so. Take time to learn and practice your swing, focusing on a good top-of-backswing position and a sound rotating release through impact. Learn the proper body turn and weight shift. Slow-motion is your friend. So is “posing” and repeating segments of the swing to really learn them. Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!

So, there you have my four reasons golfers don’t get better. We all have our own little “personalization” in our golf swing, but these sound fundamentals apply to everyone who’s ever tried to move a little white ball a quarter-mile into a four-inch hole. Working on these basics will make that task much easier!

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: VA Composites Raijin shaft and more cheap Amazon grips

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Very solid, other than one hole, last week in my league. Talking about the VA Composites Raijin shaft and how it is a smooth feeling, mid/high launching shaft. I also try another set of cheap grips off Amazon to see if they are better than last time.

 

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