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Len Ziehm On Golf

Wilson, Tour Edge are benefitting from the success of their players

If ever there was a time for Chicago’s two major golf equipment companies to celebrate, this is it.

The biggest reason was Gary Woodland’s victory in the U.S. Open. Woodland signed with Wilson less than a year ago, and player endorsements do bring attention to product lines. Wilson, long based in River Grove and now headquartered in Chicago, may be the bigger beneficiary from recent player success – but is certainly not the only one.

Batavia-based Tour Edge got the good vibes started. President David Glod decided to jump into the player endorsement mode big-time about two years ago, and it’s paid off. He has focused largely – but not entirely – on players on PGA Tour Champions with Scott McCarron doing the best.

McCarron won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in April, the Insperity Invitational in May and the Mastercard Japan Championship in June. The victory in Japan was McCarron’s fifth victory using Tour Edge’s Exotic clubs in the last two years.

At the time of this printing players using Exotic clubs were first or second in the previous 37 PGA Tour Champions events and McCarron was the 50-and-over circuit’s top money-winner with $1,766,221. In fact, he was a whopping $831,052 ahead of his nearest rival.

McCarron wears the Tour Edge logo on his sleeve and that’ll be prominent as he battles for the coveted Charles Schwab Cup during the rest of the 2019 season.

“We’re having a blast watching the meteoric play of (McCarron),’’ said Glod. “Scotty has brought us a new level of exposure and awareness, as have all of the other players who have put Tour Edge clubs into play on PGA Tour Champions.’’

The rest of the 2019 Tour Edge staff hasn’t been bad either. Tom Lehman has won twice on PGA Tour Champions. Duffy Waldorf has 17 top-25 finishes and Tom Petrovic has been a runner-up five times. Bart Bryant and Scott Dunlap also have notched a win on the 50-and-over circuit using Exotics clubs.

And then there’s Phyllis Meti. She showed that Exotics aren’t just for men, winning her third Women’s World Long Drive title and hitting the longest drive ever by a woman – 405 yards.

Tour Edge has just begun announcing its newest product lines. They are sure to draw attention thanks to the performances of McCarron and his colleagues on PGA Tour Champions.

As good as all that is, none matches the profile boost that Woodland provided Wilson with his win at Pebble Beach in the 119th U.S. Open. Tim Clarke, who heads Wilson’s golf division, added Woodland to the company’s player ambassador staff last winter and Woodland delivered big time.

“We couldn’t have a better story for our brand,’’ said Clarke. “It was unbelievable.’’

Kevin Streelman, who had been Wilson’s top gun on the PGA Tour though he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open, agreed via Twitter.

“I’m so happy for Gary and his entire family,’’ said Streelman. “I’m proud of the classiest company and the best-looking clubs in the business. I’m proud to be an ambassador and member of the team.’’

Back in golf’s good old days Wilson’s clubs were played by numerous champions. Woodland used Wilson’s irons and 5-wood and donned the company’s hat and glove en route to his dramatic victory.

“It was a pretty strong endorsement that our equipment works,’’ said Clarke. “ We still have had more major champions playing our clubs than any other company.’’

Wilson was founded in 1914 and its products also are used in football, basketball, tennis, baseball, volleyball and soccer. For now, though, the sport in the company’s spotlight is golf – and that’s not for the first time.

Woodland won the 62nd major title playing Wilson clubs. The first Wilson player to do that was Gene Sarazen in 1931.

“That was pretty much the starting point. It started the movement for companies to start signing players,’’ said Clarke.

Woodland, who grew up in Kansas and turned pro in 2007, began testing Wilson clubs in Naples, FL., in late 2018. Prior to that he had three wins on the PGA Tour – the Transitions Championship in 2011, the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2013 and the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2018 – so he was no slouch.

He played Wilson clubs for the first time competitively at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in November, where he tied for eighth place in that limited field event. His connection to Wilson and its clubs became official shortly after that.

Woodland’s first event of 2019 was the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawait in January. He tied for second there and had three other top-10s before winning the U.S. Open. A $2.2 million payday there boosted his career winnings to $25.2 million.

One of the world’s oldest club manufacturers, Wilson has been making clubs for champions for decades. Others using Wilson clubs when they won a big one included Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw and Padraig Harrington.

It’s commonplace that major championship winners receive bonuses from their equipment companies, and Clarke said that’d be the case with Woodland – though Clarke was coy about what that reward will be.

“It’s complicated,’’ said Clarke, “but everything has a price and obviously there’ll be a reward. I was 100 percent sure that he’d win a major when we signed him, and I even thought that it would be this year. We believe that elite athletes drive consumer awareness.’’

Streelman has won twice in his solid career on the PGA Tour. Other Wilson players on the circuit are Brendan Steele, Troy Merritt and Ricky Barnes.