It’s obvious that the pandemic changed golf. Play increased nation-wide last year because the sport was a safe outlet for people in need of exercise and this year, according to industry reports, play is up another 15 percent over that.
“There’s been a 40 percent bump in new golfers coming into the game or players taking it up again,’’ said Jon Claffey, vice president of marketing for Batavia-based club manufacturer Tour Edge. “That’s bigger than any Tiger (Woods) effect we ever saw.’’
The changes within the golf industry have been broader than that, however, and Tour Edge – though not one of the bigger equipment companies – is in the forefront. On Tuesday the company kicked off Hot Launch 522. All the company’s new clubs were introduced nation-wide far earlier than previous years, and well ahead of most all Tour Edge competitors.
“It’s the biggest launch in our company’s history and we wanted to get it out in front of everyone else,’’ said Claffey. “We’re putting the focus on game improvement, which no one else does in this industry. It’s all about making the easiest clubs you’ll ever hit. It’s all about playability.’’
Tour Edge is on a roll, thanks in large part to a decision made in 2018 to establish a strong relationship with players on PGA Tour Champions, the 50-and-over circuit. Six players – among them top stars Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Scott McCarron – joined the company’s staff. Their success boosted the Tour Edge brand with all golfers.
At last week’s Ascension Charity Classic Tour Edge had 68 clubs in play, a company record. Over the last four seasons the company has seen 2,027 of its clubs put in play by 129 professionals on three PGA Tours. Players using those clubs have had 13 wins, 76 top-5 finishes and 152 top-10s.
More recently the company made a huge expansion of its research and development department, bringing in three new engineers as well as a robot called Ted.
“He’s swinging all day long, testing shafts,’’ said Claffey. The company is excited about its new lines of equipment and took the unusual step of announcing them to the public early. In past years most companies used the massive PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL., to do that.
Tour Edge has been one of the most active company participants in that late January closed-to-the-public show, which drew about 40,000 visitors annually to the Orange County Convention Center. After a 66-year run the pandemic forced cancelation of the show this year but it is on the schedule for 2022. Tour Edge won’t be there, and neither will many other equipment manufacturers. Callaway and Titleist are expected to be the main attendees.
In previous buying cycles the club manufacturers wanted their products introduced well in advance of the Masters in April, so the January dates were ideal. Now that’s not the case.
“The ebb and flow has changed when it comes to purchasing,’’ said Claffey. “The PGA Show was falling behind in the sales cycle. We had been an industry trying to find a way to get rid of excess inventory. Now it’s the opposite. We can’t get our stuff out the door fast enough to meet all this demand. There are other industries experiencing the same thing.’’
New Korn Ferry sponsor
The tournament that had been called the Evans Scholars Invitational will know be know as the NV5 Invitational presented by First Midwest Bank for at least the next five years. The Western Golf Association announced the new sponsorship agreement for the Korn Ferry Tour event that will be played Maay 23-29 at The Glen Club, in Glenview.
NV5, with over 100 offices world-wide, is a leading provider of compliance, technology, engineering and environmental consulting solutions.
HERE AND THERE: The Ultimate Long Drive World Championship begins its four-day run today at Cog Hill, in Palos Park….The University of Illinois men’s team hosts its annual invitational on Olympia Fields’ North course Friday-Sunday…..The Illinois PGA’s Birdies for Charity event raised over $300,000 last week at Oak Park Country Club….Four Chicago area youngsters were winners in the Drive, Chip & Putt Regional at Medinah last week – Ledius Felipe, of Poplar Grove (Boys 10-11); Eloise Fetzer, LaGrange (Girls 7-9); Michael Jorski (Boys 12-13) Lisa Copeland, Naperville (Girls 12-13); and Martha Kuwahara, Northbrook (Girls 14-15). They advanced to the national finals, to be held at Georgia’s Augusta National on the Sunday before next year’s Masters tournament…..The Illinois State Senior Amateur concludes its three-day run today (WEDNESDAY) at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison…..Carbondale’s Britt Pavelonis’ 6-under-par 138 for 36 holes won last week’s Illinois Senior Open at Flossmoor.