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Passion for the Game – Sean Toulon

Sean Toulon brings decades of experience to his new role with Callaway Golf

Like most who are successful in the golf business, Sean Toulon first became involved in the game during his childhood.

“I started in golf as a young kid growing up in Madison, Wisconsin,” said the renowned club maker, whose Toulon Design Putter Company was recently acquired by Callaway Golf/Odyssey. “I remember playing every Sunday with my dad and then caddying at the local club. I just fell in love with the game and was enamored by those who played it.”

We recently caught up with Toulon to learn more about his career in the industry, why he’s teamed up with Callaway Golf and what’s on the horizon…
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sean-toulon-headshotCan you tell us a little about your career in the golf industry?

“I went to work as a golf sales rep right after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin selling golf bags and head covers. It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot about building relationships. Then I received a call from TaylorMade to see if I would interview for the territory sales position. I did and got the job. It changed my life.”
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What was the impetus for starting your own company after more than 16 years with TaylorMade-adidas?

A lot of what I learned and believe in today came from my early start with TaylorMade’s founder, Gary Adams. It’s pretty surreal because working now for Callaway I can still feel the presence here of Mr. Callaway. In many ways I think the two were very similar – intense entrepreneurs who believed they could change at least a piece of the world. In some small way that has always been a part of me, too. After working so long for TaylorMade I just felt like I needed something more to do and I wanted to spend more time with my sons – two of which are co-founders of Toulon Design, along with a long-time friend of ours and my third son, Preston, who works for the Hillsboro Hops baseball club in Portland, helping out as much as he can.
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What led to your decision to team with Callaway/Odyssey in your company’s recent acquisition?

Being a small independent is very rewarding and presents huge challenges. We never felt that we would be stifled by a lack of innovative thinking – but our ability to execute against those thoughts is very time consuming and resource intense. We felt that the opportunity to grow in the super premium segment of the marketplace was real and that we needed more horsepower to be able to aggressively attack that space.
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What does the acquisition mean for Toulon Design?

We now have access to more thinking, more brainpower and more opportunity than ever. It’s a true dream come true.
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What are your main responsibilities as the new general manager of Odyssey Golf and a senior vice president at Callaway Golf?

My job is to grow our business in the putter category. We have a wonderful business – we sell more putters than anyone else in the world by a wide margin. So it’s operating at a high level. In the end, we feel there are things that we can do to connect this brand and our incredible products more deeply to the hearts and souls of passionate golfers everywhere. That is where we will start.
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What are you most excited about as it relates to your new role in the golf industry? I love the concept of redefining what a category can look like.

I love working with a team of super talented people who wake up every day curious about how we can do things better. I get so excited to see new products being developed and being a part of the process. On the Odyssey front, to have the chance to work with Austie Rollinson re-imaging the putter is very cool, and then to plug into the team of engineers and technical people that Alan Hocknell has here and the team of industrial designers here that are world class is just mind blowing.
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What are your immediate goals with the Odyssey brand?

To create game-changing, redefining products that golfers will love – and to celebrate the fact that more golfers play and win with Odyssey putters worldwide than any brand.
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When will we see new product from you?

We will begin rolling out new products in January and throughout the first half of 2017. They are spectacular and I am excited to get them in the hands of golfers.
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What is it about Callaway/Odyssey that makes the company so successful in such a competitive market?

Performance. It’s really very simple. Golfers are very smart – and products cannot hide from the performance truths. They either work or they do not. Ours, all of ours, do. Additionally, there is a true love for the game within this company – as well as for those who play it – and a desire to create world-class products.
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Where do you see the golf equipment industry headed over the next few years?

I think the game will become healthier. I think those who have stepped back a little in terms of playing will reconnect to the game and realize how much they miss it. I think it will continue to evolve and become less formal in terms of rules. In the end, I think it will become more approachable and inclusive and less intimidating to new players.
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What is your proudest achievement?

That I took the time to step away from a big job in golf to re-evaluate and then start Toulon Design with my family, including my wife Kathy. It was an incredible, albeit short, ride, but we grew so much as a family it was incredible. We all have so much respect for great entrepreneurs like Mr. Callaway and seeing what hard work can potentially produce over the long term.

This article was republished with permission from Worldwide Golf Insider’s October-November 2016 edition.  To read the entire insider, please click HERE.