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Wilson Staff at the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show – PODCAST EXCLUSIVE

Tuesday of PGA Merchandise Show week found us at Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Club, and more specifically, with Wilson Staff.  We visited with instructor Jake Thrum, and Wilson’s Frank Simonutti and Tim Clarke.

Tom Brassell: 2017 PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day. Jake Thrum joining us.  The instructor to Kevin Streelman, right?

Jake Thurm: Yeah, and a few others, but if he needs much instruction, I’m there.

Tom Brassell: We’re here with Wilson Staff. Talk to us a little bit about what’s going on … First thing I see at the show, is all the buzz that’s going on right now, and it’s still early.

Wilson Staff's Alessandra Ladd with Kerry Kabase of Worldwide Golf Shops
Wilson Staff’s Alessandra Ladd with Kerry Kabase of Worldwide Golf Shops

Jake Thurm: All the buzz, especially about the Triton driver. It’s amazing. I saw that from the ground floor, this little show that could, and you can see all the people are out here trying it, which tells me that the show was an absolute success. It created buzz about golf equipment which, in today’s day and age, is not the easiest thing to do anymore.

Tom Brassell: And one fact that’s getting out there is that Kevin’s got the driver in the bag.

Jake Thurm:  He just put it in the bag at the Career Builder Challenge. I’ll tell you what, you had a better chance of him offering for elective surgery than you did changing his driver. He’s the ultimate driving machine. It’s, by far, his best club. He’s played with, literally, two clubs in the past six years, and for him to change that out, and not getting paid to do it, you know it’s better.

Tom Brassell:   Well, it’s got to move the needle somewhere. What did he notice with making the change?

Jake Thurm:  Not only were the numbers good, which they have to be, you just can’t give up distance, not in today’s day and age, not with the modern game and how it’s played. Not only were the numbers good, but really, what gave him a lot of confidence is, in the rare times that he actually does miss one, the miss was good. The miss was better. It’s even helping out somebody who I just dubbed the ultimate driving machine, so imagine what that could do to your average amateur who misses it a little bit more than Kevin Streelman does.

Tom Brassell: I was going to say, eight of 10 times it’s probably not in the sweet-spot for the amateur, but the miss-hits are that much better.

Jake Thurm:  Absolutely. The first thing I would tell … I just got mine; I’m very excited. I don’t get a chance to play, but don’t weep for me, because when I do play, it’s usually some place really great. I’ll say this. Just set up to it. Because the alignment line on the top, I think gives a lot of amateur golfers a lot of confidence just putting the club behind the ball. Absolutely take some swings with it, but if you’re in the golf shop, just set it down, set it up to a ball, and you tell me you’re not more confident.

Tom Brassell:  On the show, Driver vs. Driver, I think that was huge, the alignment line wood.

Jake Thurm: I do too. I’m surprised that that has not been out there in the past. We’ve been asleep at the wheel for that because, again, it does give you a lot of confidence looking down at the golf club. And then when you hit it, then you get to see all the benefits of the technology, the sole plates, so on and so forth … What I would tell anybody, is get fit. The one frustration with me as a golf coach, and I do teach a couple guys on the tour, but, most of my clientele is just like most people’s clientele … Joe, 18 handicap, I go into their bag, they have an adjustable driver, and they’ve never adjusted it.

Tom Brassell: It’s never moved.

Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke with University of Illinois Golf Coach Mike Small
Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke with University of Illinois Golf Coach Mike Small

Jake Thurm: It’s never moved. That’s how it came. Someone must have known that that’s how his driver or her driver should have been set up. Most places, this is me pleading now, most places throw it in for free if you buy the club from them. Get fit. We’re talking about more than a few shots, especially if you’re a double-digit handicap.

Tom Brassell:  And when you’re getting fit, maybe just mentally and physically, take a couple notes as far as the settings and what they’ll do for you.

Jake Thurm:  Absolutely, absolutely. If you have a particular miss, a good fitter and a good product like the Triton driver can help to minimize that miss and maximize what would be your natural ball flight.

Tom Brassell:    Jake Thurm, thanks so much for spending time with us here in the Wilson Chalet. We’re living it up here, this is great.

Jake Thurm:  It’s unbelievable. Whoever thought of this … We got to get our drink orders in.

Tom Brassell:   Thanks so much man.

Jake Thurm:   All right, good seeing you.

Tom Brassell:  2017 PGA Merchandise Show, we continue with Wilson Staff Frank Simonutti, the Ball-Man at Wilson. Frank, thanks so much. Got with you last year, it’s great to be back this year.

Frank Simonutti:  Yep. Good to see you again.

Tom Brassell: Last year, the story was DUO Urethane, what a year it was. Also, a new story this year with regards to the other ball, Ricky Barnes putting it in play, right?

Frank Simonutti: Yes, for the first time in a while, we have Wilson Staff on tour. Ricky Barnes is playing Wilson Staff Urethane Ball that we designed in conjunction with Ricky.

Tom Brassell:  Now, to have a tour player make a change, it’s a pretty big deal, especially with the ball. Share with us a little bit about what he’s getting out of this new ball that he likes.

Frank Simonutti: It is a big change and in working with him, found that first, when they’re used to a particular ball, you’ve got to come up with something that at least is close, or something they feel good with. And the advantages, he feels that the driver feels just as good, he gets the same spin around the green, but he feels it’s longer, and he feels he’s getting a better trajectory, better trajectory in the wind. He’s been playing in a couple rounds now, and it’s great to have Wilson Staff back on tour.

Tom Brassell:   For the average consumer playing, I haven’t met one person who puts that DUO ball, which ever one in their bag and play, that doesn’t fall in love with it and keep playing with it. Tell the story, a little bit, about the DUO, because it’s fantastic.

Frank Simonutti: Okay. The whole premise behind the DUO ball is soft feel. Every manufacturer out there claims their ball is the longest, and if you set up the testing correctly, everybody’s right. All balls come in with about five yards at the same category. So, product differentiation is difficult. Soft is how we did it. We did testing, and we’ve tested high-handicappers, low-handicappers, high club-head speed, low club-head speed, ages, and it’s always 2/3 to 3/4 prefer a softer feeling ball, and that’s the basis for the DUO line. To design a ball that performs as well as the DUO ball, that’s the difficult part. But the feel is the differentiation, and the performance keeps people playing.

Tom Brassell:   For the average consumer, what I’ve been told and has really worked well, is start from the green and work backward. Don’t try to get your extra five yards. Think about the feel around the green, because the DUO is just off the planet.

Frank Simonutti:   To some degree, I agree with that. The feel is great, but my view of it is, it’s a matter of talent. You have to understand your game. There’s companies out there that will tell you everybody should play a tour ball. Well, would you put everybody in blades? It’s just so … A urethane ball isn’t right for most people. It spins 20 percent more, so if you hook or slice, you’re adding 20 percent to the side-spin. The game is much easier from the fairway. So, for most players, and certainly mid to high handicap players, you want a low-spin ball off the tee, which the DUO gives you.

Tom Brassell: Frank, thanks again so much for your time. It’s great catching up with you every year. It’s fun to see what you guys put out here, and the consumers just absolutely love it. Thanks again.

Frank Simonutti:   Thank you.

Tom Brassell:  Live at Demo Day from Wilson. Tim Clarke joining us. Tim, unfortunately for those who are listening and not seeing this, they can’t see this, this wind shirt.

Tim Clarke:  My jumper, I got my jumper on, European style. It’s … What color we got here?

Tom Brassell:      Salmon.

Tim Clarke:   Very noticeable.

Tom Brassell:   You and I sat here last year, talked about the DUO ball and what was happening. The show was just about to get … it was in the works, but the success of the show and the new driver, everybody’s hitting it out here.

Tim Clarke: Yeah, it’s been a busy day for us today. I always look at Demo Day as Opening Day to golf for the equipment companies. This is what we wait for, and the line-up for Triton has been non-stop since 9am. We got a driver, most adjustable driver on the market, as you know. Two sole plates come with it, so if you want a higher launch ball, you put in the titanium plate, if you want to lower the launch, you put in the carbon fiber-sole plate, and then you can modify weights for draw-off bias, fade bias or a straight ball, so we’re pretty excited. It comes with the Aldila Rogue, which is a tour-proven shaft as a stock item and 10 upgradable shafts. I don’t think there’s anything out there we forgot on this show. It really worked out pretty well.

Tom Brassell: This is kind of the re-launch of the driver, right?

Tim Clarke:  Yeah it is. I think anytime you get into it … All of the products are on the conforming list. Kevin Streelman has put it in play on the PGA Tour. We expect Ricky Barnes to put it in play at the Phoenix Open in a week, because he’s off this week. For Wilson Golf, we have a great heritage, and I will say, we’ve always been known for our golf balls and our irons, but people forget, Padraig Harrington won three majors with the Wilson driver, so we’ve had a lot of success over the years. John Daly won with the Wilson driver. So, I think it’s great, now that we have a complete line, and we can give you a driver that’s world class, tour-proven, we give you irons, we can give you tour-proven golf balls … Ricky Barnes just put the FG Tour Golf Ball in play on tour so, a lot of energy around the brand.

Tom Brassell:     And also, D300 just launching now, and what a story that is.

Tim Clarke:  Yeah, we just got the notice. It’s a Gold Hot List Award Winner, which is always exciting. That’s a pretty competitive test. We’re excited … It has the Flex-Face Technology that we put in C200, so this truly will be the longest, most forgiving iron ever produced by Wilson Golf. The demo numbers we’re getting on it are fantastic. We have track-man down in the corner. You got to kind of stand there, people will give you that look like, “Did it really go that far and that high?” So, I think we got a winner there …

Tom Brassell: And you’re going into the wind too.

Tim Clarke:  Yeah, we didn’t get the wind favor today, Tom. We kind of got that … Every year you come here it’s like, you hope you get nice weather, and then you hope you got the wind at your back, but we’ve had wind at our back for a while, so we’ll take one year with the wind in our face.

Tom Brassell: Tim, the state of the game. I guess, as far as the last hour, it would look like it’s in pretty good shape right now with all the buzz at the show.

Tim Clarke:   Yeah, I think anytime you get to the show, it’s funny … I think we, as an industry and I think as retail and worldwide golf, we kind of sell hope, right? That’s really what we do as an industry, and it’s maybe not the best business model right? If the people go out and they come in and they buy the new driver and they hope it goes further. They buy the new irons, they hope they hit it straight. They buy the new putter, they hope they make more putts. We come down here and we hope we get good weather and we hope we get a good crowd and then we hope it’s an early spring and then we hope our tour players win. So, it’s a very interesting business model that we all live in in golf, but it’s a wonderful game. It’s a game that teaches you how to live your life properly, how to do the right things when nobody’s looking, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I have had in this industry and especially my time here at Wilson.

Tom Brassell:   Well, thanks for all you do for us. You’re like the Grand Marshall of our parade. You’re always here for us, and you’re always there, and Wilson’s been great for our brands, our stores and for our customers.

Tim Clarke: Well, I always go back to whenever you think about golf, and especially when you get in the Southeast, the only brand that comes to mind is Edwin Watts Golf Shops. It was always the go-to place, it’s still the go-to place. I think the big reason for that is just the quality of the service you have. Roger Dunn, on the West Coast, has always been a powerhouse, the Santa Ana store is still … That’s like a golfer carnival to me. You walk in there, and you don’t even know where to start, you have …

Tom Brassell:  It’s like Alice in Wonderland when you walk in there.

Tim Clarke:  It has everything and anything. I think that’s a true testament to the commitment of the game, and then of course, I was in Arizona with tour players, and we were going to play golf, and I needed some things, and I had to stop in the Van’s store to pick some things up. So, you guys got great brands across the country, and we’re excited to be partners with you. I think we’re really excited to see what we can do here with the Triton driver because we’ve got a real winner.

Tom Brassell:   Well, enjoy the show, and we’ll enjoy our time here as well. Thanks, Tim.

Tim Clarke:   Always good to see you, thanks Tom.