Wilson taps championship past

Deputy Editor/Business & Multimedia

Wilson Golf’s commitment to restoring its identity as a pure golf brand, oddly enough, began with a decision to embrace what it really is: part of a storied, worldwide sporting goods company.

According to Tim Clarke, Wilson Golf’s general manager, the division’s management often distanced itself from the parent entity, thinking the relationship would somehow dilute Wilson Golf’s authenticity in the eyes of serious golfers.

But starting in 2005, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. reorganized, bringing its various divisions under one roof and promoting a corporate culture of sharing ideas and resources among its various sports. That mentality has led to new business developments, including the recent creation of an innovation center – an R&D facility where engineers from all of Wilson’s sports categories have dedicated space yet work side-by-side. It’s that kind of investment, Wilson Golf officials say, that will give the company the chance to compete aggressively again in the premium golf equipment category.

For 2008, Wilson Golf’s priority is irons sold under its flagship brand, Wilson Staff. Just as important as the two new offerings – Ci7 and Pi7 – is Wilson’s increased Tour presence to give them greater visibility. This season, Wilson Golf is offering an iron “pool” – bonus compensation – to as many as 12 tour players who use the brand’s irons. That should give Wilson a better chance to duplicate the exposure it received at last week’s Bob Hope, where Wilson Staff player D.J. Trahan earned his second career PGA Tour victory. The pool players will be in addition to the company’s full-time Tour players: Trahan and Padraig Harrington.

Harrington, last year’s British Open champion, played a key role in the creation of the Pi7 irons, according to Clarke. Designed for better players, the Pi7s are a “soft cast club” featuring elastomeric paint that absorbs 30 percent of impact vibration, officials say. The irons, which replace the Pi5, are expected to sell for $599 with steel shafts. The Ci7, promoted as a “high MOI iron,” features a midsize clubhead and perimeter weighting for greater stability. It is expected to sell for $499 with steel shafts.

Clarke hopes a bigger stable of players and the new offerings will add to Wilson Golf’s unmatched legacy: Its irons can claim 59 major championship victories. That message also is the central theme of Wilson Golf’s advertising this year.

“We understand that history is history,” Clarke says, “but we want to remind people how long Wilson has been making great irons and link our past with our future.”

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Gene Yasuda is Golfweek’s deputy editor/Business & Multimedia . To reach him e-mail [email protected]

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