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Winding Down? Not Really

The other day an acquaintance asked how I was enjoying my “down-time” now that the golf season in Canada is effectively over.  I can’t fault him for thinking that was the case, not being in this industry, and he was pretty intrigued to hear how the “golf machine” seems to keep churning all year long.

The PGA Tour season might be over (barely) but that just means things are ramping up for 2011. Final qualifying schools are under way, new golf product introductions seem to hit our desks daily, and effectively we are just a few months away from resuming our print publications.  And of course, there are websites, blogs, and other editorial partners in the digital world to deal with 365 days a year.

That said, there are more than a few things rolling around on my desk today.

On Friday I happened to be in Toronto for some business meetings and was surprised to see an SUV cut quickly in front of our vehicle as we were parked in an industrial area on the east side of town.  Expecting some sort of confrontation, instead are pleased to see Pembroke native Brett Saunders jump from the vehicle and make his way back to us.

Saunders, an elite junior golfer in the Ottawa area who went on to play golf at Gardiner-Webb University in the U.S. before embarking on a career with the American Needle company, a big manufacturer of golf hats, is now back in Canada working in management at Levelwear– another major clothing business.

I was familiar with the company, having been a supplier to the golf business for many years, but on an invite by Saunders, we found out quickly that their operation was way bigger than we imagined.

It turns out that their offices were less than a block from where we were parked and after our scheduled meetings we dropped by for a guided tour.

Saunders ran us through their 100,000 ft.² operation which is soon to grow with a move to a former Reebok building out in Richmond Hill.

I’d never seen so many embroidery, laser, and screening machines in action before – all cranking out products conceived from their team of 10 full-time artists.

Levelwear produces product for vendors all around the world and has a license in the works with one of the largest sports associations in the world that could result in an impressive new golf product line to start sometime in 2011.

We’ll keep you updated as the story progresses.

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Wilson Golf has exntended their contract with PGA Tour member Ricky Barnes
Wilson Golf has exntended their contract with PGA Tour member Ricky Barnes

In other golf industry news, Wilson Golf announced this morning that they will be continuing the relationship with PGA Tour player Ricky Barnes.

The multi-year contract ensures that Barnes will continue to play Wilson Staff FG Tour irons and the Wilson Staff FG Tour wedges, carry the distinctive red and white Wilson Staff bag and wear the iconic Wilson “engineer” hat through the 2013 season.

“I’m excited about my partnership with Wilson Golf, a company that has such a rich golf championship history and heritage,” said Barnes. “I’ve played great golf since switching to the Wilson Staff FG Tour irons, and my confidence has translated into success on the course. With a great R&D team working with me, I’m looking forward to achieving even greater success in the years ahead on the PGA TOUR.”

That is good news for Wilson as they head into 2011 with a whole new slate of products in their golf lineup, including some very traditional irons that will evoke memories of the famed Wilson Staff clubs of the past.

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Ontario-based golf shaft manufacturer, ACCRA, says that as of today their are officially debuting their new line of ACCRA “Tour Prototype” shafts for woods.  They are offered in 55, 65, 75, and 85 gram options.  This shaft is built to tour-tested specifications and is targeted at the golfer looking for a very stable shaft that still retains a lot of feel.

I’ve tested this shaft in both a driver and fairway wood and cant attest to the company’s stability claim.  This is a beast of a shaft that any player with a high-swing speed will enjoy the performance of.

ACCRA co-owner Gawain Robertson says the shafts are available though their network of certified dealers and will sport new graphics and a new name once it makes it’s full debut in 2011.

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Speaking of golf equipment, an interesting session in Vancouver will attract more than a few golf equipment manufacturers when it takes place tomorrow, November 30th.

Scheduled since March, the U.S.G.A. and R&A will conduct this “Equipment Rulemaking” session intended to “to facilitate a free and open exchange of views on the equipment rulemaking process and to assist the USGA and The R&A in their role as worldwide equipment rulemakers under the Rules of Golf,” according to the original notice.

The session was originally intended to include any stakeholders in the game of golf, including media, but various sources have told me that several manufacturers lobbied successfully to exclude the media.  The reasoning for this, which is totally justified in my eyes, was to allow company representatives to speak more freely on sensitive topics regarding equipment designs intended for the future (along with other sensitive matters).

It is expected to be a small gathering – one source told me that he thinks there will be about 70 attendees on hand.

We hope to speak to some of those attendees after the forum to get their thoughts on the session.