On Monday morning, Forbes released its list of the world’s highest-paid celebrities, which covers a range that includes actors, musicians, TV and radio personalities, and athletes. Speaking of athletes, there were 13 of them in the top 50, including three golfers: Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The 45-year old Mickelson leads the pack of golfers, placing 36th overall with earnings of an estimated $51 million. Following right behind him at 37th is Tiger Woods, with an estimated $50.5 million.
(It's worth noting that the figures in the Forbes list, which spans the last 12 months, differs from our annual Golf Digest 50, which ranked the game's biggest earners on and off the course based on their income in 2014.)
Prior to this year, Woods had led Mickelson in earnings, but his well-documented struggles have seen his winnings dwindle to just $600,000 over the past year. With Woods’ career in a downward spiral and Mickelson counting down the years until he joins the Champions Tour, it will certainly be worth seeing who trends up or down on the list next year -- especially because of the other golfer that cracked the top 50 and is just four spots behind Woods.
Rory McIlroy ranks 41st on the list with an estimated $48.5 million earned over the year. McIlroy is one of the nine celebrities in their 20s to crack the top 50 on this list.
Looking back on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes of 2015, the three golfers were incredibly close, ranking eighth (Mickelson), ninth (Woods),m and 12th (McIlroy.) McIlroy beat the other two in winnings by more than $13 million, but made significantly less in endorsements. However, with McIlroy blossoming at 26 and the 21-year old Jordan Spieth coming off two consecutive major victories, larger endorsement deals should be forthcoming. These could really shift the scales of next year’s Forbes’ highest-paid lists.
HARRISON, N.Y. -- Sometimes the stars simply align perfectly. The key component of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship that got the company on board as the corporate sponsor the revamped women's major was the Inspire Greatness conference Wednesday at Westchester C.C., which focused on empowering women in the workplace. And what better representative of both athletic and business success is there than Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American player and the LPGA member with the most lucrative endorsement deals.
Oh, and Lewis, along with Phil Mickelson, are the only two golfers who are brand ambassadors for KPMG.
Lewis was the highest-ranked woman on the 2015 Golf Digest 50 All-Encompassing Money List at No. 41, earning $3.9 million off the golf course to go with $2,720,750 on it for a total of $6,620,750. Michelle Wie at No. 42 and Paula Creamer at No. 47 were the only other women in the top 50.
In addition to KPMG, Lewis has an impressive roster of endorsement partners: Mizuno, Pure Silk, Marathon, Omega, Antigua, Manulife, VedaloHD, Bridgestone Golf, FootJoy and AimPoint. And as proof of the maxim that a rising tide lifts all boats, KPMG, Pure Silk, Marathon and Manulife have been enticed to not only support Lewis but LPGA tournaments as well.
"We went to our business partners and said, 'This is how you can entertain your clients at LPGA events,' " Lewis, who is represented by Sterling Sports Management, told GolfDigest.com Wednesday at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. "I wanted them to be involved not just with me but with the LPGA."
With her success -- a dozen LPGA wins including two major championships and Player of the Year two of the last three years -- Lewis has found the challenges of a raised profile. Each endorsement deal brings with it a two- or three-day time commitment each year for corporate activities. Time management becomes crucial.
"Everyone wants to have your time in the summer, but we've learned to spread things out throughout the year," Lewis said.
As for more endorsement deals?
"We've had offers," Lewis said. "But I don't have three more days."
Now there's a great problem for a female athlete: having too many business offers.
Perhaps it isn’t as anticipated as Sunday's series finale of Mad Men, but in its own way Monday night signals a watershed moment in, for lack of a better phrase, golf television.
At 9 p.m. (ET) on May 18, Callaway debuts a live variety show of sorts that Harry Arnett, the company’s marketing wiz, touts as “giving consumers access to something they didn’t have before.” Specifically, what Arnett says he’s talking about is “unscripted moments” with celebrities, athletes and tour players talking about golf, life and presumably everything in between in front of a studio audience.
The 25-minute show, “Callaway Live,” will livestream every Monday from Callaway's Carlsbad, Calif., headquarters for the next 18 weeks (click here for link). It starts with Arnett (right) interviewing legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg, and future guests include Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Howard Stern reporter Jon Leiberman. It's golf equipment marketing turned inside out.
When I spoke with Arnett last fall about his motivations, he stressed that his main intent was to make sure his brand was part of the ongoing golf conversation. "We're definitely responding to the cultural zeitgeist that exists in the sport," he said then, "but I think we're doing it in a way that's light and fast and authentic to us."
At the time, the idea occurred to him that it might be more impactful if the company’s advertising was more current. For example, he wondered why it wouldn’t be better to run a new ad every week with a fresh comment from a player after he’d won the week before, rather than running the same kind of commercials week in and week out. Now it seems clear that what’s easier and more possible is to just create your own live show every week.
Arnett talks about "making golfers feel like they're part of what we do" not so much by talking to them but talking with them. For him, it's not so much about changing the conversation, it's about being a part of it. Of course, in an interesting way, Arnett feels his modern method just might be decidedly old school.
"We felt like if we could figure out a way to be unique in it, provide utility to it and be a contributing citizen in the community of golfers, we could become sort of the people's brand," he said. "Which was very closely connected to the DNA of the company when it got started 20 years ago."
In introducing the new show, Arnett says, “The best brands are the brands that act as connectors.” Certainly, other companies produce videos to take its customers inside. TaylorMade recently offered a video look at equipment tweaks for Justin Rose. Titleist has offered plenty of tour-player videos, and it routinely asks its “Team Titleist” community to weigh in on golf-ball prototypes well before the product comes to market.
But those efforts, while interactive, are still largely product-driven. Callaway Live seems more of a brand statement. It's the kind of thing Golf Channel used to do, and in fact, former Golf Channel producer Jeff Neubarth is filling the same role for Callaway Live. Arnett clearly sees Callaway as a new kind of golf-media presence.
“The average consumer doesn’t get to be a part of those unscripted moments until now,” Arnett says. “We feel like Callaway Live is a great venue for that. Unscripted moments, with people who make this game the three-dimensional, cool game that it is.”
It’s an attempt to bring the fan closer to the product. His product, of course. But the more you are interested in the unique possibilities of Callaway Live, the more you realize you’ve forgotten that its sole intent is to get you thinking more about Callaway products.
We all have things in our lives we didn't realize we needed until we had them, and then once we had them we can't remember how we lived without them. At the risk of sounding overconfident about his product, Dan Schindler thinks he has one of those things, at least for anyone who cares about golf.
Schindler is the co-founder and executive vice president for business development of a company call Donuts. His group has spent almost $60 million in application fees in the last few years for several hundred top level domain names, or TLDs. TLDs are needed in the creation of an individual or company website. The ones we're most familiar with are .COM, .ORG or .NET, but you can also use one of the names Donuts has registered, such as .GURU, .PHOTOGRAPHY and .EMAIL.
And now .GOLF.
Donuts officially acquired the rights to .GOLF earlier this year, winning the name at auction after three other companies also made bids. (That's more than bid on the rights to .FOOTBALL.) Schindler would not say specifically how much the company paid for the name, except that it was "a substantial seven figure" price.
Schindler, an Englishman who is also a golfer, believes it was money well spent because of the potential for .GOLF to attract interest not just from businesses that have a stake in the game, but individual golfers.
"If you're going to get .ACCOUNTING or .LAW or .RESTAURANT, it's because you're in those businesses and it's for your business that you want that new domain name," Schindler said. "But for .GOLF it really is designed for the fan, somebody that has an affinity with that sport and wants to have a web address in .GOLF and have their email at a .GOLF domain name. We know there are over 60 million golfers in the world and there are countless millions more that played the game or are fans of the game. So the opportunity in this space we think is huge."
Donuts first started offering .GOLF earlier this month as part of a 60-day "sunrise" period where anybody who has trademark privileges can register their names (for instance, Callaway could snatch up Callaway.Golf during this time). Starting July 1, the restrictions for registration end and anyone can go to domain registrars such as GoDaddy and Domain.com and obtain a .GOLF name.
Donuts recoups its investment by getting a fee for every name that registrars sell ("We're the manufacturer, and GoDaddy is the retailer," Schindler says. "It's a subscription model reliant on volume.") Schindler wouldn't say the number of people his company is projecting will register a .GOLF name but feels confident in his investment and the idea that .GOLF can become accepted in the same way as .COM.
"There are people starting businesses every second all around the world," Schindler says. "And they need to buy domain names. And the fact of the matter is, you can't. There's oversaturation with .COM. So if you want to be online, you've got to find the name space. Why not find one that actually resonates with your audience?"
Washington's Chambers Bay is a first-time major-championship venue and the first course in the Pacific Northwest to host the U.S. Open. The historic moment gave Lee Wybranski what he describes as a "clean canvas" while working on the official commemorative poster for the 2015 championship.
The Flagstaff, Ariz.-based artist visited Chambers Bay last May and was taken by the sandy turf, water view and train tracks that run past the course. "I love diagonal compositions because they provide a great deal of depth and drama and really pull your eyes in," says Wybranski, who has painted the official Open poster since 2008.
Wybranski admits to taking some artistic license with his portrait of the 16th hole, bringing in the Olympic Mountains and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, while incorporating Chambers Bay's lone tree.
"My intention is always to find an original view of the course that hasn't been done before, but also is recognizable," he says.
Every time President Obama picks up a golf club, someone has a comment about how he's wasting time he should be spending focused on his day job. This obviously upsets all of us here at Golf Digest, because we think it's great our Commander-in-Chief hits the links. No one can work 24/7. A little time on the course is a smart way for President Obama to clear his head.
Of course, the President isn't the only public official in Washington who plays golf ... or could benefit from playing the sport. According to a story from NPR, golf has historically been a good way for public officials of different parties to find a little common ground.
NPR's story makes it clear the golf course isn't necessarily where members of Congress are brokering the final parts of any specific legislation. Where the value in regular golf outings in D.C. can be found in that they create a relaxed place for politicians to work on fostering relationships with rivals from across the aisle.
"It's still one of the best ways to communicate with one another and solve a problem - on the golf course," Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, says in the story.
The current issue, however, is that the politicians are playing less golf together, creating a greater divide between the parties. It seems like one big step to a healthier capital is for everyone to follow the President's lead, and play a little more golf.
Terry Jastrow is the writer and director of "The Squeeze," a new golf movie opening in theaters and video on demand Friday. Jastrow, 66, worked for more than 20 years as a producer and director at ABC Sports. We spoke to him recently for Golf Digest Stix about bringing his story to the big screen. You can see the trailer below, along with an extended version of our Q&A.
Why make a golf movie? Their track record isn't great.
Like all golfers, I love to see movies with golf in them. And I had what I think is a pretty entertaining story to tell. But, you go all the way through the list of golf movies, "Follow The Sun" to "Tin Cup," and with all due respect to the actors in them, you can tell pretty quickly you're watching an actor, not a real golfer. The narrative is constantly being ruptured. So I knew I couldn't make this movie until I found actors who could really play.
How did you do that?
There were more than 1,000 submissions for the lead role of Augie. We interviewed and auditioned, but the last three I took to Bel-Air Country Club, walked them to the first tee and said, "Play away please." And Jeremy Sumpter [who got the job] can really play. He has a really good swing. During the round I asked him if he could play a shot left-handed. He said, "I'm not too good at that," but then took his putter and with the back flange he flipped the ball in the air and whacked it on to the green from 120 yards. I said, "Damn, I'm putting that in the movie."
Why do you think golf movies have had such trouble connecting with audiences?
I think some of the golf movies have been too golf centric, too focused on the game. I think our movie has a broad appeal. It's more "The Sting" meets "Tin Cup." It's a heist. So you get lost in the story. For me it's a little like "The Color of Money." It's Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. You wouldn't say that's a pool movie. It's a really cool, gambler, heist, intrigue character piece.
In what ways did your experience directing tournament golf help you?
I think it boils down to the common denominator of storytelling. I grew up with the great boss and mentor and friend, Roone Arledge. And his mantra was the human drama of athletic competition. It never was only about the action. So I think my 22 years at ABC Sports while the genre was different, the fundamental lessons of it was story telling, in order to create an entertaining and compelling a program.
What was the biggest challenge in making the movie?
We shot 14 days in North Carolina and six days in Las Vegas. And every day you go on the set, regardless of how much preparation you've done, and there is just from sunup to sunset literally hundreds and probably thousands of decisions you have to make. And I tell you, I have been a producer or director to eight Olympic Games, one Super Bowl, and 62 major championships of golf, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but on the other hand it's so thrilling. You're say to yourself, "I'll get tired afterward."
Is the toughness because when you're directing a sporting event, you only have control over so much? Directing a movie, you have control over everything.
It does. And you know early on [with TV coverage] you do two hours of a golf tournament. The first 18 holes of live golf every covered was 1977 at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills. It was won by Hubie Green, which I directed, I'm proud to say. So now you're up to four hours, five hours. And four days of doing it. so it's not just the intensity and volume, but the length the movie takes in comparison to a sporting event. The Olympics are like 16 days. Well they don't even compare to how challenging a movie is.
What was the most enjoyable part of doing the whole thing?
Well there were a lot of things. I had a ball. I loved my cast. Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Michael Nouri, Jillian Murray, Katherine LaNasa. I wanted to cast people who were terrific actors and great people. I didn't want any assholes on the set. And the collaborative process was great. I had a view as a director that I want to try to create an environment for an actor to be as great as he can be. So I don't really mandate an actor does this or that. I collaborate with them. I find out their way of working and I sort of collaborate with them in their sweet spot. And we just had a ball doing it. so working with our cast will be a lifetime memory of joy. And my wife, Anne Archer, was a producer. It was so great to have her on the set. I knew she always had my back. If I was stubbing my toe, she doesn't have any problem telling me about it. so working with Anne as well.
There seems a simple answer to this, but how will you judge whether the movie has been a success?
Well I think the first criteria is your own personal sense of it. Is it a reflection of what you had hoped it would be? And honestly, the movie is better than I ever thought it would be. And then you want the public to enjoy it because that's who you do it for.. And then thirdly, it's just a fact, how does it do commercially. And we think we're going to do very well there. I've been so pleased by the early response and reviews. So I'm really excited about it.
The golf ball market is starting to get a lot more interesting.
While most golfers have been paying attention to the recent introductions of tour-level balls from major companies (Titleist's latest Pro V1/Pro V1x, Callaway's Chrome Soft and the Srixon Z-Star family), there’s been a recent influx of smaller manufacturers that have developed some success in marketing golf balls directly to consumers (3UP.com, INeedtheBall.com, Hopkins Golf and Vice Golf). In many cases, these are balls with not insignificant technologies at prices significantly below the national average. Now comes news that for the first time one of the more notable figures in golf ball technology over the last few decades is getting into the business on his own.
Dean Snell, most recently the vice president of golf ball research and development at TaylorMade, is the force behind Snell Golf. The company announced two new products today, one of which includes a multilayer, urethane-covered construction the highest-priced technology currently on the market. Like these other companies, Snell Golf will market its golf balls exclusively online, direct to consumers.
Unlike these companies, however, there’s an individual with some serious golf ball technology cred on the payroll. Snell has been at the forefront of golf ball development with both Titleist and TaylorMade over the last 25 years. His name is on 38 golf ball patents, and he has worked on the groundbreaking technology behind the original Titleist Pro V1 and the five-layer TaylorMade Penta golf balls.
Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball features a low-compression core and a multilayer construction with a cast urethane cover. The company also is offering a two-piece ball (Get Sum), also with low compression, aimed at improving distance, reducing spin on tee shots and providing softer feel.
Beyond the technologies, what may be most appealing about these products are the prices. My Tour Ball will cost $31.99, similarly priced to one of Snell’s last projects before leaving TaylorMade, the Project (a) ball. That price is in line with some of the other direct-to-consumer offerings, but $10-15 less than some name brand multilayer urethane cover balls. Get Sum is $20.99.
“I love this game and I hate seeing it decline,” Snell says on a video on his company’s website. “The motivation I have to start this company is to try to help grow the game. If I can help in any way, I can help with the cost of the golf ball. I can give you the performance and the technology that you’re looking for at an affordable price to help you go out and play more.”
In the nearly three years since Chip Brewer took over the reins as president and CEO of Callaway Golf, much has been made about the company’s comeback. Belts were tightened, product innovation grew and sales numbers were up. Indeed, general consumer perception was changing along with the company’s re-emerging presence in the professional ranks, too. Thursday, the company put those changes in the clearest perspective.
For the first full year since 2008, Callaway Golf made money. In a year that had been in many circles troubling for the golf industry, Callaway announced that full-year income for 2014 increased by five percent to $887 million, up from $843 million in 2013. Its gross profit of $358 million was the highest since 2010, and fully diluted earnings per share were $0.20 versus a $0.31 loss in 2013.
“When looking just at the currency neutral basis you can see that we’ve made nice progress,” Brewer told investors on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday. “What we’ll continue to need to do is basically the things that we’ve been doing in operational improvements and revenue growth. On a currency-neutral basis I believe this was and is trending on a very positive basis.”
Among the highlights for 2014 were increased sales in woods (8 percent), irons (12 percent) and golf balls (4 percent). The company saw also sales increases in all regions of the world, including an 11 percent gain in Europe.
Still, the company is cautious about its 2015 forecast, suggesting that operating costs will increase due to spending on tour support and marketing. But the big drag will be weakening foreign currency. Callaway is forecasting a decrease in net sales based solely on unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. Still, on a constant currency basis, Callaway is forecasting an increase in net sales to a high end of $920 million, or as much as 5 percent, including an estimated growth of 5-6 percent in core channel business.
Brewer also said Callaway increased its investment in the driving range/entertainment franchise TopGolf to $50.4 million. “We continue to be excited about the prospects of that business, and we think that’s going to be a positive for the shareholders of Callaway Golf,” he said.
Brewer also touted the company’s newly launched XR line of clubs and Chrome Soft ball and noted golfers’ acceptance of higher-priced products.
“Given the strength of our product line for 2015, and anticipated additional improvements in our operations, we expect for 2015 on a constant currency basis not only sales growth and market share gains, but also further improvements in gross margins and profitability. Golf is a momentum business and fortunately momentum is now on our side."
Callaway’s stock price was up 3 percent in trading this morning.
The buyer, Alexandre Ismail, president and CEO of Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, seems to be getting a deal on the house, which was listed for $6.5 million before being taken off the market in July. The waterfront property includes a putting green, private dock, pool, and an outdoor fireplace and dining area.