Exclusive InterviewOctober 5, 2010

Shedding Light

With his company's rainsuits coming under fire at last week's Ryder Cup, Sun Mountain's president addresses the issue with Golf World

Mickelson was one of several players who appeared weighed down on Friday.

Mickelson was one of several players who appeared weighed down on Friday.

When play was called during the opening session of the Ryder Cup matches in Wales last Friday, a problem with the U.S. team's rainsuits came to light

. Specifically, players complained the gear wasn't keeping them dry and the suits were getting too heavy with water. With no golf being played, the rainsuit problem became the story of the day, prompting speculation as to why the garment was malfunctioning. From a lack of Gore-Tex to the heavily embroidered design favored by Lisa Pavin, wife of U.S. captain Corey Pavin, theories abounded.

Not heard from, however, was the company that made the suits, Sun Mountain Sports. In his first interview on the topic, Sun Mountain Sports president Rick Reimers spoke to Golf World about what happened that day, the time leading up to the matches and where Sun Mountain goes from here.

GW: Were you watching this unfold on TV? If not, how and when did you find out?

RR: I was in Wales, but due to the bad weather and forecast I did not go out there because I wasn't sure they would play. I received a call from one of our people shortly after they stopped play on Friday.

GW: What went through your mind?

RR: I didn't know what to think. I doubted the garments actually were leaking, and I still do. But we weren't able to get in touch with Lisa or Corey [Pavin] to find out what was going on. We still have not heard specifically from them what the actual problem was.

GW: There were a lot of assumptions that the amount of embroidery on the suit and its overall design were the problems. With that, Lisa Pavin took a considerable amount of criticism. Warranted or no?

RR: That is misdirected. I found one of the extra jackets here, and we opened it up. I thought perhaps it was leaking through the stripes on the sleeve or the large appliqué on the embroidery. But when I looked at how we sealed it, I doubt it. These areas were sealed completely. I don't see how rain -- even heavy rain -- could get through those.

GW: So the media-bashing of Lisa Pavin is off-base?

RR: Absolutely. That is a totally misplaced affair. We knew there was going to be a challenge with the large appliqués and embroidery, but we dealt with that appropriately. We wouldn't have let the suits out the door if we didn't feel we did that.

GW: How long ago did work begin on these outfits?

RR: About three months ago. We did about 20 different designs and prototypes that we showed to Lisa Pavin.

GW: Were there any red flags at all in the process?

RR: We thought the design and the amount of embroidery might make the garment a little heavier and stiffer. We weren't originally happy with that element of the design because the suit is a stretch garment and that takes some of that away from it. But there were no concerns about water getting in. I may have underestimated the kind of rain they would get over there, but I've used the garment in heavy rain fishing in a boat for four hours and had no problems.

GW: There was some talk the players were concerned about the suits during the practice rounds.

RR: Not at all. We had Ann Hughes from our company there nonstop, and she was in communication with Lisa Pavin, and we saw players wearing the suits in the rain and did not hear of any problems, which says to me that in normal rainy conditions the garments performed just fine. But the monsoon-like wind with lots of rain Friday was not normal conditions.

GW: So what do you think happened?

RR: I have a few theories. When the rain is heavy enough and the wind is blowing the exterior of the fabric gets to a point I call, "wetted out." That's where the garment no longer sheds the water. It doesn't soak through, but it remains on the garment. Then with the wind it becomes somewhat plastered to you. So you feel the cold and you presume you're wet although it is unlikely the rain went through the fabric. It's also possible that rain from the players hats dripped down into the back of the jacket or front of the jacket and the players got wet from that. We noticed that the few players who wore bucket hats in the rain said they did not have a problem with the suit so that's another possibility. But obviously some did have issues, and they didn't want to wear them.

One of the reasons we were chosen to do the outerwear is that a lot of pros wear it and love it. We've been producing garments for the top players for many years. They liked it for the 2009 Presidents Cup and Walker Cup. It's just unfortunate that this happened. The sad thing is that if there had been normal rain, our garment would likely have been an advantage over the Euros as ours are lighter and move easier. But that wasn't how it turned out.

GW: Have you reached out to the Pavins or PGA of America?

RR: I have e-mails and voicemails out to the Pavins but have not heard back yet. We've also issued a press release that apologizes for the performance of the suits. I was hoping to speak with them before we did that, but it just didn't happen.

GW: In that release you say you are evaluating what happened. What kind of evaluation can you do to help get an answer to why the suits didn't perform as hoped?

RR: We're examining everything, but we can't really tell what the problem was right now. We have a hydrostatic tester here at Sun Mountain and during tests -- and re-tests of one of those garments this week -- it doesn't leak. We examined the embroidery in all areas. That doesn't appear to be a problem. We also performed our own test by having someone put the garment on and stand in a shower for two hours. It was a little inconclusive, but interesting. The person was wet underneath in areas, but the garment didn't leak. The test subject told us he felt the overspray ran down his neck into the sleeves and that's how he got wet. But where the garment was exposed face on, no water got through the garment. We also sent the garment out to an independent testing lab, SGS, and they have the capability of determining the overall waterproofness of a garment. It's a more scientific way of applying spray to a garment, and we're hoping to get that report back this week. We might learn something from that.

GW: How much of your business is outerwear?

RR: About 10 to 15 percent. Not overly large, but it's a nice piece of our business, and it's been a good one for us. We've had a lot of successes with it.

GW: How big of a hit does your brand take over this?

RR: Boy, I have no idea ... I have no idea. What did W.C. Fields say? "There's no such thing as good publicity or bad publicity, there's just publicity." I think we just have to wait and see how it works itself out. We hope it's not that damaging, but you never know. I can put forth 1,000 reasons why our outerwear is great, but a lot of people simply don't want to listen to some attempt to spin this. Once play was stopped and there was seven hours of live TV, it got this enormous coverage. And I feel like all I can do is apologize to Lisa and Corey, hope they accept it and hope they aren't damaged and we aren't.