Originally created 10/02/00

Companies vie for high-profile pitchmen



Golf-ball makers continued to compete for champions last month.

Titleist lost Tiger Woods to Nike and Colin Montgomerie to Callaway. But Titleist was able to convince Davis Love III to stick with the brand he grew up using.

There were rumors that Mr. Love might be in love with another brand.

While it is common for companies to change their pitchmen, endorsements do mean a lot to companies, said local marketer Mark Alison of Alison & Associates.

The public has come to expect it.

"People who are loyal to a professional will buy the product because it has that professional's name on it," Mr. Alison said. "Rarely does a person stay a main spokesperson very long."

Titleist, owned by Fortune Brands' Acushnet Co., praised the seventh-best ranked golfer in the world after it signed him up, calling him "instrumental" in the success of its ball.

Mr. Love decided to stay with Titleist until 2010, when his contract expires, despite talk that he, too, might switch to Nike.

Titleist Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wally Uihlein told Golf World Business that the company is at war with other golf-ball makers and is not backing off.

Later that month, Titleist announced it also signed Sweden-native Jesper Parnevik until 2003. He has used Titleist balls and FootJoy - another Fortune Brands name - shoes since turning pro in 1986.

He is the ninth-ranked golfer in the world.

Callaway Golf announced it is shipping its ball - the Rule 35 - to Japan. The ball became available in the United States on Feb. 4 and in Europe in May. Callaway claims more than 70 touring professionals have switched to the new ball since it was released, and it expects strong sales in the Far East.

In other news:

Titleist touted its Scotty Cameron putters as precision instruments offering a new Mil-Spec line. The new putter comes in a wide range of specs and options and has a suggested retail price of $275.

TearDrop Golf Co. also unveiled a new putter - the TD Select. Its suggested retail price is $140. It is made with stainless steel and uses a dimple pattern on the face.

Aldila Inc., the Poway, Calif.-based graphite golf shaft maker, hit a 52-week stock price high in mid-September. The company announced it would release new graphite wood and iron shafts - the HM 2000 Tour. It also posted strong second quarter earnings.

Sales increased 35 percent to $17.1 million from $12.6 million from the second quarter in 1999. Income rose to $1.7 million, or 10 cents per diluted share, compared with a loss of $72,000, or less than 1 cent per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

National Golf Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust that owns nearly 150 golf courses, said it planned to sell Goshen Plantation, an 18-hole course in Augusta. The asking price was $3.2 million.

The company is selling the 30-year-old course, along with 10 others, to concentrate on areas where the company owns multiple courses.

Adams Golf, based in Plano, Texas, announced it is teaming with The Fletcher Group of Quebec, Canada, to distribute the company's golf clubs in Canada.

Textron's locally based Golf, Turf & Specialty Products division announced an alliance with ProLink, the inventor of the GPS golf course information management systems. ProLink will sell systems through the E-Z-Go branches.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.