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Business Roundup – Week ending June 8, 2007

A compilation of this week's news from the industry's leading business site. Reported by Golfweek senior writers Scott Hamilton and Adam Schupak.

• Sonartec Golf is up for sale and in serious discussions with a prospective buyer, Golfweek has learned.

An official with the Carlsbad, Calif.-based equipment company confirmed that Peter Pocklington, who owned and operated the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers from 1977 to 1998, is in talks to purchase the maker of metalwoods, hybrids and wedges.

Pocklington, an avid golfer, has dabbled in the golf industry before, purchasing equipment-maker GolfGear International in 2002. He serves as chairman of the Rancho Mirage, Calif.-based company.

Efforts to reach Pocklington for comment were unsuccessful.

Founded in 2000, Sonartec has earned accolades for its products’ quality and performance, but has yet to achieve significant commercial success. In April, Sonartec netted 0.3 percent unit share of all metalwood sales at on- and off-course retailers, according to research firm Golf Datatech LLC.

Its clubs have gained tour exposure, most notably through use by World Golf Hall of Fame member Nick Price and Todd Hamilton, who won the 2004 British Open using a Sonartec hybrid. Earlier this year, Zach Johnson used one of Sonartec’s fairway woods when he triumphed at the Masters. – Reported by Adam Schupak

• Pablo Martin and Nike agreed to a head-to-toe, multi-year endorsement deal, the Oregon-based sports giant announced Thursday just hours before the former Oklahoma State star made his professional debut in the Stanford St. Jude Championship. The question now is when he’ll put Nike clubs into play.

Martin, who officially turned pro earlier this week when he signed with IMG, will continue playing with the same set of clubs he used in college – Ping irons and woods, along with a Titleist golf ball. Martin is already sporting a Nike bag, but his agent, Clarke Jones, said no timetable has been set for when his client will make the switch. Jones said Martin tested 3-woods Wednesday, but wasn’t comfortable enough after that session to integrate them.

“They want him to go out and play and perform like he can, and we’re going to get to the golf clubs and the balls on his schedule,” Jones said. “There’s no target date. Nike is very cool about it. They understand he doesn’t have a Nike club in his bag, but they have full confidence in their engineers and their club guys. So it’s going to happen when it happens, we don’t have drop-dead date.”

The 21-year-old Spaniard was a two-time first-team all-American for the Cowboys. He also won the 2006 Jack Nicklaus Award and was a two-time Big 12 player of the year. He won five individual collegiate tournaments, including this year’s Big 12 championship, and led the Cowboys to the 2006 national title.

In April, he became the first amateur to win on the PGA European Tour when he won the Estoril Open de Portugal, a victory that gave him full playing privileges on that tour through 2009. He is planning to play that circuit this season as well as the PGA Tour, where he can play five more events through sponsors exemptions. Martin’s schedule right now has him playing next week in the U.S. Open, followed two weeks later with a scheduled appearance at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich.

He will participate in British Open qualifying July 1 at Oakland Hills and has accepted an invitation to play later that week in the AT&T National before returning to Europe, likely to play in the Barclays Scottish Open. – Reported by Scott Hamilton

• American Express is making its debut as a U.S. Open sponsor by providing an on-site interactive area for all tournament attendees.

The U.S. Open Experience presented by American Express features photos, films and other memorabilia relating to past championships as well as future venues for the event. The forum’s centerpiece is a scale replica of Oakmont’s 18th green, upon which fans will be given opportunties to putt. Surrounding the green will be a collection of U.S. Open memorabilia, including: golf balls used by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus during their 1962 playoff; Ben Hogan’s 1-iron from the 1950 championship; and Johnny Miller’s shoes from his record-setting final round at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

AmEx cardholders also will be able to obtain a myLEADERBOARD device they can take onto the course to track the performance of players. Cardmembers also can view the tournament in a private hospitality area and participate in a silent auction featuring golf memorabilia and hospitality packages for future U.S. Opens. – Reported by Scott Hamilton

• Tiger Woods will fashion new Nike wear, including a variation of his usual Sunday red during the final round of the U.S. Open. He is expected to sport a seamless short sleeve suspension tech mock turtleneck in razzle, a base red with a gold web-like design.

Woods’ wardrobe also is expected to include chlorine blue shirts Thursday and Saturday, with a mini-stripe polo planned for the first round and a dri-fit paisley polo scheduled for the third round. The fashion script, which Nike officials drew up more than a year ago, calls for Woods to don stretch texture polo in chamois for Friday's second round.

All of the shirts, ranging in price from $70 to $90, are available to the public as part of the Tiger Woods Summer Collection. – Reported by Scott Hamilton

• Improvements are underway at the TPC River Highlands facility in Cromwell, Conn., site of next week’s inaugural Travelers Championship (formerly the Greater Hartford Open). The upgrades include a new practice facility and driving range, a revamped corporate row and a renovation to the course skyboxes. The plan was phased-in at the beginning of January with elements of the project to be completed over the next two years.

The new practice area is planned to the course’s current facility from 5 acres to 22 acres, with the driving range increasing in length from 260 yards to 360 yards. It also will include a short practice course, an 11,000 square-foot putting green and a 13,000 square-foot chipping area. PGA Tour officials say the facility will be operational in time for the 2008 Travelers Championship. – Reported by Scott Hamilton

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