Scratch Golf’s new part owner: Ryan Moore

Scratch Golf has signed Ryan Moore to an endorsement deal, making the former U.S. Amateur champion the company’s first PGA Tour staff professional.

photo

Ryan Moore, sporting a new hat with the Scratch Golf logo.

But it’s an atypical agreement that has upsides for the player and the clubmaker.

Moore will receive an ownership stake in Scratch Golf, founded in 2003. He also will wear the company logo on his hat and feature its mark on his bag. Terms were not disclosed, but Ari Techner, Scratch Golf’s president and CEO, said the deal included a cash payment and performance incentives.

It could be a pivotal moment for the upstart maker of high-end, custom-made forged clubs. The company realizes it can’t compete with larger golf brands for player endorsement deals or outspend them in traditional advertising, and acknowledges the school of thought that an equipment company can’t be successful without Tour representation.

“It’s hard to get golfers to accept your product and your brand if they don’t see it on TV,” Techner concedes. “That’s just the way it is.”

So Scratch Golf is going down a path tried by other fledgling companies with mixed results. It’s not unheard of for a player to take a stake in an equipment company. Nick Price did so with little success in ventures with Sonartec and Atrigon, while John Schroeder and Greg Norman cashed in from owning a piece of Cobra.

How exactly did Moore settle on Scratch Golf? He played without an equipment sponsor this year after his previous deal with Ping expired. When Techner learned of Moore’s free-agent status, Techner sent him an unsolicited set of Scratch Golf clubs in January to test. At the time, Moore was busy test driving clubs from an array of manufacturers. He tried 8 to 10 different sets of clubs in competition during the course of the year, Moore’s father said. When Moore experimented with the Scratch Golf clubs, he liked the weight and feel of the wedges enough to have his brother call Techner and arrange a visit to the company’s Chattanooga, Tenn.-based headquarters.

After fitting Moore during his visit, Techner thought he had a “done deal.” Then Moore won the Wyndham Championship in late August with the same set of Pings he used to win the 2004 U.S. Amateur, a set Moore’s father described as “an old pair of slippers for him.” The Scratch Golf team worried that tasting victory might lead to a change of heart. Not so.

“He put the Scratch clubs in play the next tournament he played in,” a relieved Techner said.

The relationship already is paying dividends. Moore finished third at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions tournament in China, and got plenty of TV time paired with Tiger Woods in the final group in the third round. In three events with Scratch Golf clubs, Moore has recorded three top-10 finishes.

Moore has been using the company’s SB-1 irons (4-9) and 1018 series wedges. In China, Moore put into play a 60-degree wedge with grooves that conform to the USGA’s 2010 ruling.

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