Q&A: Kentwool CEO Mark Kent
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Here is a piece of apparel that we don’t talk about much – socks. Although they aren’t exactly a fashion necessity, socks are the roots of a golfer’s comfort.
A growing number of golf pros, such as Bubba Watson, winner of last weekend’s Traveler’s Championship, are turning to Kentwool for their foot coverings. CEO Mark Kent explains.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Kentwool, a yarn manufacturer, got into the golf socks business.
Kentwool is a family-owned business that’s been manufacturing fine wool yarn since 1843. We got into socks when I was standing on the 18th fairway during the BMW Nationwide Tour Pro-Am with blistered feet from walking the mountainous course for three days. I hurt and as a result was unfocused, leading to missing the final round. I looked at my caddie (another Kentwool employee) and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone make a great golf sock?” He replied, “Why don’t you?” So I did. Price wasn’t a concern, it was all about comfort. We drew upon the company’s nearly two-century heritage in wool innovation to create a truly premium performance golf sock.
Last weekend was a big win for Bubba Watson. How do you make sure everyone knows he was wearing your brand?
We’ve only been in business four months so it is important for us to shout our story far and wide. We also recognize that socks aren’t typically seen during the course of play. So it becomes all the more important when a staff player wins, since it provides the opportunity for us to show consumers the socks are Tour-proven. Bubba chooses to wear them and actually approached us because he was so impressed with the way they performed. It’s a great endorsement and plays a key role in grabbing golfers’ attention.
How did the socks play a role in Watson’s success?
These aren’t your average golf socks. We view them as equipment, as important as a player’s putter, driver or ball. We spend a lot of time developing the right proprietary fabric blends and manufacturing processes to create a sock that is proven to keep feet dry and comfortable, while also eliminating abrasions, blisters and fatigue. Each week, Bubba has a lot of things to focus on, one of which shouldn’t be his feet. By taking discomfort out the equation, I certainly feel Kentwool helped him win.
Why socks? Did you see a need for something like this in the golf world?
There is definitely a need for great golf socks out there. Take my story, for example. Inadequate socks were literally affecting my game. Let’s face it, golf shoes aren’t always the most comfortable, especially after days of walking, so it’s important your socks protect your feet. A lot of what you see in the marketplace is geared toward simply keeping your feet cool, which only addresses one part of the problem. We examined the whole foot and asked ourselves, “How can we create a sock that maintains the perfect climate, but also resists abrasions and blisters?” As far as we were concerned, no product in the marketplace took as comprehensive of an approach, which positioned us perfectly to fill the void.
What makes Kentwool different from a mainstream brand?
First and foremost, many companies can sell golf socks, but we’re the only one who makes them. Our heritage as a leader in textile development and manufacturing allows us to own the entire chain from sheep to feet. The result is the use of innovative materials and processes like our “WINDspun” air-infused technology. We also methodically examine the foot, so we can provide support in the correct places. Enhanced cushioning at strategic micro-stress points quashes abrasion and heel, toe and bridge elements provide maximum support and protection against injury.
Merino wool sounds hot. What makes the socks comfortable to play in during the summer?
We’re not making big, thick socks but rather a super -fine, soft merino style. Second, wool is actually a natural performance fiber. It doesn’t absorb sweat like cotton, it is highly breathable and resists odor, unlike polyester. Additionally, we’ve created a unique vent system along the top to maintain an appropriate climate, so feet remain not too dry, but not soaked either. After a summer round, most socks stick to your feet, ours slide right off. The best part is they don’t smell, so if you accidentally leave them in your bag or trunk, you won’t be left holding your nose.
Do you guarantee we won’t get blisters?
Yes, Kentwool has a “Blister-free Guarantee,” allowing customers to try the socks with their old or new golf shoes and return them for a full refund if they aren’t satisfied. We are confident in our product and think once the socks are on people’s feet we’ll have many return customers.
What other tour pros sport Kentwool socks?
Right now, aside from Bubba, our stable of staff players includes Charles Warren, Kevin Johnson, Dustin Bray, Jonathan Byrd, Kristy McPherson, Sarah Kemp, Jenny Gleason and Anna Scott.
Do your pros have any say in the design of the product?
If we want to create the best golf sock on the market, the only way we can do that is by having the best players test them and provide feedback. So our staff players play a critical role in the design and development of our products.
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Kentwool socks are available at numerous green-grass locations and www.kentwool.com.