Q&A with Adams Golf's John Ward

Adams Golf recently added Ernie Els to their stable of players.
Adams Golf recently added Ernie Els to their stable of players. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, January 9, 2014

John Ward, a veteran sales executive with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, was named president of Adams Golf in June 2012.

After 1 1/2 years at the helm, Ward offers candid observations about his company, the state of golf and the future of the game.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: You recently added Ernie Els to the Adams touring pro staff. How important was that?

WARD: In a big way, he represents to us the manner in which we want the world to look at Adams. Whether it’s his nickname (the Big Easy) or his personality, he’s friendly and he’s inviting. He will be our primary focus on the PGA Tour. He will be a poster child for us. He’s at the top of our pyramid. He’s our star.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: Els has appeared excited by this deal. Is it a multi-year contract.

WARD: Yes, three years.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: What are the contractual obligations of a player such as Els?

WARD: They are no different from those of most touring professionals. He carries our bag and plays our clubs. He is required to offer so many days of service, if you will, to the company. This can be used in ad shoots, customer outings, or in any way, shape or form. Above all, we want Ernie to be Ernie.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: What driver will he play?

WARD: It will be a TaylorMade driver. I don’t know which model. The rest of his clubs, except for the putter, will be Adams. He’s still testing. The putter will be either TaylorMade or Yes!.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: You mentioned Els’ gregarious personality. How would you describe the personality of Adams Golf?

WARD: Let me put it this way. What’s the dream of Adams Golf? We want to be the most loved company in golf. It’s our dream. Our purpose is to make golf easy. Having the Big Easy on your staff is the perfect fit.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: How would you describe the state of golf?

WARD: I would say it’s in crisis mode. It continues to contract. Courses are closing, rounds are down, product sales are down. Metalwood sales, as I recall, were down 8 1/2 percent last year in the United States. All of that has to do with the number of people playing, and the rounds played. All the numbers are down. It should be a big worry for everybody.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: Can this be changed?

WARD: First, there has to be a sense of urgency. Everybody has to say, “Holy cow, we’ve got a problem. What are we going to do?” I don’t know the answer, but the efforts so far haven’t had any impact. Nothing has changed. It isn’t working. I would say that understanding the need for evolution is crucial. I would suggest that we don’t lose the history and tradition, but at the same time we embrace the importance of evolution in golf. I think there are factions of the golf world that don’t want it to evolve, and that’s a losing battle.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: Are you happy with how you have altered the international structure of Adams Golf?

WARD: Prior to 2013, Adams business outside the United States was done using distributors. Now, we have set up offices all over the world, hiring our own teams. In effect, we have a mini headquarters in each region to drive the brand and the exposure. The success has been spectacular. We more than doubled our international business in 2013, and we expect to double it again this year.

• • •

GOLFWEEK: Can you talk about the Adams philosophy regarding drivers?

WARD: We feel we have great drivers. But look at what is happening. All the other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are competing for this driver space. They talk about distance and being longer, and longer and longer. It’s a noisy, competitive space. We feel we can be best positioned, with our heritage, to focus on the second shot. What you are gonna use next? So our two strategic anchors are to be the No. 1 hybrid in the world and to own the second shot.

Golfweek.com readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.