Golf is not only a game but it's also a business, one that annually generates sales of $5 billion worldwide. Last year $840 million of that was spent on clubs, balls and other items made by Callaway Golf, whose founder and chairman, Ely Callaway, died last Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 82. Here's how Callaway ranks on my list of the 10 people who have had the biggest impact on the golf industry.
1. Ely Callaway
In a decade he took his company from nowhere to the top by blowing the doors off the competition with the oversized Big Bertha driver and then going public, in 1992. He was also the first to offer an oversized titanium wood. Ely's supernova of a success story is unmatched in golf.
2. Tiger Woods
Winning six majors by age 25 helped make him the world's most sought-after product endorser. ( Woods's off-course income is estimated to be $54 million a year.) In his five years on the Tour, prize money has nearly tripled, and whenever he plays, TV ratings are on average 115% higher.
3. Karsten Solheim
An innovative genius whose Ping putters have been used by more tournament winners than any other putter in history, he also invented investment-cast, perimeter-weighted irons, now the industry standard.
4. Gary Adams
Purists initially hated everything about the metal wood, which Adams designed and popularized for TaylorMade in the early '80s, but it hit the ball so much farther and straighter that within 10 years about the only place you could find a wooden club was in the bargain barrel.
5. Robert H. Dedman
The chairman of ClubCorp, he parlayed a single country club into assets valued at $1.6 billion, including more than 220 courses, among them such jewels as Pinehurst, Homestead and Mission Hills.
6. Robert Trent Jones Sr.
He designed and built more than 500 courses, and turned the golf architect job into a respected—and profitable—profession. Many of his best courses are public, bringing the country club experience to the people.
7. Robert Molitor
The expression that ball has personality was seldom heard after Molitor, an engineer at Spalding, developed the first cut-proof two-piece ball in 1968.
8. Deane Beman
As commissioner he turned the PGA Tour into a money machine; purses grew from $8 million when he started, in '74, to $56 million when he retired 20 years later. (They total $184 million today.) He also created the network of Tour-owned TPC courses that host 22% of the circuit's events.
9. Ernie Sabayrac
A sales rep for Wilson, MacGregor, Foot-Joy and Izod, he introduced selling soft goods, spiked shoes and logoed products at on-course golf shops. In January 1954 Sabayrac sold shirts and shoes out of the trunk of his car to wintering club pros in Dunedin, Fla., a practice that was the genesis of the annual PGA Merchandise Show.