David Abeles first fell in love with the game of golf as a 10- year-old growing up in Connecticut, thanks to a few golf loving neighborhood kids. After working his way through school by caddying, he landed a sales job in New York with TaylorMade – the very same company whose banner adorned the wall of his childhood bedroom. Now 44, both the game and the business of golf fascinate him as much as ever. In an exclusive interview, the new CEO tells us just what it is that makes TaylorMade so special, why performance is all that matters, and what it’s really like to do business in one of the most competitive industries in the world.
What was your reaction on getting the call to come back to TaylorMade earlier this year? was thrilled. I have a wonderful history with TaylorMade-Adidas, from my first job with them in the mid-1990s as a salesman to my position running sales operations first in China and then in North America. In 2014 I left to run Competitor Group Inc., a company that puts together marathon and half marathon races, before getting the call to come back to TaylorMade in early 2015. I came back because I love this organization. We’ve got a group of incredible people who work here. They’re passionate golfers, innovative and creative thinkers and competitive business people, all of which I relate to.
When did you first fall in love with TaylorMade products? Believe it or not, my first introduction to TaylorMade was while caddying for a man named Charlie Stepnowski every weekend at the Glastonbury Hills Country Club in Connecticut. He had 14 TaylorMade clubs in his bag that he swore by. Now I have 14 TaylorMade clubs in my bag, and I’m just as passionate about mine from the R15 driver and AeroBurner series to the RSi irons.
What do you think is TaylorMade’s most exciting product right now? I’m particularly excited about four of our products the R15 driver, the AeroBurner metalwoods, the RSi irons and the Tour Preferred golf balls. The R15 driver is the most adjustable driver in golf. The AeroBurner is the fastest club we’ve ever made. The RSi iron features new slot technology in the face, which the industry’s never done before. And the ball is the best-performing ball on the market. If you put all of these items in your bag, your golf game is going to improve, no question.
What is TaylorMade’s approach to inspiring the younger generations to learn and love the game of golf? The younger generation is very important to us. We formed a strategic alliance with the PGA to form the PGA Junior League, and in doing so we’re ensuring an initiative that really strengthens the game of golf. We’re also involved with various global institutions that teach golf to younger players, and we’re constantly looking into equipment for junior players that would enable them to enjoy the game even more.
What does the future hold for TaylorMade? Our mission is to continuously innovate new products. So whether it’s a year from now, two years from now or ten years from now, we’ll never bring a product to market that isn’t better than what we’ve released before.
What advantages does TaylorMade gain by having sponsored tour players in the spotlight? Golf is a unique sport in that you can actually play the same courses as the pros and with the same equipment and occasionally, you can even hit some of the same shots. Because of this fact golfers love to know who is using what equipment, and it’s part of our mission to tell them. We’ve got a great group of sponsored players across the globe, including Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day and Justin Rose. More players on the Tour play TaylorMade than any other brand, and we have the No. 1 metalwood, driver and iron on Tour. Having these players represent our company is critically important, because they can share better than we ever could how great our products perform.
how do you see the game of golf evolving in the near future? My theory about this is simple. It’s been a great game for hundreds and hundreds of years, and the game of golf is going to be just fine. In fact, data suggests that it’s growing rapidly, with 3.5 million to 4 million new golfers playing the sport every year. When I work with the USGA and the PGA and LPGA tours regarding initiatives to grow the game, what I see actually makes me more excited about the game than I’ve ever been.
What do you love about the game? love that it’s a competitive sport, but that thanks to the handicap system you can play with your friends and family and largely be on the same playing field. I love the values the game teaches. And I love the fact that it’s really the only sport you can play your entire life.