September 12, 2003
MARTIN PARK: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to John Solheim who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ping. Next to him is Doug Hawken who is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Ping. I'm going to hand you straight over to John Solheim who is going to say a few words. Welcome.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: Thank you. It's great to be here. It's great for this event to be off and running. Sorry about the delay. It's an exciting time for us besides the wonderful Solheim Cup, there is just a huge amount of product that we're introducing to the marketplace this year from a new larger driver, two new sets of irons, an S59 which is a true blade golf club, very clean looking, to the G2 which is the maximum forgiveness-type of golf club. It's a very elaborate line that's actually more than one set in the line because there's a second set that's for slow swingers with different lofts on it that maximize it. Plus long irons, 2 through 5 iron that we call HL which are high launch irons that just really give a high trajectory and are extremely long. A little bit more of a hybrid iron but they are a pure iron. Completely new line of putters, which is a G2-I and very soft insert that we've worked extremely hard on. Brand new grip to match the insert. It's a really sharp looking club that plays well, and we're seeing it being rapidly accepted by the players. And then along with that is a new set of fairway woods which are steel so they're more of a well priced golf club, but what we've done is we've had a very excellent set of titanium fairway woods which are extremely long. And we've matched those distances in the steel club by making it a larger head with the variable club face thickness to it. And then there's a new optic factor on it that we've done very subtly which is kind of, as I call it, a crescent moon on the top of the club to help you set up the ball at the right position. Just an exciting new menu of new products and lots of new things -- just exciting things that are different for the marketplace and that work and that perform well.
DOUG HAWKEN: We think it's an effort also from us -- we have a great, loyal following, Ping enthusiasts that support our products whatever we put out, because we try to bring something that is an improvement on what we brought out before. We think the breadth of this product line will also attract not traditional Ping players, the blade specifically is a niche market that we're looking for and the improved performance of the G2 iron. We're pretty excited about the market that it would reach. What we'd like to do now is open it up for any questions that you might have and we'll try to respond to the best of our ability.
Q. Ping pioneered the way cavity back iron, it seems a quantum move from cavity back to blade. I wonder if you could explain that.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: There was a bit of a difficulty there. We'd come out with some blade irons, close to being blade irons, but they were modifications of our current iron with less offset what we thought the market would accept for a blade. It really didn't accept that as a blade. A lot would use it, but the pure blade players, unfortunately to us a lot of youth continue to use -- follow Tiger Woods in going to a blade. Even though there are more forgiving clubs out there. So what we did is we gave it totally the traditional look, the thin top line, the very clean lines to it. But then we actually put in some cavities in there that surprisingly help the forgiveness of the club more than what people expect them to. Just really good performance. We have a young man by the name of Ted Purdy on the Nationwide Tour. He's put them into play. And in eight events he went from like 13th on the greens in regulation to number one in greens in regulation. It was kind of funny, the first round that he played with them, he hit every green in regulation except for one. And his playing partner had put a ball ten feet in line with the pin, ten feet short of the pin, and his ball hit the player's ball and went off the green is the one he missed. It's an exciting iron. It is a player's club for a strong player.
DOUG HAWKEN: It is the market segment that has returned to a significant amount, enough that we thought we should respond to it. This club is an oxymoron. It's a forgiving blade. We thought that was something new and different to bring to the market. It's Ping's answer -- we did not compromise the design characteristics that we believe are effective. But we've designed around it to come up with the new blade, the next generation of blade.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: There's little things that are definitely Ping, like a mat finish, not a polish finish. But we did put a little bit of polish on it so that it would stand out in areas that you don't see it at address, so it's not going to glare into your eye.
Q. I was wondering which model both of you currently play and why?
DOUG HAWKEN: Me personally I play the G2 because I like the little bit more forgiveness. I probably should be a better player than what I am. The G2 to me is a familiar look. It's similar -- yeah, similar to the Eye2 which was a very popular iron as you know. This is almost like the continuation of that line. The wide sole on the bottom, moving the weight back allows it to be more forgiving, and I need that forgiveness.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: Myself, G2 as well. With the tour wedges. I just haven't tried the G2 wedges as yet because we put a lot into those as well. And I've got the other wedges kind of dialed in. I've got too many. I've got four right now and I want to get down to three.
DOUG HAWKEN: I played the new 380 driver and I hit it longer because I'm more confident with it. It's 9 degrees and it's the most forgiving driver that we've ever built. I stand up with more confidence and am able to put a lot more swing on it. So I hit it quite a bit further.
Q. Have you had these products on Tour on this side of the ocean, and what's been the feedback from that area?
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: The Tour has been very excited about it. A number of sets of S59's on tour, like Chris DiMarco has been using this.
DOUG HAWKEN: We've got approximately eight sets on the Nationwide Tour.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: And the G2 has also been accepted well. There's a number of players, senior players like Bruce Summerhays. Chaz, you've got the names at the top of your hat better than I do. So why don't you tell us.
CHANCE COSBY: There's three sets on the PGA tour. And David Edwards and Gabriel Hjertstedt and Patrick Sheehan. And then we have a few sets on the Senior Tour. I believe we have four or five sets on the Nationwide Tour of G2's. On the European tour Angel Cabrera plays the S59's and Tjaart Van der Waltt plays the S59's. I don't know if we have anybody with G2's there.
DOUG HAWKEN: Jim, I think you know that's the toughest group to get to switch over. They've had some success with an earlier product. It's difficult to get them to switch. Those numbers are significant in sending a message that we've got a good product and we're switching quickly. We're finding some early successes. We're excited about it.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: How about the HL's on the long irons?
CHANCE COSBY: The timing that Doug brought up, the issue on the PGA Tour and the European Tour, a lot of this product came out a week or two before the PGA. So most of the guys weren't even going to talk about it until after that. But the 2 iron did go into several players' bags at the PGA a few weeks ago.
Q. Price-wise for the North American market, are you just converting the values that are printed on this release here?
DOUG HAWKEN: That's a good question. Mr. Cosby?
CHANCE COSBY: We can get that for you.
Q. John, when you talk about slow swingers, are you talking about clubhead speed?
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: Clubhead speed. People that are 20 to 30 miles an hour slower than the average player. So mainly seniors, lady golfers. And what's interesting is the set only goes through a 7 iron. And then we feel that they should fit into the fairway woods. Now, the 7 iron is actually the loft of a 6 iron but the length of a 7 iron. And then you go into what we call an L wood. And our goal was that these slow swing speeds have a spacing of 10 yards approximately between the clubs. That's what we've achieved at these slower swing speeds. It really works very well as a set. It gives a much easier clubs to play by getting into those fairway woods a little bit earlier.
DOUG HAWKEN: We're not selling them clubs they don't really need. We're really targeted on trying to fine tune this so they've got a set that works for them.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: The whole set is adjusted loftwise, adjusted bouncewise so it makes it work.
MARTIN PARK: John, I'm sure you'd like to talk to everybody individually.
JOHN K. SOLHEIM: Sure. More than happy to.
MARTIN PARK: Thank you very much for coming.
End of FastScripts.