East Coast native, former longtime Texan, current Californian Chip Brewer, has been the CEO of Callaway Golf since 2012, overseeing the company in trying, successful and now unprecedented times in the golf business.
Before coming to Callaway, he spent nearly a decade in Texas as president and later CEO of Adams Golf with good friend and Texas golf equipment legend Barney Adams.
Brewer, 56, got an MBA from Harvard, played college golf at William and Mary and has been involved in the game he loves for most of his life.
He served as President and CEO at Plano-based Adams from 2000 to 2012. Brewer also has golfing kids who are part of the new generation Callaway is hoping to market to.
Despite what some may think, being the head of a national golf company doesn’t constant green grass fun or mean unlimited rounds of golf, just a chance to play at some nice places with some good, new equipment and meet some very interesting people.
He will occasionally play in LPGA or Champions Tour pro-ams with customers or play with one of the many Callaway pro endorsers.
Brewer forgoes his base salary for 2020 during the Global Pandemic, but recently all golf companies have seen record equipment sales with people stuck at home and looking to get outside.
Callaway is now a partial investor in Dallas-based TopGolf which has several Texas locations and is part of several other lifestyle companies.
The friendly and soft-spoken Brewer was happy to talk about the golf business, with OTL Senior Writer and longtime friend Art Stricklin, about paying, playing and being with some of the best players in the world and what the game means to his family.
OTL: Golf seems to be one of the few sports which has seen a boom during the pandemic, what does that say about the game?
CHIP BREWER: I’m glad to see golf start to come back. The game and the industry are cyclical, they will always come around. People want to be outside with friends and family.
OTL: Talk about how you got started in this great game?
CB: Growing up, around 12, I caddied and played at the local course (Huntington Valley, PA) most days. I remember it was always a pretty big deal to be asked to play with my dad.
OTL: Now your kids are playing, what is that like?
CB: It’s the part of the game I enjoy the most to see these guys starting to love the game the way I do.
OTL: While golf is your business, it’s also your passion and now your family’s, what is that like to combine all of those?
CB: We’ve had had a couple of three-generation matches with my dad up at Pine Valley (New Jersey) where he is a member. My dad is 83, but he is still a low handicap, so we have a good time.
OTL: Do you remember the first time your kids beat you on the course or has that happened yet?
CB: I think l remember the year, the first time my son beat me on the course. I think he got an extra large Slurpee coming home that day. That was our regular stop. He didn’t always know where the ball was going, but when he hit it straight, I was in trouble.
OTL: I’m sure a lot of parents wonder how you keep your kids interested in the game long term. Any ideas?
CB: Speaking as a golfer and golf dad, not a golf CEO, I think the biggest threat to the game is time and the video games the kids have. It’s harder and harder to find 5 hours to go play golf and it’s tough to get the kids away from the computer. We (Callaway) are investors in TopGolf and I think that is a fantastic idea and fantastic product which has great promise for the future of the game.
OTL: People may not understand the hard work that goes into being a golf company, but I’m guessing you do get to hit some new Callaway gear?
CB: Sure, I’m sometimes bringing new gear out to the range. and I’m always looking to see what new stuff we have. The guys (sons) also have helped me with that out here in the past.
OTL: I’m guessing you have a consistent golf set from the same company?
CB: No question, I’m a Callaway player, I play them all. We have a putter line so I have that as well. We have great equipment and golf balls, which I also play.
OTL: What about the golf equipment cycle with companies always coming out with new and improved models.CB: That has certainly changed a lot from once every 2-3 years to once a year and sooner and is now starting to swing back the other direction.
OTL: Every year I see you at the PGA Show in Orlando and you’re always nice to talk with me for a few minutes. Do you ever sneak over to your competitors’ booths to see what they are showcasing these days to start a new season?
CB: When I go to the PGA Show or go into stores, I don’t mind looking at other companies’ equipment and seeing the new things they are doing. I don’t think we’re the only company with a good idea.
OTL: One of the things big companies like Callaway are always looking to do is sign new or hot players to endorse your clubs. How do you approach that?
CB: I remember (former Adams CEO) Barney Adams told me several times, “you have to tell people how good you are, then tell them again, then tell them again in case they forget the first time. There is definitely some truth to that.
OTL: Would you say signing pro players is one of the most interesting parts of your job?
CB: Signing pro players to an endorsement deal is always interesting. Much of it starts a year before hand, sometimes at the Masters standing under the big tree at the clubhouse, talking to agents and players and asking if they would be interested. That’s how it started with Kenny Perry, when I worked with Adams, who we signed to start with us and he lost in a playoff at the Masters.
OTL: I’m guessing there are some hits and misses with endorsement deals?
CB: Sometimes it’s a little different. An agent from IMG called me several years ago about a female player, Yani Tseng, who didn’t have a sponsor and was looking for equipment when I worked at Adams. We took a chance on her and I’d say it turned out pretty well with dozens of victories on the LPGA tour in several seasons.
OTL: Any misses?
CB: I don’t know about a miss, but when Peter Uihlein (son of Titleist chairman Wally Uihlein), who won the U.S. Amateur title in 2010, turned pro, I figured the odds were not in my favor to get him to sign with Adams at the time. That’s probably not negotiable. Maybe the best I could do was he play one of our hybrids under a Titleist headcover.
OTL: Being in the golf business for decades, you must have played with some great players.
CB: I have to admit, when I first started at Adams, it was pretty nerve wracking the first time I teed it up with one of our pro golf endorsers. I mean Tom Watson is a true legend of the game and I was playing with him. It was like, wow!
OTL: Does playing with the pro players make you realize you need to work in golf, not play golf for living?
CB: If you figure I’m a scratch golfer and I’m playing those guys, it’s a whole different world. I guess when I was a kid, I had dreams of being a pro golfer, but against these guys I’ve got little chance. I figured out in college, I needed to get into the work mode.
OTL: Any personal golf highhights for you?
CB: My golf highlights are pretty sparse. I guess the biggest thing is I won the father-and-son championship with my dad more than a dozen times at Pine Valley and I won the match play title at Dallas National when I lived there. I also have multiple holes in one.
OTL: Thanks for the time Chip and the personal insight into your unique golf position.