Callaway's top European...

Henry Darch finds out what makes Callaway Europe's top man, Patrice Hutin, tick...

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Henry Darch
Mon, 27 Nov 2000
Callaway's top European...

How do you get a top job with Callaway Golf? It seems the only way to find out is to ask the man himself. Henry Darch from Golf News magazine found out what there is to know about the top man at Callaway Golf Europe, Frenchman, Patrice Hutin.

French-born Patrice is a man with a lot of expertise in the golf business, as he was formerly a President of both Taylor Made and Cleveland Golf, after which he became a Consultant to Callaway for two years.

In February of this year he was made Senior Vice President of Sales, before becoming Managing Director in May. This wholly owned subsidiary of Callaway Golf is based at Chessington in Surrey, and has control of 19 countries in Europe, including the recent reacquisition of the distributorship of Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Callaway's top European...
Callaway's top man in Europe…Patrice Hutin
Callaway's top European...

Patrice was born in 1953 and graduated from The University of Rennes with a Maitrise de sciences de Gestion (equivalent to an MBA) after obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics and Science. In 1996 he was voted ‘Man of the Year’ by the Young Golfers of America Association for his work in helping children in urban areas to play golf whilst he was with Cleveland Golf. This was prior to the Tiger Woods era.

You could tell that this Frenchman is very proud of this title. He mentioned how his own education had certainly helped him in his choice of going into the sports business, in that his Science degree enabled him to understand how golf clubs are designed and made and his degree in accountancy aided him in balancing the budget! His wife, Regine and he have two daughters, Camille and Alice, who are both at University in Grenoble, whilst their son Paul, who is twelve, is studying at the French Lycee in London.

Although I was anticipating some wonderful French hospitality in the form perhaps of a bottle of Dom Perignon and a little ‘fromage’, I gladly accepted the coffee and the warm Gallic welcome, and felt happy enough to probe further into his more private life. I started by asking about his hobbies and found that they include an interest in most sports, but in particular in skiing, and his wife is a trained skiing instructor. I wondered if his home town of Grenoble, (which was the well-known winning venue for Jean-Claude Killy in the Olympics of 1968) had had any influence on this choice of sport??!

His other hobbies include tennis and yes, he does play golf, with a handicap of 13. But his favourite hobby is writing short stories. This got me worried and I commented that this could mean I would be out of work soon, but when he reassured me that he wrote only in French, I felt much better!!

Callaway's top European...
Callaway Ball designer, Chuck Yash
Callaway's top European...

Having spoken about his background, I felt it was time to ask some of those questions about the Callaway golf equipment, and in particular about the new Big Bertha ERC II Forged Titanium Driver and the new Hawk Eye VFT (Variable Face Thickness) Titanium Driver.

The latter conforms to both the R & A and the USGA Equipment Regulations, whilst the ERC II conforms only with the R & A Equipment Regulations. What better recommendation can you get than from the legend, himself, Arnold Palmer, when he says how much joy he is getting out of his Hawk Eye VFT Driver, which he will be using on the Senior Tour in competition.

The day I arrived in Patrice’s office was also the day it was announced that Callaway Golf had hit the one million mark in sales world-wide of the Hawk Eye irons – this in just over a year! The success of the Hawk Eye caught everybody by surprise as it is a top of the range iron, and at one time the company even had trouble keeping up with demand.

Callaway Golf (Europe) Ltd. used to be divided in the past, in that the Scandinavian countries dealt more through Sweden. But now that all the countries are directed from the London base and all the teething problems have been sorted out, the company has matured into a strong and highly successful business.

Consequently Callaway have seen a big expansion of golf club sales – since the integration of European countries, there has been a 25% – 30% increase - with the fastest growing market being in Holland and Denmark, following the U.K. which is still the biggest by far.

Callaway's top European...
The New ERC II from Callaway
Callaway's top European...

At this stage I thought I should ask about THE BALL. Patrice likes the new Callaway red ball the best because he likes the click of it, but we know a lot of low handicappers who prefer the blue one. It is not easy to launch a new golf ball when the major manufacturers have been out there for 30 years and have got over all the hiccups.

Patrice said that when they decided to manufacture their own ball they were automatically fighting the giants of Titleist and Dunlop who have had the stranglehold on the market for years.

He reckons that manufacturers who have come into the golf ball market previously have had to drop it because they find that they cannot compete. Callaway are targeting the premium and super premium market. There has been a lot of comment about the solid balls, but the Callaway ball stands up to any of the distance balls and has a better spin and a soft landing, which is really what is needed in the game.

Chuck Yash, who designed the Callaway ball, had years of experience making golf balls and is renowned for the Strata ball. He wanted to design a ball that was compatible with all the Callaway products. Neither the design, nor the process had ever been used before, and now that all difficulties have been resolved, Callaway Golf are thrilled that they have won such a high percentage of the premium market.

Colin Montgomerie’s success undoubtedly helped with the selling of the Callaway ball, and with Romero winning his tournament with both the new driver and the Callaway red ball, this must encourage golfers to think much more about these products. The supposed high price of the ball is actually comparable with the other top balls – the Maxfli Revolution and the Titleist Professional ball are the same price as the Callaway premium ball.

I have noticed recently that the competition has also been boxing their balls in 10s, like Callaway, which has made Callaway a leader in another aspect of the market! Curiously, some people will pay £500 for a new driver, and then they go out and buy cross-out balls to play with!