One of the great things about my position at SeeMore is I get to travel to Japan from time-to-time to stay on top of our sales there and keep up with the trends in the world's second largest golf market. I just returned from a 9-day swing in Japan, and although the jet lag hits hard, I always come back with interesting new bits of info from our neighbors across the Pacific. Here are a few things I noticed while I was there.
First off: Ryo Ishikawa is EVERYWHERE - on magazine covers, newspapers, commercials, you name it! The teenage phenom is taking the country by storm and the mass media can't get enough of him. He recently won his fourth Japan tour event in 2009, reaching $1 million in tour earnings for the year, having only turned 18 last month! This kid has it all and looks to be the next Tiger - if not globally, at least in Japan. One interesting thing to note about Ryo, he seems to be a loyal player. A few years back his current club sponsor was the only manufacturer to show him love when he was an up-and-comer, providing him with custom clubs and other services. So when he turned pro, despite being approached by many of the major manufacturers and being offered more money, he remained loyal and continued to use the same brand clubs as before. We'll see if that changes in the coming years when one of the "big boy" manufacturers steps up and offers "big boy" money. But for now, he's standing firm.
Secondly: Center shafted putters are HOT! Here at SeeMore, we know and understand well the benefits of center-shafted putters, it seems the Japanese are once again relearning the benefits. Part of this can be attributed to a number of Japan Tour pros using center shafted models. Most notably, Azuma Yano - last year's #2 money leader in Japan. In fact, Mr. Yano used one of our mFGP2 Ltd Private Reserved putters when he was here playing the WGC-CA Championship last March. He liked the RST set up and SeeMore feel, but alas, was persuaded by his sponsor to return to his previous putter after he returned to Japan. However, I won't be surprised to see that mFGP2 black putter reemerge from his bag in the future. In the meantime, Japanese buyers are very interested in SeeMore, RST, and what it has to offer, and it shows in our sales there. We've already doubled sales from 2008, and 2009 still has some legs left.
Third thing to note: Japan Women's Professional Golf gets better TV ratings then the Japan Men's Tour - by far! I was told it's because women's play tends to be closer to that of the average golfer in terms of driving distance, etc. But I suspect it probably has more to do with the number of cute girls walking the courses than anything else. Regardless, golfers are definitely watching the ladies more than the men.
Here's an interesting website which compares the swings of many of the top men's and women's pros in Japan. http://players.alba.co.jp/swing/japan/
Until my next trip,
V.P. - Japan Sales
SeeMore Putter Company