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Interview w/ Sam R. Bettinardi – Vice-President, Sales & Marketing Bettinardi Golf
28 Aug 2015
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Sam Bettinardi, VP of Sales & Marketing
Sam Bettinardi, VP of Sales & Marketing
TINLEY PARK, ILL (August 14, 2015) -- I was three years old when I began to learn the game. This was at the time my father began to mill putters for other top equipment manufacturers. I had a putter that said “Sink it Sam” on it when I turned 6 and I fell in love with the aspect of customizing putters and seeing different logos on your flatstick.

Fast forward to high-school and college, I was always involved in conversations with my father at the dinner table, talking about putter ideas, business thoughts, tour players, etc. My plan was to go to college for four years, graduate and work for another company to gain some outside experience, then come back and work for my father. This was in the winter of 2012 when I graduated from DePaul University.

In January of 2013 as I was beginning my job search, and Brian Gay won the Humana Challenge with our putter, and shortly after Matt Kuchar began to use a Bettinardi. Things started to really pick up at work and my father needed a sales/marketing guy so we both agreed that it was the perfect timing. I have been working here for almost 3 years now and enjoy every minute of it. Golf is my passion as I am a scratch golfer and working with my father is a dream come true.

Matt Ward: Branding is central to a company’s long term success — describe the approach taken by Bettinardi?

Sam Bettinardi: Bettinardi Golf was established in 1998 as a high-end putter maker that made all of their products in America. Nearly 20 years later — nothing has changed. We still make all of our putters in our own manufacturing facility 15 feet away from our office, which is unheard of in today’s golf industry. The things that change is the product we come out with, different finishes on the heads, new face millings, and expanding our short game offering into wedges.

MW: What specific way does Bettinardi separate itself from your major competitors?

SB: We produce all of our product in-house. We are an ISO certified company which means our manufacturing process is upheld to a certain global standard. The quality control standards that go into making a Bettinardi putter are second to none. So when you buy Bettinardi, you know you will have the finest putting instrument available in the game of golf, giving you the confidence you need in the part of the game that is needed most.

MW: For years golfers focused on selecting the correct driver as a central item for equipment consideration. That emphasis is still present — what’s been the challenge to get golfers to be even more aware of the kind of putter they need to use given the percentage of times a putter will impact a player’s score and likelihood for overall game improvement?

SB: Today’s golfers are still searching for that ‘next big thing’ with drivers because it’s sexy. It is definitely more attractive to believe you can hit the ball an extra 15 yards and straighter every time with the latest technology. However, the old saying drive for show putt for dough still rings true. Most players putt between 28-40 times in any given round, while drivers are used 10-14 times. Do the math and decide where you would like invest in your game.

MW: Not many years ago fitting for putters was not something equipment companies focused — now it most certain is. What’s the Bettinardi approach in that process?

SB: Our fitting process here at Studio B is done on a 4-camera V1 laser fitting system. The player comes in and we are looking to find that perfect putter that fits their stroke, rather than changing their stroke to fit a particular putter.

MW: Is it necessary for an aspiring company to have a presence on the PGA and LPGA Tours and for player endorsements to gain marketplace credibility and standing?

SB: Absolutely. When you can get the best golfers in the world to use a Bettinardi putter, then they go out and win a PGA event with the putter, that validates it for the general public immediately. It proves what we are doing here is working for the games best, and that means everything.

MW: Bettinardi is also one of the few golf equipment companies where the entire creation process is centered exclusively in the USA. Do you believe such a commitment to remain matters to American customers?

SB: We believe over the past few years more and more consumers are paying attention to where there product is made. People like buying locally and you can easily see this trend in the microbrewery business. Beer drinkers are ditching the mass produced brands in favor of smaller, artisanal companies who have a little flair in their packaging and product. When it comes to Bettinardi, people are starting to notice that on all of our putters “Made in the USA” is proudly engraved on each one. The past 20 years I believe the majority of consumers could care less especially including people my age, and now I think it is coming back in a big way.

MW: “My office is 15 feet from the shop floor,” is a phrase founder and owner Robert Bettinardi uses. Can a successful company maintain such a connection as it grows and includes more players in the development process?

SB: Without a question. When we say that it is 15 feet from the shop floor, we literally mean it is 15 feet from our office. We are constantly in the shop, working with our engineers, and craftsmen to perfect the quality of the putters, in addition to inspecting new putters coming out of the machines implementing any design changes we see fit. My father and I are not hands-off business owners, and we really enjoy getting involved in the day- to-day process.

MW: How does Bettinardi incorporate feedback from customers into the overall design of future putters?

SB: My father and I both travel to 6-8 PGA Tour events per year, and we work with the players, listen to feedback they have, then come home and get to work. If we are interested in a certain design concept, we bring it to the best players to hear the critiques and thoughts they have on certain models, and then design accordingly for the general public. A lot designs also start with an idea and a lot of R&D at our Studio here in Tinley Park, Illinois. The technology we have to test these putters is high-class all the way, and you will feel the difference when rolling a Bettinardi for the first time.

MW: Bettinardi has also moved into different equipment and product offerings — is there a desire in the short term to create a total line of equipment products such as metal clubs and irons?

SB: You will have to wait and find out for that answer!

MW: Seeing around the corner in today’s ever evolving marketplace is any company’s key concern — what trends do you see happening?

SB: The trends we see in putters is larger headshapes (MOI designs), in addition to anchoring alternatives such as arm lock and counterbalance putters. We have also experimented with face millings as you can see in our product line we have our Honeycomb face, our Superfly mill face, and our FIT (Feel-Impact-Technology) Face. These three millings offer totally different feels on the same exact putter head, which is another facet no one else has done.

About the author Matt Ward

M. James Ward (Matt) 20+ year member of the following: Golf Writer's Ass'n of America (GWAA) Met Golf Writer's Ass'n (MGWA) Lives Clifton, NJ USA 17-years served as national course rating panelist / Golf Digest Served far shorter time frame in similar capacity / Golfweek Have played over 2,000 courses globally Former Editor-in- Chief / Jersey Golfer Magazine (15 years) Publications / sites contributed to include: The Met Golfer, Fairways and Greens, Links, Inside NJ, Golf & Travel, back9network, Northeast Golf, Dallas Morning News, Newark Star-Ledger, among others.
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