Wilson Staff - All about Wilson Golf
The story of Wilson Golf begins in 1913 with the formation of the Ashlord Manufacturing Company. In 1914, the Chicago-based business opened its golf division. The following year, the Wilson Sporting Goods name would be born in conjuncture with Thomas E. Wilson taking helm of the company. Soon, the sporting goods company known as much more for its production of athletic balls would begin a tradition of golf innovation that continues today.
Gene Sarazen would begin his 71-year partnership with Wilson Golf, the longest in professional sports history, soon after the golf division was created. While marveling the aerodynamics and engineering of an airplane wing, Sarazen was inspired to create what would become known as the Wilson R-90, a revolutionary sand wedge designed to slice through sand with less resistance than any club before. Following Sarazen’s victorious outing at the 1932 British Open, the R-90 became one of the most popular clubs in golf history, selling over 50,000 units in 1933 alone.
The R-90 was just the beginning of Wilson Golf’s contribution to the development of golf technology. Soon after it’s success, Wilson partner Willie Ogg created what would become known as Wilson Ogg-Mented clubs, which focused on weight transfer and distribution, effectively becoming the forerunner of the modern cavity back golf club.
In 1954, Wilson would again change the game of golf with the introduction of the Wilson Staff Ball, which allowed for launch speeds 40 percent faster than head speed.
All this innovation was bound to attract interest, and the company saw its ownership change hands numerous times. In 1970, PepsiCo became the owners of the Wilson brand; since 1989, Wilson has been a subsidiary of Finnish Amer Sport group.
Perhaps more importantly than attracting owners, the Wilson brand’s reputation as a leader in golf innovation led to partnerships with dozens of championship golfers. Ben Crenshaw, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Payne Stewart, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington are just a few golfers to carry the Wilson name, with Palmer and Crenshaw notably establishing the Wilson 8802 putter as one of the most significant clubs in PGA history.
In the most recent decades, Wilson hasn’t even thought of letting off the innovation throttle. In 2005, the company announced it would be establishing itself as the first major golf manufacturer to incorporate the use of nanotechnology into its design and production processes. Just last year, Wilson branched out and, in partnership with NBC’s Golf Channel, launched a new program to encourage the participation of those outside the front lines of the golf industry to conceptualize and create new drivers through the Driver vs. Driver platform.
The television show was a success, and Season One’s winner, Eric Sillies, not only received a handsome deposit in his bank account, he now also enjoys the thrill of seeing his club (now known as the Wilson Triton DVD) sold on golf store shelves worldwide.
With season 2 of Driver vs. Driver debuting October 2, 2019 at 9PM EST on the Golf Channel, Wilson will no doubt be looking to add to its resume as a leader in golf innovation as 14 new contestants battle to see their product recognized as the next big thing in golf.