Changing the Game; Exclusive Interview with Jon Claffey

  • by Rich O'Brien
  • 3 Months ago
  • 0

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with John Claffey and Mike Gorton from Volvik USA. Claffey is the National Director of Sales and Marketing, while Mike Gorton is a five-time World Long Drive Champion and the company’s Tour Rep. We discussed the company’s involvement in the sport in golf and Long Drive.

  1. Volvik signed a three year deal to be the title sponsor of the World Long Drive Championship. Please discuss how we got to this point:

Jon ClaffeyWe are very excited to be the title sponsor of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship. Last year we had gotten our feet wet as the official all of the WLDA and World Long Drive Championship and with the European Long Drive Tour.

When Don Shin asked me to build the brand from scratch five years ago, many people told me I was crazy and that we could not be competitive in the golf ball market. Five years later our sales have doubled or tripled every year and Volvik is now #3 or #4 ball in most pro shops. We have also witnessed a sea change as the percentage of players willing to play a colored ball has increased from 20% in 2012 to 60% in 2017.

Volvik has been very popular on the LPGA Tour and is growing in popularity among Champions, Web.com, and PGA Tour players. We see adding the longest hitters in the world as a great way to balance the perception that our ball can help players of all abilities.

2. Please discuss the Long Drive staff Volvik has assembled to represent the company.

Jon Claffey: Over the past twelve months Volvik has assembled a staff of Long Drivers that includes a pair of two-time world champions in Tim Burke and Phillis Meti, as well as two-time LDET champion Maurice Allen (#1), and two up and coming hitters Kyle Berkshire(#29) and Nick Kiefer (#25). Both Kiefer and Meti joined the staff while at the Mile High Showdown and advanced to the Semifinal and Final respectively. Phillis Meti also set a new world record with a drive of 406. (Photo Courtesy of Golf Channel)

3. Bubba Watson also joined the staff back at the PGA Show. Also on staff for the PGA Tour is Bubba Watson. How did that come about?

Jon ClaffeyBubba heard about the Volvik ball you talking to Craig Stadler at last year’s Champions Dinner of the Masters. Last fall when he saw pink balls flying 400 yards at the World Long Drive Championship he decided he wanted to use them. Within 48 hours of tweeting about it, Mike and I talked to him and his agent. He officially signed with Volvik at the PGA Show. (Graphic provided by Volvik).

 4. The Volvik Vivid XT is now the official ball for all WLDA events. What makes the ball unique and an excellent fit for the sport of long drive?

Jon Claffey: For years long drive used an upscale range ball. The Pro V1 was introduced at the turn of the century and it revolutionized golf ball manufacturing. We believe that the Vivid XT is the next evolutionary step because it allows better energy transfer and creates more power. With the Vivid XT it is a whole new ball game.

The Vivid XT is a 4 piece 95+ compression ball and, in that respect, it is similar to the Pro V1. For years every manufacturer tried to design a golf ball that was soft on the outside and had a solid core because it would improve energy transfer. The design challenge was to figure out how to make the ball durable enough. Volvik engineers came up with a revolutionary approach by using Bismuth as the filler for the core. One of the unique properties of this organic compound is that is the only known metal that expands when exposed to heat and cold. That makes our golf ball more durable from the inside out.

Mike Gorton: The benefits of being able to have four different colored (orange, green, yellow, pink) golf balls being used on the WLDA grid reduces confusion and helps provide near instant feedback for players and judges. It also helps build drama for the spectators and TV audience.

The Vivid XT has a high enough compression and produces spin rates that are conducive for longer drives. And based on the competitive results so far this season, I think we can say that the Vivid XT is definitely working for long drive. 

5. What are Volvik’s goals for the sport:

Jon ClaffeyOur company slogan is to growing the game. One of our goals is to take the stiffness out of the game of golf. The sport deserves all the attention that it is getting. At Mesquite, Maurice Allen said that he thought that long drivers were the best athletes in the world. Many of these guys are professional golfers or played at a high level in other sports. When you think about it, what these amazing athletes are able to do it pretty amazing. Long drivers truly have a very unique type of athletic prowess that allows them to swing at 145 mph or more. Their bodies are pretty special as it is almost physically impossible to swing that hard. They could never do it without the proper training.  In many ways they are the rarest of athletes much like the sprinters that run the 100 Meters in less than 10 seconds. 

The President of NBC believes that the sport of Long Drive could become an Olympic Sport. Golf is a marathon, long drive is a sprint. We are proud to partner with Golf Channel as they have made a huge commitment to long drive. It is an exciting time for long drive and the sponsors. I cannot wait for the Volvik World Long Drive Championship and it will be a wonderful showcase for the sport.

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