Wild About Golf

    Industry stalwart Martin Wild took over as Chairman of the BGIA earlier this year. Editor Dan Owen caught up with him to find out the associations plans for the coming year.

    For readers that don’t know you, what’s your background in the game?

    I’ve been in the industry 44 years, starting out as an 18-year-old sales rep for Petron. I was a Lancashire county player, and reached the semi-finals of the English Amateur, but I I didn’t feel I was good enough to play professionally on tour. I got a very big break at the age of 20 when Slazenger were looking for a sales rep for the North West. They were the biggest player at the time, and I wasn’t their typical rep, they had generally recruited, ex-professional sportspeople or from a military background. My first boss was Mickey Stewart who went on to manage the England Cricket Team. It was an incredible place to work and I learnt so much.

    Part of that role evolved into becoming the European Product Manager for TaylorMade when Slazenger got the European distribution rights. So I had a big hand in introducing metal woods to Europe.

    There was a 9-year stint at Mitsushiba Golf where I learnt so much about running a business, I absolutely loved that period and I brought through many talented young men and women who now have successful careers in the industry. My next big move was working for JJB Sports, where I launched golf as a category for what was the largest sports retailer in the UK. Over time we purchased Slazenger, we licensed Maxfli, we had two TV shopping channels which some of you will remember the ads we did with Sam Torrance and Tony Jacklin. It was a great experience and it gave me a better understanding of both sides of the business, something that was to stand me in good stead for my final career move.

    In 2011 Neil Howie approached me to join Callaway, Neil and I had worked together at Slazenger all those years ago, we had very similar values about the golf industry and so began an incredible 8 years. Heading up the sales function I made significant structural changes to meet the needs of a changing market. In addition to the sales reps we employed a team dedicated to custom fitting on behalf of the retailer, this combined with the launch of some amazing product led us to achieve record sales numbers year after year. Last year I decided I wanted to transition out of a full-time role, and I am now acting as a sales consultant.

    For those that don’t know who are the BGIA?

    Established in 1984 the BGIA is the lead trade body representing UK manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of golf products and services. And we fall under the umbrella of FSPA, the Federation of Sports and Play Associations.

    We’re a united voice for the industry and work closely with golf’s other leading bodies including the PGA, The R&A, England Golf, The UK Golf Federation, and Sport England.

    Importantly we are part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf. Being part of that was a major plus for us, because we were at the top tables of industry, pushing to get the game restarted. It played a vital part in golf being reopened this summer and has made golf of one of the few sporting successes this year.

    Have you got any major plans for your term in the role?

    I’m a person who is very proactive and aim to raise the profile of the industry within the game. We didn’t have a strong enough voice at the table with the governing bodies. Through my time in golf I’ve built relationships and know a lot of the people I’m working with at the other associations. I’m nurturing those relationships to grow the BGIA’s influence within golf.

    We are the British golf industry association. So, I want to, in a sense, open the doors to a wider audience of people to become involved with the BGIA, and not just the typical manufacturers and distributors. We’re on a big recruitment drive currently with many new members joining, and also looking to broaden our membership from the major buying groups, to magazines like Golf Retailing.

    I’ve had 44 years great years in an industry and game I truly love, and this is my way of putting something back in. The pandemic has helped boost golf. But as things hopefully get back to normal, it doesn’t mean the issues golf faced before have all gone away. What I can tell you is that throughout this pandemic I have been so impressed in how everyone across the industry has come together, that is something that must continue going forward. As we speak fresh challenges have appeared, Wales and Ireland have gone into lockdown, golf is not permitted, and there could still be a bumpy road ahead.  So ever more reason why the key governing bodies must continue to act in unity for the best interests of everyone connected to this great game.

    You’ve got a secret project you’re working on. But without giving too much away, what can you tell us?

    The future of the game is the youth. And due to COVID-19, more youngsters have been playing the game. But we need to get even more, and we need to retain them. Golf is a great sport for kids to be around. Golf clubs are full of successful people and their interaction with the junior members can really help a child’s social development. As a kid I caddied, I learnt from the experience, I learnt how to act around successful people. They’re lessons I’ve never forgotten. We’re working on something in conjunction with the other major associations and government to encourage youth participation, but also to help encourage youth in society. It’s a really exciting project, and one I can hopefully talk more about it in the future.   GR

    To find out more about BGIA membership, contact them on 024 7641 4999 or email info@bgia.org.uk  

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    As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.