The Swiss precision sports glove engineers and the clubmaker from Leicester are a formidable fit indeed. HIRZL made a hard-hitting and much admired debut at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last January (although they have been trading since 2008), and became the Official Glove of the Ladies’ European Tour in May this year.
Gene Fulton has built a reputation and an international client base that earned him his LET appointment three years ago, due in part to his track record in the business, and for having paid his dues to the women’s game over many years of looking after LET and LPGA players on a private professional basis.
Fulton is very much an independent. While he carries the kind of brand names one would expect in terms of shafts, heads, grips and so forth, HIRZL made it onto the Tour Van for two reasons: the companies like each other and the glove works.
“I select the products [I carry] quite carefully,” he comments. “Firstly I have to believe in the product and also that it works. I don’t care if a company offers me a lot of money. Unless the product works or I can see it being beneficial to the players I won’t carry it. There are also some products that I’d love to have on board but the manufacturers don’t want to support the Tour!”
HIRZL made a splash with the launch of their TRUST range of gloves in 2010, made from superior kangaroo leather and subjected to a rigorous manufacturing and tanning process. The Spring launch of the new Soffft™ Platinum Cabretta glove, meanwhile, helped bring the brand to the attention of new Tour users, and saw them appoint the likes of Anna Nordqvist as Staff Player and Lis Esterl as Brand Ambassador.
For Gene Fulton, carrying an extraordinary glove like the HIRZL range reflects well on his own judgement and craftsmanship.
“A proper fitting glove is very important but one thing people often forget is that sometimes no matter how much you like a glove, sometimes you just can’t find one to fit,” he explains. “Especially with women’s gloves where they have long and short fingernails!
“A proper feeling when you are wearing a glove is imperative as it can totally affect the way you swing the club. If the glove is too thick or thin it’s the same as having a grip that’s too thin or thick. HIRZL gloves seem to have that balance just right and so far the players who are wearing the glove have nothing but good things to say.”
Gene Fulton’s passion for his craft and for supporting the women’s game are a matter of record, and while his reach as LET clubfitter officially covers only events in the EU, his customer base is worldwide. Part of what drives him is that fact that his enterprise is self-funded. And after 25 years in the business he has decided to up the ante as he takes delivery of a new Tour Truck later this year. Originally intended as an 18-ton vehicle, the enhanced equipment specification has made it necessary to upgrade it to a 26-ton beast. But then, it’s what his growing list of LET customers expect…
This is the second year running that Fulton has looked after Yani Tseng’s clubs and it’s the second year that she’s won the Ladies British Open. In his first year on tour (2009) he changed Diana Luna’s wood shafts to give her a different ball flight and she won (AIB Ladies Irish Open – Portmarnock, Dublin). The very next event he changed them again and she won again (SAS Ladies Masters -Fritzøe Gård, Norway). With a keen eye on the short game too, he sorted out Trish Johnson with a new Rife Putter on the eve of the Tenerife Ladies’ Open 2010 (BuenaVista Golf, Tenerife) which she went on to win – the first time with the putter in the bag.
Axel Lemmerz of HIRZL sees a bright future for the association: “Gene has a gilt-edged reputation for club-making, and his support of women’s golf is proving vital for the health of the LET. When we met recently at Carnoustie he pretends he has no interest in the technical specification of the gloves. He said I tell them, “Some gloves grip… these actually do”. You really know where you stand with Gene.”
While HIRZL is one of a handful of companies that specialize in sporting gloves, the Swiss brand insists its engineering and design processes are better than anyone else’s – and they’re always willing to be put to the test. In supporting the LET – alongside their involvement in the US with the ReMax Long Drive Championships – HIRZL shows a keen sense of judgement in selecting the right partners.