Mizuno has announced that it has adopted a new policy towards its sponsorship of tour players going forward, with an emphasis on identifying and signing new emerging talent who already use the company’s equipment, rather than bidding for ready-made, established players with no prior Mizuno connections.
Mizuno said it was ‘in a strong position’ to make this change – with four recent non-contracted Major wins for its JPX Tour irons and 12 iron wins in 2019 across the PGA, Korn Ferry and European Tour. A win for its ST200 driver in the hands of Keith Mitchell at the Honda Classic was another step forward for the manufacturer.
Following Eddie Pepperell’s switch to Ping last month, Mizuno has recruited a number of new up-and-coming players for 2020, including Bo Hoag (USA) and Rhein Gibson (Australian) – both Korn Ferry Tour winners in 2019 and now plying their trade on the PGA Tour. They are joined in the US by 2019 Walker Cup player Steven Fisk, who has recently turned pro
On the European Tour, Mizuno has signed Frenchman Adrien Saddier, Englishman Scott Gregory – winner of the 2016 Amateur Championship – and 27-year-old Tom Gandy, who hails from the Isle of Man and will be playing on the Challenge Tour in 2020.
In line with Mizuno’s new tour policy, all six players have been playing the brand’s equipment long before signing their official deals, and all have put Mizuno’s new ST200 driver straight into the bag.
Jeremy Galbreth, Mizuno’s US Director of Golf, said: “Mizuno will now only sign players who want to work with us on product development and put more than just irons to the test. That means starting with younger players who haven’t developed too many preferences and are open-minded. Just two seasons ago, despite a surge in unpaid use of our irons, Mizuno had no drivers at all in play at the Sony Open. This week we had five in play, which shows the progress we’re already making with this approach.”
Mizuno will also focus on providing elite amateurs a pathway to the professional game. In the past, Mizuno has nurtured some of the world’s best amateurs, but cut ties once they moved into the professional ranks.
“Now if you’re with Mizuno as an elite amateur, we’ll have a deal waiting for you when you turn pro,” said Jeff Cook, Mizuno’s PGA Tour Manager. “Agents will know from 2020 that Mizuno is a viable option for a young player hitting the paid ranks – with no need to switch equipment. Having a serial amateur winner like Steven Fisk on board is just the start. We’ll be patient and let Steven evolve – we’re patient enough to play the long game.”
The new tour policy contrasts to the obvious approach of signing well-known, established players and then creating clubs for them to play. Yet Mizuno believes that is what will ultimately set them apart.
Product Manager Chris Voshall said: “Golfers are intelligent and do their research – they can see straight through a top 10-player suddenly signing to play a new brand of equipment for the first time. It means very little if the player maintains their form and even less if the player goes backwards. The public put a lot more faith in elite players who have stuck with their equipment over their careers, or the ones who give up endorsement completely to have a free choice of equipment.”
Early into 2020 and Scott Gregory was the first to set a marker to Mizuno’s new vision with a win on the Portugal Pro Tour using a full Mizuno set up of ST200 driver, MP20 irons and T20 wedges.
“We’re essentially going back to basics – providing evidence to the public that Mizuno equipment stacks up under intense pressure,” Voshall added. “After all, what’s tougher than playing to establish a long-term career in the game? Plus, when a Mizuno staff ambassador next wins on tour or turns up in the top 10, we’ll be able to say with absolute authenticity that our equipment had something to do with it.”
Mizuno’s 2020 Tour Staff and current club usage
Luke Donald – ST200G driver, MP20 irons, T20 wedges
Keith Mitchell – ST200 driver, MP20 irons
Rhein Gibson – ST200 driver, JPX919 Tour irons, T20 wedges
Bo Hoag – ST200 driver, JPX919 irons
Chris Kirk – ST200X driver, MP20 HMB (4&5), MP20 MMC (6-9), T20 wedges
Lucas Glover – JPX919 Tour irons, T7 wedges
Adam Schenk – MP18 SC irons, T7 wedges
Steven Fisk – ST200 driver, MP20MMC irons, T20 wedges
Adrien Saddier – ST200 driver and 3-wood, MP20
Scott Gregory – ST200 driver and 3-wood, MP20 & T20 wedges
Tom Gandy – ST200 driver and 3-wood, MP20 MMC & T20 wedges
David Dixon – ST200G driver and 3-wood, MP20 HMB irons