Why do CEOs play golf

Ping CEO John A. Solheim on the Solheim Cup, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer

John A. Solheim is sitting on a chair in a very special room. In a room full of golden putter heads. For every victory a Tour player won with his putters, Father Karsten, the founder of the racket company PING, had two gold replicas made. The player got one and kept one at headquarters. John A. Solheim, who has headed the company for 20 years, continued this tradition. And so the collection grew to almost 3,000 putters. A conversation with John A. Solheim, who once worked on new putters in the garage with his father Karsten, about the Solheim Cup in St. Leon-Rot, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and his own game.

Golf.de: How much did you convince Germany, and especially the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club, to host the Solheim Cup?

John. A. Solheim: The commitment of the organizers was absolutely phenomenal. The way they prepared the course for the tournament was great. The well-thought-out spaces for the grandstands also showed how well they know their way around and how best to entertain the audience. I am very grateful to you for your commitment.

Were you happy for the US team? Or do you remain neutral as a patron?

JS: No, I'm trying to be objective. I'm just interested in what's best for the Solheim Cup. The closer the result, the happier it makes me. In the long run, it's always good if the cup changes hands frequently.

What is your opinion on Suzann Pettersen and the situation on the 17th hole, which in retrospect was referred to as the gimme gate?

JS: First of all, I think this incident was extremely motivating for the US team. There have been a number of incidents in tournament history that have been widely commented on by the press. Sometimes the press needs stories like that, but it pays attention to the Cup, so I don't mind.

Should Carin Koch have intervened as captain?

JS: There was an event with a similar format almost at the same time. There, too, a putt was picked up that had not yet been given. However, the ball was only a few inches away from the hole. The captain stepped in there and sunk the next hole. He said he didn't want to win that way. It would have been different if Carin had said something.

It is of course not always easy to act so far-sightedly in such a brief situation.

JS: Sometimes things like that happen in the heat of the moment. I am against sentencing Suzann Pettersen for it now. She tried to win the match. Sometimes you just can't think about it in such a short time. She's still a great player and person.

Bubba Watson celebrated two major victories with Ping. How did he come to you back then?

JS: Bubba is from Baghdad, Florida. Billy Weir was our salesman there. He saw Bubba when he was eight years old and provided him with equipment. Then, a few years later, he told me to take care of this boy.

And you complied with his request.

JS: I played a round with him and was immediately impressed with his game and continued to support him. He became an exceptional player, even if it took time to figure out how to get the best results from his game.

It has also been a stroke of luck for your company over the past few years.

JS: Bubba is incredibly good at marketing himself. The idea with the pink driver, for example. He reminds me a lot of my father. He knows how to stand out from the crowd. He just does things differently. And it just keeps getting better. He learns to focus better. Believe me, if you were to concentrate on the level Bubba needs to play well, you would be pretty exhausted after one round.

Buba lost his singles to Martin Kaymer at the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles. He owns a couple of those gold-plated putters in this room because he also plays an Anser model. How is the contact with him?

JS: I last spoke to him at the "Solheim Cup - One year to go". He's an absolute gentleman and a great golfer.

At the beginning of 2016 the new G-series from Ping came onto the market. How closely do you follow the development of the products? How intensive is your contact with the developers?

JS: I still meet with the developers week after week and bring up my ideas and suggestions. No racket goes on the market without my consent.

How is your own golf game currently feeling?

JS: Not too good as I had health issues. However, I've signed up for a couple of ProAm tournaments in the coming year, so I have to get my game in shape.

Which golf course has impressed you the most in your life so far?

JS: This is clearly Cypress Point in California. I also find the Old Course at St. Andrews unique. I was also very impressed by the Prince Course at the Princeville Golf Club in Hawaii. It was a very rainy day at an AmAm tournament. Our team should have won, but it wasn't quite enough. I had the water inches deep in my bag after the lap. A special memory.