PLANO, TEXAS—Barney Adams—who had three very different careers before transforming his tiny, floundering golf-equipment company into a 12-year “overnight” success story—has written his own book, “The Wow Factor: How I turned one great idea and my unbridled enthusiasm into a golf revolution.” New York City-based Skyhorse Publishing is publishing the book, which goes on sale June 1, 2008.
The refreshingly candid Adams tells it like it was in the humorous, self-effacing fashion that turned him into one of the most respected, well-liked executives in the golf business during the late 1990s. The upstate New York native provides readers with an in-depth, often light-hearted, look at the drive that enabled him to overcome countless hard lessons along the often-rocky road to his golf-equipment company’s ultimate success thanks to his revolutionary design and subsequent marketing of Adams Golf’s Tight Lies fairway wood.
This unique behind-the-scenes book is much more than just a 254-page biography of a fascinating, down-to-earth man and an insider’s look into the golf industry. “The Wow Factor” is, as Adams writes in the introduction, for people “looking to pick up an idea or two that would apply to a start-up or entrepreneurial environment, someone with some curiosity about golf and the equipment side of the industry or someone looking for a true ‘rags to some degree of success’ story with no punches pulled in the telling.
“First and foremost,” Adams adds, “this is a story of how one obsessed person started from nothing and built a successful company.”
Even someone with Barney “Barnyard” Adams’ insight and passion to succeed couldn’t have foreseen that his success in the business world would come as a golf-industry executive. The retired Adams Golf founder and chairman was a Corning Glass engineer for 10 years, a supermarket-industry commission equipment salesman for another decade and worked in the high tech sector of the Silicon Valley before landing in the golf industry. However, the golf biz, at least for a while, was a bed of thorns, not roses, for Adams.
Adams recounts his numerous continuous attempts to break into the golf industry, beginning in the early 1960s during his early days at Corning Glass, but none of the leading golf-equipment companies of the day would hire someone with no golf-industry experience. In the early 1970s, Adams met golf-equipment guru Dave Pelz, who, in 1982, offered Adams a job running Pelz Golf, whose new Featherlite golf clubs were predicted to change the game of golf.
Unfortunately, Pelz Golf went bankrupt after three years, and Adams felt like a failure. And even after he founded Adams Golf in 1987, the small business floundered in obscurity as a custom-club company until early 1995. That’s when Adams pulled out a yellow pad one day and sketched his design of the Tight Lies fairway wood. Wow. By 1998, Adams Golf’s sales skyrocketed to $85 million thanks to the Tight Lies, Adams Golf’s hugely successful infomercials and the company’s subsequent initial public offering. A dream finally became reality for Adams—who reveals he was broke or nearly broke most of his time in the golf business until the Tight Lies turned his and his company’s fortunes around. Adams handed over the company’s reins in 2002, but continues to seek challenges, including the writing of “The Wow Factor.” He has become involved in adventure fishing in exotic locales and last year lost 72 pounds, improving his health and his ability to enjoy life after golf.
“The reason I achieved success in the golf industry was passion,” Adams says today. “I have tremendous passion for everything I do. I’m average smart, but I have a lot of drive, probably to the point of being dumb because I don’t know when I’m beat.”
How did Adams ultimately achieve success in the golf industry?
“I was a complete failure when Pelz Golf went bankrupt,” Adams admits today. “I had invested money in the company, and I was virtually broke. The next step was the most illogical thing in the world. I stayed in the golf business and went out on my own, with no product and no money. But I loved the golf business and the passion kept me going. Until the Tight Lies, I couldn’t give our clubs away. We were an overnight success—after 12 years. In business, you have to learn from your failures because you fail so much.”
Adams borrowed $25,000 and, after taking whatever assets of Pelz Golf he couldn’t sell in bankruptcy (such as old tables, desks, fixtures, work benches, etc.), he founded Adams Golf in 1987. For nearly the first decade of Adams Golf’s existence, the company was essentially defunct and Adams himself was broke. To stay alive during that period, Adams designed a custom-fitting system and had a small Texas manufacturing shop in Richardson (a Dallas suburb), where the company had moved from Abilene, Texas.
Adams himself made the clubs, and, at 2 p.m. each day, would drive to Hank Haney’s Golf Ranch to perform fittings and work until 10 p.m. He finally hired someone to take his place so Adams could hit the road to perform custom-fitting sessions and demos. He couldn’t give the clubs away until he finally realized he wasn’t selling golf clubs or custom-fit golf clubs, he was selling better ball flight. That’s what prompted Adams’ revolutionary Tight Lies design, which gave golfers better ball flight.
The rest is history, and Adams, in his typical light-hearted style, says one of the nicest byproducts of his success was the ability to finally be able to afford to eat regularly while looking for new challenges.