One of the original founders and Chief Operating Officer of Miura Golf, Bill Holowaty lives in Vancouver with his wife Jane and two children — Luke and Jesse.
THE HOLOWATY STORY —
I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in economics. At UBC, I played 4 years on the hockey team where I was named two-time All Canadian and eventually inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. I moved to Japan to play hockey professionally where I first met the Miura family.
Being a sports fan I also loved the business of sports. My first trip to the Miura factory in Himeji, Japan, provided me with an insight into the game of golf that I never knew existed. I learned Mr. Miura made the clubs Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam used when they won The Masters. Until then, I had not made the connection to the importance of equipment. While touring the factory, I saw that the Miura family was producing irons on behalf of the top original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) in the industry, including TaylorMade, Titleist, Hogan, Nike, Maruman, Dunlop among others. I was so impressed all was done in a small factory in Japan by a man and his two sons. From that point onward, I was determined to sing the praises of this man and his factory.
With limited resources I was tasked with bringing Miura to the world. Although arguably the world’s best forged product, I soon learned that“relationships” were going to be the key to success. Miura has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people in the golf industry. My best friends today are ones I met since starting with Miura. And they come from many different sides of the industry. From other equipment vendors, to dealers, to distributors to end users, I have been blessed with what Miura Golf has given me.
I feel a tremendous obligation to the Miura family and factory and therefore continue to work hard to ensure the long term success of the Miura brand. Miura Golf, unlike many other brands, has a “story”. A story that needs to be told.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
It’s very inspiring to be connected to what is arguably the world’s best forged golf club. That, and my long relationship with the Miura family, which dates back almost 25 years.
You joined the company in 2003 — why?
I actually had been involved with the Miura brand since the late 1990’s. I was fortunate enough to be included with the group of original founders — including Miura-san –who believed the golfing world needed to learn of this man, his factory and his proprietary process which was producing these pieces of art, that performed as good as they looked. Our pilot project was successful and I made the commitment to Miura in 2003.
Who is the Miura customer?
This is a question businesses ask themselves on a daily basis. From Miura’s point of view, every golfer is potentially a customer. Mr. Miura in fond of a saying when translated says, “the good golfer will find me.” That would seem to point to the “better” player being our customer but it’s more than that. In Japanese, the saying suggests that if the Miura family and factory continue to produce the best quality irons possible, golfers will eventually discover the Miura brand. As awareness of our brand continues to grow, we are thrilled at the wide cross-section of golfers trusting their games to Miura. These include juniors, amateurs, professionals and most importantly, mid and even high handicap players, who are able to discover the feel and performance of a Miura iron. Whether that was through the purchase of a single wedge or a complete set.
What separates Miura products from your competition?
The easy answer in our manufacturing process — which does not lend itself to mass production — but its also the fact there is a Miura factory and, more importantly, a Miura family. It has been the relentless pursuit of perfection — for the perfect golf club — which inspires Miura-san, Yoshitaka and Shinei on a daily basis. Designing and manufacturing clubs that “perform first” and “sell second”.
Is it possible to maintain precise quality control while still ramping up sales in a big time way?
Absolutely. In fact, that has to be the case. Again, the Miura process doesn’t lend itself to mass production. Miura craftsman are hands on thru the entire 14 step process, you can be assured the tightest tolerances in the industry is met. Mr. Miura told me about an incident that happened many years ago. Mrs. Miura was visiting the factory — as she often does — and was helping with packaging a shipment. She noticed there was an issue with the finish on a few of the irons being sent out. She immediately went to Miura san and told him these clubs could not be sent until the issue was fixed. At that point, Miura-san knew that the best course of action was to do things once, to the highest standards. And to this day, all Miura craftsman and employees take pride in quality control.
Many companies seek to go through the endorsement route for product validation. What is the Miura approach on this process?
Miura Golf has never “paid for play”, but we have shared successes with many professionals on all tours who have trusted their games to Miura through the years. Raymond Floyd, KJ Choi, Ryan Moore, just to name a few, have all won tournaments playing Miura irons. You will see Abraham Ancer wearing a Miura hat on the PGA Tour this year. As our first Tour Ambassador, the relationship is unique. This relationship transcends a tradition endorsement relationship. Abraham has a personal investment in Miura tied to the distribution of our product in Mexico.
Customer service is routinely touted by all companies. Define the term and the approach taken at Miura.
As a company continually looking to build brand awareness, we understand our current customer is often the conduit to a new customer. That current customer is often our best sales person as well. So customer service begins with delivering upon expectations. We do that by delivering the worlds best forged irons but we also understand that after sales and service is also important. “The good golfer will find me” means our long term success is directly linked to people who represent the Miura family. The best distributors, dealers, craftsman, and employees all share that responsibility.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would love to see the governing bodies — USGA, R&A, PGA — continue to evolve when it comes to promotion of the game of golf. Less elitism, more inclusion and accessibility.
Best advice ever received — what was it and who from?
“Master technique, but let the spirit prevail” This is a saying from one of my mentors, Father David Bauer. “Tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear” From another mentor, Doug Buchanan.
Most serious issues facing Miura — short and long term?
Short term — building brand awareness. Many golfers don’t know the Miura name. We’re confident once they do learn about the Miura story, they’ll become customers. Long term, the challenge for Miura and well as all equipment companies, is the growth of the game.
Although we are able to play golf in to our senior years, we need to continue to bring young people to the game. That includes finding ways to access consumer time. Whether it ’s more par-3 courses or acceptance of 9 holes instead of 18 — we all share in the responsibility of continuing to grow this great game.