Rick Oldach is CEO of BIG MAX USA, the U.S. arm of Europe’s #1 push cart and #1 golf bag brand BIG MAX.
Started his career in golf as a PGA Professional in New England before making the switch into the golf equipment business. Operates successful golf business Pro Shop Sports as well as leading BIG MAX’s rapid expansion into the North American market.
Still plays golf competitively in the Senior Amateur ranks both in California and nationally, combining his love of the game with promoting the benefits of walking the course using a high quality push cart.
THE OLDACH STORY —
I started in golf as an assistant golf professional in New England and was very fortunate to have been hired into my first sales job by Dunlop Maxfli. As luck would have it, the individual that hired me into the Dunlop organization, Jerry Sheridan, later brought me into the Lynx Golf company where I ascended to the position of Global VP Sales. In 1996
I left my management position and started Pro Shop Sports, where I became involved with Orlimar Golf and had the privilege of launching the Trimetal fairway metal into the market. The success of this product launch was a game changing moment for me and provided the momentum through which I have grown my business to where it is today and been able to develop my career with fantastic brands like BIG MAX.
What distinguishes the European market versus the American one?
The European market has a much higher percentage of walking rounds than here in the U.S. This is changing gradually as more and more golfers are recognizing the health benefits of walking. Once golfers have the opportunity to walk, they come to recognize how much more enjoyable it is to walk the golf course. In a walking group, everyone can interact while strolling the fairways to their next shots and it makes for a more social experience. And surprisingly, play is faster.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the time you started your efforts versus where you’re at now?
Business progress happens in small steps. Decisions that are made with a longer term view require more patience and yield more consistent results. I’ve learned never to compromise a long term plan for a short term gain.
The hottest model in your product line is what?
We happen to have more than one at the moment. The Blade IP push cart and our line of Dri Lite golf bags are both seeing accelerated acceptance in the marketplace.
Are there differences in what men and women seek when reviewing your product line?
No, I do believe that men and women golfers are seeking the same attributes in their equipment. The specs are different, but the performance requirement is equal.
A number of the key golf organizations — R&A, USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities to the sport. If you were counseling them — what would you advise they be doing to achieve that?
That is a great and complex question. Millennials are the biggest challenge as they have come to expect instant gratification is all aspects of their lives. The prospect of taking hours to experience anything is difficult for millennials to grasp. Technology has accelerated increments of time in society in general. Personally I don’t see how you can differentiate by gender or ethnicity when working to engage people into this game we all love. In my view, the growth in golf suffers from an aging installed base of participants coupled with the fact that the cost of entry is quite high and golf is a difficult sport to master compounded by the aforementioned time factor.
All stakeholders in the sport, golf course owners – operators, golf equipment companies, and the institutions that manage the game, the USGA, PGA of America, R&A, First Tee, and others must come together and collaborate in a joint effort to drive consumer trial nationally. I know there are individual efforts to drive engagement, but until all stakeholders are in agreement as to what measures are needed, I fear we will continue to see a contraction in rounds played and in the number of active golfers.
I may have a bias as I have been playing since I was a young boy, but the feeling one gets the first time you hit the sweet spot– there is nothing quite like it. We need to make that feeling available to everyone we can touch.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
The image of the game has to change. It has to become synonymous with fun and pure enjoyment. Facilities throughout the country are catching on by introducing music, cocktails, social gatherings and games into their operations.
Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow.
Customer retention is a lot less expensive and easier to execute than new customer attraction. In our business, the customer is to be 100% satisfied regardless of the issue, no exceptions.
What separates your products from the competition?
Technology, and innovation. It is always best to be first to market with new technology that really delivers an improved customer experience. Big Max continues to push new designs and engineering, it is who we are as a company.
You’ve got one round to play — where would you play and who are the three people to join you there?
That is easy, Cypress Point, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Seve Ballesteros. Ben Hogan because he is Ben Hogan, enough said. Gary Player because he inspired me to become a competitive golfer. I was a high school student in Puerto Rico when Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus played in the BBC Big Three event at Dorado Beach Country Club. I cut school that day to attend the event and was stunned by Gary Players presence and ability.
Years later I was traveling to Asia on Lynx business and Mr. Player came into the Singapore Airlines lounge at 1:00 AM with Arnold Palmer and Isao Aoki. I mustered up enough courage to approach them and introduce myself. Mr. Player invited me to sit down and spent the next 45 minutes chatting me up about my business and the state of the industry. It was incredible. Seve because he would make the round the most wonderful adventure ever. We all would, of course, walk the course using Big Max carts.
The biggest challenges facing BIG MAX USA — short and long term is what?
Big Max is only now being introduced to the U.S. consumer. We are making small but steady progress and are building the brand one customer at a time. Our owner and parent company are patient and supportive. We just need to keep gaining brand exposure and consumer opportunity as the products we are placing in the market are indeed different and better, no disrespect to our competitors.
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