WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

BACKGROUNDER —
Ani Mehta leads Global Operations for Toptracer and also our expansion into Japanese and Korean markets. Ani previously led Topgolf’s Corporate Development group, which included all M&A activities and other large strategic initiatives for the company.

THE MEHTA STORY —

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, I started my career in financial services in New York with BlackRock, where I provided risk advisory services to large financial institutions. Later, I earned my MBA from Yale School of Management and worked for The Boston Consulting Group where I provided strategic business counsel to large financial services, health care, industrial goods, and travel and tourism companies. My passion for golf led me to Topgolf , where I joined as Director of Corporate Development.

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You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?

What gets me out of bed is the determination to take the Toptracer business – a young, fast-growing startup that I have been a part of for two years – from strength to strength, to transform the golf industry in a manner never seen before. That determination has helped us expand Toptracer Ranges to 21 different time zones. Our global footprint keeps us on our toes with conference calls at all hours!

You joined Toptracer in 2016 to lead strategic projects — specifically what does that mean?

As part of the corporate development team, I was part of two specific mandates. First, lead acquisitions of and investments in other companies.Second, to lead large strategic projects that don’t otherwise sit within an existing business unit — for example Topgolf Crush, Topgolf Swing Suites, and also Toptracer Range. In other words, I worked toward building brands with profitable and sustainable business models that we could integrate into our existing portfolio. Having spent more than 12 months on the Toptracer Range project, I finally shifted out of the corporate development group in June 2018 and am now fully committed to growing that business.

In a very short time Toptracer has made significant strides in widening its reach and visibility. NBC announced it will use the company as part of all of its 18 telecasts this year and the technology was used in 161 events last year. How do you explain the success thus far?

The success has been outstanding, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. One reason I think Toptracer has resonated so well with the public is that it’s great for both golfers and non-golfers. For the first time, anyone watching the sport on TV can see exactly what the best players are doing with virtually every shot, which is naturally engaging, even if the viewer isn’t an avid player. Beyond the presence on TV, Toptracer Range has absolutely exploded in popularity, as the same technology we’re using to dissect shots from PGA TOUR superstars is available at the local range. We took that formula, added some games and simulated golf and it has been a recipe for success both with consumers and facility owners who are attracting new customers and growing their revenue.

Toptracer is also available at various locations through Topgolf? How did that relationship commence?

Topgolf purchased Protracer back in 2016 and rebranded it as Toptracer. Since then, a handful of Topgolf venues have adopted it, and more than 110 facilities worldwide have installed Toptracer Range. We also use Toptracer Range technology for Topgolf Crush – our pop-up Topgolf activations inside iconic stadiums and public venues such as Safeco Field and The Circuit of the Americas.

Is the usage of such technology one of the keys in getting a younger audience into golf?

Yes, absolutely, and we’re casting a wider net beyond age. Using cutting edge technology and by layering on a fun gaming experience Toptracer and Topgolf are attracting a far more diverse audience into golf. It makes a difficult, intimidating, individual sport more inclusive and entertaining for people of all golfing abilities, resulting in repeat visits for range owners using Toptracer Range.

Given the integration of technology — what can golfers expect to see in the short and long run when playing the game?

What we’re experiencing in the industry now is a data revolution. Certainly, Toptracer Range is playing a part in that. A practice session at the driving range is no longer just beating balls into an open field – now we’re giving you precise data on your performance to help you improve. Similar concepts are being used in other products, where performance is tracked and analyzed to help the golfer play better and have more fun. In short, avid golfers are using technology to provide hard facts that replace guesstimates. On the entertainment side, we’re using technology to create fun games and competitions at Toptracer Range venues to help introduce novices to the game in a friendly environment.

Many companies tout customer service — how do you solicit feedback and what role does it play in future company efforts?

The customer experience is very important to us. The technology is based on the player experience and the improvements that we are constantly making are done to improve that. Our range owner partners love sharing stories and feedback from their customers on the technology. Some are even creating special events or leagues using Toptracer Range.

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

For me the key is “flexibility.” Traditional golf – with its rules, etiquette, time / cost, and other aspects of the game – can feel very rigid and intimidating in its ways to a beginner or a non-golfer. I believe if the governing bodies and other industry leaders drove efforts to making golf seem a bit more welcoming – through simpler rules, ability to play odd numbers of holes, encouragement to play from forward tees – you’d see the beginners and non-golfers embrace the game. These bodies are already investing in such efforts but there is a lot more we can do. The massive numbers we track each year show us that golf is a growth sport. They also show us the golfer hasn’t been engaged in a meaningful enough way to return to the sport and stay engaged.

The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract new players with Millennials, women and minorities the key groups being sought. If you were counseling them what would you recommend be done?

We need to remember that golf is supposed to be fun. Many beginners are intimidated by golf’s difficulty, price and time commitment. These are some of the hurdles that we’re working to tackle. To grow the game, companies first need to make sure that all groups feel welcome and invited, but these groups need to have fun too. If you can do that, they’ll come back.

Best advice ever received — what was it and who from?

Hard to pick the best but I have a very memorable one from last year. Last summer I got paired up on a golf course in Seattle with a father and his two daughters. They were 7 and 9 and they all rode in the same cart. The father had a good swing and I could tell he was a golf purist. The daughters had been taught the game well too but they weren’t entirely sticking by the rules; they’d take drops in the fairway or they’d putt with the flag in. A few holes in the father lost his cool and asked, “Girls, are you here to play golf or to goof around? The younger one responded, “Why can’t we do both?” It’s a question all of us in the industry should be asking.

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Photos Courtesy of Toptracer

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