How Wilson Staff Changed the Game

In 1914, three events heralded the beginning of an exciting new era in golf.

First, the flamboyant Walter Hagen won the U.S Open Championship. His amazing golfing skill and colourful personality captured headlines, increasing the nation’s interest and participation in the game.

Second, Henry Ford introduced the mass production assembly line, and doubled his worker’s wages. He set a precedent that helped establish a new era in which the average man could afford both the time and money for what had previously been a rich man’s game.

Third, Wilson Sporting Goods Co entered the Sporting Goods business. In the years to come, Wilson’s bold new club ideas helped make the game more enjoyable for more golfers than ever before in the history of the game.

The following chronicles some of the key moments in the history of Wilson golf that changed the gentle game of 50 years ago to the exciting, low scoring power game that we know today.


Ricky Barnes performance in 2010 is surely one to remember.  He tied for 2nd at the US Open and has been at the top of picks to win week after week.  In Novemeber 2010, Wilson Staff renews their contract with Ricky Barnes for a multiyear deal.

Long time Wilson Staff Advisory Team member Padraig Harrington picked up his 3rd career win on the Asian Tour at the Iksander Johor Open in Malaysia with a three point victory.


2009 brought on a new addition to the Wilson Golf family from the US PGA Tour. Ricky Barnes came on the scene with Wilson Golf and performed outstandingly well in the most demanding times.

3-time Major winner, Padraig Harrington decided to take some time and make swing changes even after his successful year in 2008. Harrington believes that with changes, a player only becomes better. After months and months of hard work, Padraig was able to finish the 2009 year strong with many top 10 finishes, making him the 5th best golfer in the world.


Padraig Harrington pledged his future to Wilson Staff clubs in a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. This relationship signified the most lucrative contract ever offered by Wilson Golf and a Advisory Staff Member.

Padraig Harrington won the PGA Player of the Year Award for the first time in his career this year. With two major championship wins, Padraig was a running favorite alongside Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

Padraig Harrington won the PGA Championship just weeks after winning the British Open for the second year in a row. Harrington became the first European player to win the PGA Championship since the tournament began using stroke play in 1958. He is just the fourth player ever to win the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in the same year.

European LPGA player Martina Eberl won the BMW Ladies Italian Open by five strokes. This marked her second career victory in only 10 months.

DJ Trahan, Wilson Advisory Staff Member, captured the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with the prototype Fg58 irons, later to be re-named Fg59 to signify the addition of the Majors won with Staff irons.

The all new, revolutionary Zip golf ball, is the only 3-piece zero compression core ball in the industry.  With performances out-weighing that of major competitors, the Zip golf ball won Gold Award accolades in the annual Golf Digest Hot List.


D.J. Trahan, winner of the 2006 Southern Farm Bureau Classic, joins as the newest Wilson Staff Advisory Member.

Di7 irons take the challenge on the road, making waves in all regions across the US letting the average Joe compare their clubs to ours.

Austrian Markus Brier wins the Volvo China Open by five strokes with Wilson Staff's Pi7 irons in its' prototype phase.

Padraig Harrington beat Bradley Dredge on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday to become the first Irishman to win the Irish Open golf tournament in 25 years.

Padraig Harrington wins his first major and Wilson's 59th at the British Open in one of the most exciting finishes in a major championship to beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff.


The award-winning Ci6 irons exploded past every other competitor to take top honors in Golf Magazine's prestigious Club Test 2006.

Padraig wins for the second time at the Dunhill Links Championship by five strokes at the Old Course.

Padraig wins golf Order of Merit, achieving one of his major ambitions as a professional.

Padraig Harrington tops Tiger Woods in playoff to win the Dunlop Phoenix title.


Wilson Golf marks 90 years in the golf equipment market with the re-launch of its famous Wilson Staff brand.

The distinctive Wilson Staff shield – first used in 1960 on the head of a Dyna-Powered iron – has been re-modelled and a global advertising campaign encouraging golfers to ‘make everyday legendary’ supports the new branding to recapture the heritage, energy and spirit of the Wilson Staff name.

Padraig Harrington, world No. 6, has played a key role in developing a number of the new clubs as a member of the elite Wilson Advisory Staff “I think Wilson has gone back to its illustrious past in order to move forward,” said Padraig. “The new clubs are great and I like the look of the stylish branding on my bag and cap. Wilson is revisiting its heritage and tradition and I hope to be inspired by some of the great names that have played Wilson Staff in the past,” he added.

In 2004, half a century after introducing the Wilson Staff ‘long ball’ and bringing golf into the modern era, Wilson Staff made one of the most significant technological breakthroughs the golf industry has ever seen. Wilson announced it was the first golf equipment manufacturer to strategically use ‘nanotechnology’. By definition, nanotechnology is a molecular scale technology based upon the ability to systematically organize and manipulate matter on a nanometer scale (nanometer = one billionth of a meter).

“The application of this cutting-edge technology has allowed us to develop stronger and lighter materials that optimize the performance of our Wilson Staff line,” said Angus Moir, Global Business Director, Wilson Golf.


The Deep Red driver makes an immediate impact with record sales. In 2002, the Staff True balanced ball is introduced as the world’s first perfectly balanced golf ball. In 2003 Padraig Harrington signs a new 5-year contract.


The new Wilson Fat Shaft irons are introduced, the most stable iron in golf. The most important performance variable in an iron performance shaft is torque – less torque means less twisting, which equals greater accuracy. Fat Shaft technology provides a larger tip diameter (.500” versus typical .370” or 35% wider) providing 40% more torsional stability than skinny shafted irons for greater accuracy.

In 1998, Padraig Harrington joins the Wilson Advisory Staff and goes on to become Europe’s highest ranked player at No.6 in the world (Jan 05).


The Gene Sarazen “R-90” sand wedge was reintroduced. This was the year of the wedge; both new Staff and Dyna-Powered wedges designed by Bob Mendralla were launched.

In 1995, Wilson Staff introduced the Staff RM midsize irons and makes an impact on Tour. The cavity backed forged clubs are hand designed and crafted by Bob Mendralla, a clubmaker with Wilson for nearly fifty years.


Wilson continued to be #1 in wedges on the PGA tour. In 1991 the new Staff FG-51 iron was brought to the market.


Wilson Staff irons were #1 on Tour. The Staff Tour Blade was introduced, as well as the Staff persimmon woods with an aluminium face insert. Wilson launched another landmark golf ball – the Ultra – and advanced sales far surpass any previous ball in the company’s history.

In 1989, the Amer Group, Ltd of Helsinki, Finland, purchased Wilson in their mission to become the No. 1 sports equipment manufacturer in the world.


The next chapter in company history was recorded in February 1970 when PepsiCo, Inc. a diversified marketer of soft drinks, snack foods, and services, purchased Wilson Sporting Goods.

Wilson irons remain a dominant force in the game for many decades with the introduction of the famous Staff Dyna-Power, Fluid Feel and FG Series blades.


Wilson helped introduce the modern era of power golf with the introduction of the Wilson Staff ball, the famous ‘long ball’ that springs off the club face 40% faster than the speed of the club head.


Bob Mendralla becomes a Wilson employee sweeping floors in Chicago. Before long, he became the master clubmaker at Wilson Golf, and in 2003 he became only the 25th person inducted into the Professional Clubmakers Society Hall of Fame. To this day Bob remains an employee of Wilson.

In 1948, Wilson President Lawrence Icely provides the financial backing for Patty Berg and “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias to found the new Women’s PGA, predecessor of the LPGA.


The legendary Sam Snead joins the Wilson Advisory Staff at the age of 25. Snead went on to win five tournaments that year and Slammin’ Sammy was born, winning a record 81 PGA Tour events in his illustrious career, including 3 PGA Championships, 3 Masters and an Open Championship. Sam remained with Wilson as an Honorary Staff member with a lifetime contract. Many believe he was the greatest golfer ever.

In 1940, Twenty-two year old Patty Berg joins the Wilson Advisory Staff and goes on to win every major women’s tournament at least once. Berg wins 80 tournaments in her career and conducts over 10,000 clinics and exhibitions as an ambassador of golf and Wilson.

1933-1935 Gene Sarazen

Wilson Advisory Staffer Willie Ogg’s design for distributing weight away from the heel and moving it towards the “sweet spot” of the blade is featured in the Wilson Ogg-mented irons, the forerunner of perimeter weighting.

Gene Sarazen uses a secret weapon on his way to winning the 1932 British Open after a plane ride had inspired him to create a club head that glides smoothly through sand. Sarazen welded a piece of steel to the sole of the club and ground it producing ‘bounce’. This marked the introduction of the sand wedge and the “explosion” shot was born, and that year Wilson sold 50,000 of the club known as the R-90, the most popular sand wedge in golf.

In 1935, In the final round of the 1935 Masters Gene Sarazen holed a 235-yard shot with a 4 wood from the fairway on the par-5, 15th hole at Augusta for an albatross to tie Craig Wood, who he went on to beat in the 36 hole play off. This famous victory made Sarazen the first golfer to have won all four majors and complete the ‘Grand Slam’.


Gene Sarazen is the first golfer to become a member of the Wilson Advisory Staff and begins a 75-year relationship with the company, the longest-running contract in sports history. His career earns him 39 PGA titles including two U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, a British Open title, and a Masters victory on his way into the PGA Hall of Fame in 1974.

Over the years Sarazen was joined by such golfing greats as Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart, John Daly and Vijay Singh to name a few of the Wilson Advisory Staff over the years.



The Ashland Manufacturing Company became known as the Thomas E. Wilson Co. in the year 1914 – the date of record of the present Wilson Sporting Goods Co.