These are busy days for Ron McPherson, the president of the Peoria-based Antigua Group and a longtime Scottsdale resident. This week, McPherson is participating in the Tommy Bahama Desert Marlin at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.
As always, McPherson, a scratch player, has teamed up with PGA Tour player Billy Mayfair, who has endorsed Antigua products for 18 years.
Later this month, McPherson will travel to Orlando, Fla., where he will receive the PGA of America’s Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contributions to the golf industry.
That only one other Arizonan who has earned that national award — the late Karsten Solheim in 1996 — is a testament to the prestige of such an honor.
“I was surprised, very humbled,’’ said the 56-year-old McPherson of the award that will be presented to him on Jan. 25 during the PGA of America’s Merchandise Show.
“I got a call from Brian Whitcomb, the new president of the PGA and a friend of mine for over 25 years, dating back to our early days in Arizona, and I was thrilled to accept.’’
McPherson was the perfect choice, as the award is named in the honor of the late Ernie Sabayrac, one of the founders of the PGA Merchandise Show. Sabayrac also is credited with revolutionizing the golf merchandising business, as he introduced golf shoes, soft goods and products bearing logos.
As the president of the Antigua Group, McPherson oversees the sales of more than 2.5 million pieces of apparel and other soft goods each year. In fact, his company will do $51 million in sales for 2006-07. Besides golf, Antigua manufactures products for Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, college sports and national and international corporations.
“Since 2000, the Antigua Group has gone up (in sales) each year,’’ McPherson pointed out proudly. “The apparel business is tough to do double digits (in sales), but we’ve gone up by five or six percent each year. It all adds up, absolutely.’’
Like a lot of people who get into the golf industry, McPherson grew up as a player and then discovered the light at the end of the tunnel was in the business of golf rather than on the course.
Born in Montana and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo., McPherson had a good enough swing to earn a golf scholarship at the University of Wyoming. Later he played on the Florida-based Grapefruit mini-tour.
“I was fortunate enough to grow up with a great group of people in Cheyenne who ended up in golf right here in the Valley,’’ McPherson said. “People like Del Cochran, Jim Marshall, Kerry Graham and Kevin Pepper. In fact, I played golf with Del Cochran on the same team at Wyoming. … I never did win a pro tournament, but I had some top-10s, and I did win the Wyoming Amateur twice,’’ he said. “After a while, I realized I needed a real job.’’
In 1973, McPherson became an assistant pro at Apache Wells Golf Club in Mesa. Six years later, he joined Tom Dooley at Eagle Golf, which became the Antigua Group in 1983 after Dooley visited the islands of the same name. In 1997, Dooley sold Antigua to Sports World Ltd., of the United Kingdom, which named McPherson its president.
Asked about the secret to his success in the world of golf retail, McPherson chuckled.
“Well, it’s a very difficult business, but the key for us was creating relationships and maintaining them,’’ he said. “There are lots and lots of good products out there these days, so you try really hard to take care of your customers.’’