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Anytime a new product comes to market, it’s doubtful anyone truly knows what to expect. Manufacturers have high expectations, as do retailers since both have a financial interest in the matter. Sometimes expectations are met but rarely does it exceed. Consumer response is the tricky part of the equation. A critical element in golf is validation of any product. Typically, this requires the assistance of the some of the best players in the world, otherwise referred to as the pyramid of influence. Perhaps the best case study for any product introduction is Titleist’s Pro V1 golf ball.

prov1Fifteen years ago, at the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas (now the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), 47 players switched to the Pro V1 the first week it became available. Bill Morgan, Senior Vice President for Titleist Golf Ball R&D, was on site at the 2000 Invensys Classic at Las Vegas to introduce the new Pro V1 to players. He described the almost universal feedback he received from those who put the new ball to the test early in the week. “While we expected early adoption, we weren’t certain what the ball count would be, because players only had a day or two of practice rounds,” said Morgan. “Forty seven players, or over half of all the Titleist players in the field, immediately put the new Pro V1 in play. We heard from players, that for the very first time, they didn’t sacrifice anything in a golf ball. The Pro V1 provided total performance by delivering exceptional distance gains off the tee while providing incredibly soft feel and what we called ‘drop-and-stop’ short game control. It also had a durable cover that wouldn’t cut or shear the way the traditional balata-covered balls did.”

Mary Lou Bohn, Vice President, Golf Ball Marketing and Titleist Communications, was also in Las Vegas that week. “The Pro V1 responded to the changing nature of the game,” said Bohn. “The arrival of the power game on the tour necessitated golf balls that delivered very low spin in the long game, while maintaining the spin, feel and control of the premium liquid center, wound technology golf balls. We walked the fairways with players during their practice rounds, and it was amazing to hear so many great players effusive over Pro V1’s performance. If you look at the early success of players who achieved record-setting performances, the results spoke for themselves.”

Billy Andrade won the Invensys Classic the first week the new Pro V1 was available and believes it “resurrected his career.” “I remember I was not having a very good year entering that event,” said Andrade. “I think I was around 160th on the money list and there were only a few events left. I was desperate. I vividly remember the first time I put it into play during a practice round. The ball was 20 yards longer than the Tour Prestige that I was playing at the time. I chalked some of it up to altitude, but the distance, in addition to the overall performance of the ball, was like nothing I had ever played. prov1Andrade fired five consecutive rounds in the 60’s to win by one shot. Not only did players transitioning to the Pro V1 finish 1-2 on the leaderboard, they finished 1-2 in driving distance. The victory was the fourth of Andrade’s career and vaulted him from 159th to 43rd on the 2000 PGA TOUR money list. Another Pro V1 player tied for third after fashioning a closing 10-under par 62, the event’s lowest single round score. The pyramid of influence had begun to deliver and in spades.

According to Golf Datatech, in December 2000, the first month Titleist shipped the Pro V1 to Sun Belt locations in the United States, it delivered a market share of 5.6 percent. Never before had an individual golf ball model registered such a significant and incremental share within its first month of introduction. Demand for the Pro V1 exceeded supply in January of 2001 and Titleist made a significant capital investment in Ball Plant 3, a 140,000 square-foot manufacturing facility located in New Bedford, Mass., increasing Pro V1 capacity. In March of 2001, the momentum continued as “USA Today” billed it "The ball that's turning golf upside down.” The Pro V1 was featured as the Page 1 cover story. That same month, the Pro V1 became the best-selling golf ball in the marketplace after reaching an On-Course share of 15 percent in just its fourth month of availability, according to Golf Datatech. In May 2001, six months after consumers became addicted to playing it, Titleist said it shipped its 1 millionth dozen Pro V1! By September of 2001, the company had shipped its second millionth dozen of Pro V1s. And by January of 2002, its third millionth dozen Pro V1 had been shipped.

prov1xIn March of 2003, Titleist came out with a new and improved Pro V1, along with the introduction of the Pro V1x model. Prior to their marketplace introduction, new Pro V1 and Pro V1x were the choice of the first five winners of the 2003 PGA Tour season. That year Ben Curtis won the Open Championship with a ProV1x and Shaun Micheel won the PGA Championship playing a Pro V1.

In February of 2005, Titleist enhanced the performance of the dynamic duo of golf balls with new and improved Pro V1 and Pro V1x models. With improvements to the core formulation and a redesigned casing layer, the story of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x remained relevant with consumers, while it kept the competition at bay. In April of 2007, Pro V1 and Pro V1x combined for an On-Off course market share of 24 percent, an all-time high at the time, according to Golf Datatech. A few months later, Toru Taniguchi won the Sega Sammy Cup in Japan, marking the 1,000th win for Pro V1 models across the worldwide professional tours since the Pro V1’s introduction in October 2000. Its doubtful any other product can lay a similar performance claim.

Titleist’s Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls have undergone further refinements in 2009 and again in 2011 as the company continue to protect its prized products. Success can be defined in many ways, but standing the test of time is perhaps the most difficult one to accomplish. Since 2000, golf has seen many new products come and go. Most, if not all of them are or were very good. However, the industry has morphed into accelerated and compressed life cycles in most instances. Yet, the Pro V1 keeps on trucking!

To put things into perspective, Jordan Spieth, recently named PGA TOUR Player of the Year, was seven years old when the Pro V1 debuted in 2000. He is among several young players that have never played anything but Pro V1 or Pro V1x in competition. “I’ve been playing the Pro V1 or Pro V1x since I was 12 years old and started playing competitively,” said Spieth. “That is when I made golf my number one sport and wanted to shoot the lowest scores possible. I haven’t played another ball in competition since then. I think everybody that took the game seriously, at least my peers at the time, all wanted to play the Pro V1 or Pro V1x.”

“The significance of Pro V1 goes beyond just its initial tour and market success,” said Bohn.  “It marked a paradigm shift where the best performing golf ball for tour players is also the best performing golf ball for all golfers.”

Its fair to say Titleist didn’t know what it had when it first introduced golfers to the Pro V1. One of the questions Bill Morgan got asked the most after the launch of Pro V1 – and still gets to this day – is, “What does Pro V1 mean?”

“We didn't know what to call it,” said Morgan. “The leading tour-played ball at the time was the Titleist Professional. We were coming up to the USGA deadline for getting balls on the conforming list, so I just put an interim stamp on for submission and I figured we would work out what to officially call it later. I wrote Pro for Professional, V for the ‘Veneer Project’ that it was called in R&D, and the number 1. I absolutely thought we would change the name but the players said they loved it - so it stuck.”

The Pro V1 has been the gold standard in golf balls since its introduction back in 2000. Titleist reported that two out of every three golfers across the major worldwide professional tours play the Pro V1 or Pro V1x, more than five times the nearest competitor. The Titleist Pro V1 franchise has accounted for 406 wins (28 majors) and 56,881 players on the PGA TOUR entering the 2015-16 season since its debut. It has accounted for 2,374 worldwide wins and over 304,000 players across the worldwide professional tours since its debut. According to Golf Datatech through September 2015, the Pro V1 has been the best-selling golf ball in the marketplace for 175 consecutive months! Doubtful anyone saw any of this coming 15 years ago when 47 players teed it up for the first time in a PGA TOUR event!!