Rubenstein: G-Mac by Kartel
Published on Monday, May. 27, 2013 11:25AM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 09:29PM EDT
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, has become one of golf’s most successful and popular players in recent years. It’s not surprising, then, that companies have been interested in finding a place for him to represent and promote their products. McDowell, 33, has been particularly interested in working with companies that are close to home, which is why the clothes he’s wearing, head to toe, are from Kartel, a 65-year-old family-owned company based in Dublin, Ireland. McDowell, of course, is from Portrush, Northern Ireland.
Kartel moved this year in a big way into the U.S. Karl Swan, the managing director of the company that his grandfather John started in two rooms above a pub in Dublin, said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail that McDowell had been wearing some of Kartel’s clothing for years, but that he had been a free agent. The U.S. Open champion was paying for his own clothes - heresy, that’s for sure.
“That was crazy,” Swan said from Dublin. “The #5 ranked player in the world [then] paying for his own clothes?”
Swan had his first conversation with McDowell’s manager Conor Ridge in August 2011. It was the Friday of the Irish Open at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club. Ridge then spoke with McDowell, who said he wanted to proceed with Kartel. The G-Mac by Kartel line was born, allied to a determined golfer who has made his way to the top of his profession. The arrangement takes McDowell and Kartel through 2016, and, Swan said, McDowell is very involved in every aspect of the clothing that he wears. The line is broad enough to offer clothes that suit a professional golfer who plays around the globe in all sorts of weather.
“He went into the buttons, the threads, the piping, the kind of things only people in the industry would know about,” Swan said. “Graeme instinctively had an understanding of what’s involved. At the end of our first conversation on the balcony at the club after the Irish Open I felt comfortable with his likes and dislikes, and he asked us to put together three months of clothing head to toe and that he would then come to our showroom to have a look.”
Kartel doesn’t script out what McDowell wears, but instead sends him suggestions, especially for the four major championships. Swan sends him more outfits than he’ll need for the week, and, from them, McDowell chooses what he thinks will mix and match well.
The Kartel line was introduced into the U.S. last January, as part of what Swan called its first wave that went into the world market. The lines are in pro shops at high-end clubs such as Pebble Beach, Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and Medinah, the site of last month’s Ryder Cup - which McDowell helped the European team win. Fabrics are drawn from countries such as Italy, France, and Spain.
Canada, Swan said, will be part of the second wave for the line. Asia is also in the plans for the second wave. There’s also a focus on markets in France and Scandinavia, and the U.K. and Ireland for the spring and summer next year. Kartel did launch its latest line this fall in the U.K., but the emphasis will be on next spring and summer when the weather is better.
Meanwhile, McDowell is showing off his attractive new clothes far from Portrush. He’s playing in this week’s BMW Masters in Shanghai, China, where he opened with a three-under-par 69. (Mike Weir shot 73). McDowell will also play next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shenzhen, China. He’s ranked 19th in the world, and, if he plays the golf he knows he can, he’ll move back up the rankings. McDowell hasn’t won in two years. He tied for second at the U.S. Open in June, one shot behind winner Webb Simpson.
Wherever McDowell’s career takes him, he’ll be showing off G-Mac by Kartel. John Swan would be proud of what his grandson Karl is doing with the company, and with the sharp new line that McDowell is showing here, there and everywhere in the wide world of golf. The fashion world at golf’s highest levels is very competitive, but Kartel expects to make a mark, and a sizable one.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein