While at the AT&T National, I was able to grab 10 minutes with Taylormade’s Tour Van Manager, Wade Lyles. Wade was a very busy man (re-shafted and re-lofted Brian Gay’s driver 2 times during my interview alone) on the day I interviewed him but he still found time to sit down with THP after his long day. Here is my interview with Wade which has some exclusive info regarding Taylormade equipment coming out.
THP– I’m here with Wade Lyles in the Taylormade Tour van here at the AT&T National. Wade, how does one become selected to be on the Taylormade Tour van?
Wade Lyles– Well I’ve been with the company for 23 years. I started off by specializing in a lot of prototyping in the home office by bending heads, adjusting CG, actually I was bending head 15-16 years ago for testing purposes. Then I sort of just brought my skills out here onto the trailer about 11 years ago. The reason I ended up being on the truck was Taylormade wanted me to bring my ‘bending skills’ and that type of stuff directly to the players in the field. We were the only company doing that at the time too. No one else was bending metals or woods like we could.
THP– So Taylormade was the first company to do custom fitting for its’ staff members on-site at a tournament?
Wade– Oh yeah, we had custom molds, everything. We could make a 10.5 driver 7 if we had to. No one else could do that. And all that ability and technology is why the FCT came out with the adjustable hosel. 99% of everything I build needs to be bent. Very few of our players are off the rack so to speak. So now we won’t bend anything that has a fixed hosel on it.
THP– Do the players have assigned Tour van guys when you’re out here or does everyone pretty much pitch in to help a player of needed?
Wade– At Taylormade we have small crews out here. We’ve had the same crew in this van, besides me, here for about 8 years now. I’ve been out here for at least 11 years but everyone else except for our new wedge guy, it’s his first year in the van here, has been in the PGA van for 8 years now. So we have a small crew out here but the players like to see the same guys out here which gives them a comfort level with all of us. We all build, we all repair, but the difference between me and the other guys is that I drive the truck
THP– How often do players stop by the Tour Van to get fit, readjusted, etc.?
Wade– If the guys don’t need any adjustments or anything, they’ll always come in to say ‘hi’ if we’re close to the range like we are here this week. The big thing they come in for is shafts. There’s a lot of new shafts out there from all the different companies. So the players will be using our driver but you have the shaft reps coming up to them saying ‘oh try my shaft you’ll hit it further’ so of course a player is going to want to try it. So then they’ll come in with the shaft rep and we’ll build it up but then its the player who ultimately decides whether it stays in their bag or not.
THP– What are your favorite clubs to work on?
Wade– Well I’m the driver guy in here. I REALLY like working on the drivers. It’s nice spending time with some of the guys on the range seeing how the stuff is working for them and it’s so easy to fine tune the product for them if needed. If a guy is looking for a ¼ degree more loft or a ¼ degree more flatter we can do it with all the new sleeves that we have now. I mean I can make a driver that’s 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, whatever the player wants. It’s nice to sit down with a player and ‘dial him in’ because when they’re happy they’re going to win which means we all win.
THP– How much input do the players have in terms of how R&D produce clubs?
Wade– Tons. This week as a matter of fact we have to gentlemen from Taylormade testing the new forged irons coming out with some of the players as well as some forged wedges. So we have a whole new forged iron, a new cavity back iron coming out the beginning of next year. There’s a few hittable prototype versions out there that first appeared at Wachovia I think and now they’ve listened to the players advice and feedback, made the modifications, and now they’re back out here this week so those guys can hit those irons again after they’ve been re-modified to the specs that they wanted.
THP– Very cool. So how long does a prototype club typically take to come to market??
Wade– They’ll be able to make the forged irons in November as they’re finalizing testing for those and the cavities will be out the beginning of next year as we’ve got a ways to go on those yet. Typically it’s a 6 month process from initial prototype build, to testing, to final product version, to release the public. We have machines that can CNC heads from scratch so if you can draw up a club and it’s specs on a sheet of paper, get it to our computer guys, and they can have a club for you almost the same day if needed.
THP– What do you guys do for fun when you’re not working on clubs for the players?
Wade– You know we’re always working no matter what time of day it is. Last night we had a dinner with Graphite Design, one of our main shaft companies that we deal with out here so you’re always touching base with these guys. Dinner with the shaft reps, dinner with the players, it’s never ending with keeping relationships going. There is no real unwinding time for us actually unless you’re able to go into your room, shut the door, and turn your phone off. Always on the clock! Actually tonight Sean O’Hair invited all of us to his house, he lives out this way, for a party. He’s got a big place out here somewhere (Editor’s note: Sean’s place is in West Chester, PA which is about 20-30 minutes away from Aronimink Golf Club) so he’s going to have a ‘little’ barbecue for us. So we’re looking forward to that. Sean’s a great guy. If there’s a rain delay or anything that prevents him from practicing or playing he’ll be the first one in the van with us playing Mario Racer or something. He’s super competitive with that too but we have a lot of fun.
THP– Wade thanks a lot, this was a ton of fun!
Wade– You got it Todd.