It was a life and career that touched more Australian golfers than most realise.
Australian golf lost one of its unsung heroes with the passing of Martin Ronald Wright in Sydney on March 9 after a battle with cancer. He was 60.
Wright rose to prominence in the golf industry as an astute managing director of equipment distributor Srixon Sports Australasia, formerly TCW. In the past decade, Wright served as commercial development manager for Australian Golf Digest and chief executive officer for fashion manufacturer Sporte Leisure.
A scratch golfer in his heyday, Wright was a fount of knowledge, a savvy marketeer and great company to be around. Never short of an opinion, Wright was fully invested with ideas to improve golf, offering insightful thoughts into the retail industry, professional golf, the amateur scene and golf-club operations.
However, it was at Srixon where Wright left his mark when the Japanese manufacturer, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, entered the local scene. He was responsible for its footprint here in Australia and New Zealand says Owen Todd, a former colleague at both Srixon and Sporte Leisure.
“Martin Wright was the driving force behind the launch of the Srixon brand in Australia. Over time their market share grew to see them as the dominant player in the two-piece golf ball category and make huge inroads into the three-piece category as well as hardware,” Todd says.
“The route he took was through green-grass professionals across Australia and securing the business via the pro shops direct to the golfing public.”
During Wright’s tenure he sponsored the Srixon Teaching Summit for the personal development of PGA professionals. He was always keen to give back to the pros in a commercial sense, knowing they could champion his brands at point-of-sale. He thought big on everything and it’s believed Wright was the first to give away a motor vehicle as a promotional incentive for PGA professionals.
Wright was known for possessing a wide thought process. For instance, Australia is the only country that sells individual boxes of balls. Elsewhere, retailers sell three-ball sleeves. Wright convinced the Japanese to sell the Srixon Distance in single-ball boxes. So he would ship cartons of 144 individual balls as opposed to a conventional gross of 144 balls (12 dozen balls in 12 boxes and sleeves of three). Wright called that ball the ‘Distance Compe’ because it was only ever sold to ‘green-grass’ retailers (on-course golf shops) where club pros could give them away as ball prizes for member competitions and protect their margin.
“All the promotion of the Srixon brand was purely driven by Martin Wright. Some of the weird ideas he would come up with were all motivated by the intent to gain market share,” Todd says.
For example, Srixon would sell ‘range balls’ at a massively reduced price by comparison with the competition. Wright was prepared to write-down the cost of range balls and pick up this cost as part of the marketing budget, working on the theory that every time someone bent down to tee up a range ball they would read the name ‘Srixon’.
“I always used to joke with Martin that he had forgotten more than I knew about the golf industry,” says Nick Cutler, managing director of Australian Golf Digest. “We certainly didn’t agree on everything around golf, the market and where the game could or should be heading. But the impact he had on the game in Australia was immense. I would say most – if not all – golfers at some stage touched or played a product Martin had a hand in bringing to Australia.”
While golf was his career from the time he left school, Wright’s family was his life and inspiration. He is survived by wife Lori, son Mack, daughter Venetia and brother David, a PGA professional.