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During Wednesday’s practice round of last year’s Bell Canadian Open the morning skies opened up and unleashed yet another deluge that plagued southern Ontario for much of last summer. Fans fetched umbrellas while players, caddies and the media assembled on the driving range scurried for cover under a nearby awning. Paul Azinger mused with other players about how much he liked Glen Abbey and questioned the insistence of tournament officials to move the event away from the Oakville, Ont., course. Canadian amateur standout Richard Scott twice summoned the courage to battle Mother Nature
only to be repelled back to safety as the rains seemed to pound harder and harder each
time someone dared to hit balls in its wrath. Veteran David Frost was a lone solider on the range for a short time until he shanked an iron shot. His hands had clearly slipped from the club and he called it quits in disgust. But one woman stood gleefully, on the practice green, a bag of well-protected clubs by
her side and a Cheshire catlike grin on her face. Carolanne Doig, president of Successables Inc. — the Seaforth, Ont., based company that has specialized in producing quality made rain covers for nearly 13 years — was loving the muck.
“I’m certainly not going to run away because that’s my kind of weather,” Doig chuckles, looking back on that day. “The guys sort of laugh at me. (Former PGA Tour player) Richard Zokol years ago used to call me the rain lady because I used to show up and it would start to rain and they would say to me ‘Gee it’s too bad you don’t sell sunglasses because it would be a lot better for us.’”
THE ANSWERING MACHINE AT SUCCESSABLES INC., warns callers that the company is a small one and that Carolanne can’t always be there to take your call. She’s in Georgia in early February on her way home from her 10th PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. And upon returning she’s eye level in documents and brochures from the annual extravaganza while juggling wedding planning duties for her 71-year-old aunt — eat your heart out Arnold Palmer. But a message left is quickly returned with a sincere thank-you for your interest. A company with humble beginnings is still a humble one today. But it’s also one that lives up to its name in earnest — the Seaforth Rain Hood, the company’s flagship product is used by more than 91 per cent of LPGA Tour players and just under 82 per cent of PGA Tour players at last check. Doig counts the European Ryder Cup team, and the U.S. and European Solheim Cup teams as clients too.
On the heels of that success, Doig has recently introduced the Slicker, an extension of the Rain Hood that covers the entire golf bag and conforms with bag stands and double shoulder straps that have become a staple of bags in recent years.
“It has definitely been influenced by feedback by players, caddies and the general guy that golfs,” says Doig, explaining that her company has had to keep with the times to stay ahead of the curve.
Raised in a golf-mad family — her brothers Ken Jr. and Cam are PGA Tour caddies; brother Ian is a touring professional — Doig largely credits her family connections for her success. Originally hired by a company specializing in rain gear to design a cover, Doig broke out on her own after a few years when philosophical differences between her and her employer arose. Kenny helped to distribute the design among Tour players and caddies while Cam gave constant input on the product. Looking for a Canadian presence on Tour, Doig was able to secure former PGA Tour player Dan Halldorson as a client with the help of Kenny and Cam.
“I liked it because I didn’t like the covers that were with the Tour bags, they were very stiff and hard to get clubs in and out.” says Halldorson. “And the caddies actually, and my caddie, hated them too, but with her cover it was so small and light and it was easy and obviously if you’re playing in the rain you have to have more room in your bag for towels and rainwear or whatever. It’s just so much more convenient, it just worked so much better than the one that came with the bag.”
Once her product was out on Tour and once Doig herself started making regular visits to Tour stops — she now attends four or five tournaments a year on both the PGA and LPGA circuits — things really began to roll and she found herself rubbing shoulders with the professional golf brethren, playing trivial pursuit with caddies on the putting green or having caddies trying to identify the flags that line the range at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Over the years Doig has collected some pretty good stories from different events. She says one of her biggest challenges was getting through the throng of fans and photographers and onto the putting green the day Tiger Woods paired with former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien in the pro-am event at the 2001 Canadian Open at Royal Montreal. Another time a photographer ran her over trying to get a shot of Woods and wiped her out with his camera.
One of her favourite stories is the time the late Bruce Edwards, one of the most well-respected caddies on Tour who gained fame for his close partnership with Tom Watson, politely asked Doig if he could make a suggestion. He though that a fastener on the back of the cover made of Velcro would be better suited as a snap. The change was made and now Doig simply refers to the connector as the Bruce Edwards snap. “I’ve always been treated very kindly,” says Doig. “I think the fact that everybody likes the product helps. (The players and caddies) were receptive to something they didn’t even know they didn’t have.”
At Bay Hill one year Doig was on the range when a player hitting balls asked her if he could get a rain hood for his bag. After fitting a cover on his golf bag and chatting with the player for some 20 minutes Doig was asked if she could put a spare cover in the player’s locker.
“I looked at him and I said ‘Sure, who are you?’” Doig couldn’t see the name on the player’s bag, who turned out to be the free-spirited Tommy Armour III. “Since then he has been so nice to me. He wasn’t offended at all that I didn’t have a clue who he was even though I used a Tommy Armour putter myself and Tommy Armour woods.”
With no other legitimate opposition on the market as far as rain hoods go, Doig also says she’s been surprised and somewhat flattered by the loyalty professionals have shown towards her. She often receives calls from Tour caddies alerting her of another rain cover they’ve seen that appears to be a rip-off of Doig’s design. Sometimes it requires attention in the form of a letter but often times it’s actually Doig’s product that she’s allowed major manufacturers to stamp their logo on as per a player’s sponsorship agreement.
Doig has recently struck a deal with some distributors throughout the United States to get her product on the shelves of green grass stores and bigger golf shops south of the border. She’s also seeking a bigger profile in the United Kingdom and Australia, which she admits has been going slower than anticipated.
With 13 years of success behind her Doig’s aiming for even further riches and brand recognition over the next decade plus.
“In 13 years I would hope the Seaforth Rain Hood and Seaforth Slicker are basically like the Izzo (Dual) Strap. Everybody’s got one or a version of it. I’m hoping that all of the golf companies and equipment manufacturers and tour players and college teams are all using them and I’m just simply paid a royalty and I’m out there enjoying myself and maybe coming up with some new ideas. And then I’d like to write, I’d like to write about some of the stories that have happened.” She also hopes to golf more.
GOING BACK TO THAT RAINY WEDNESDAY at last year’s Canadian Open, Doig has one more story to tell. It’s a familiar one in Tour circles, but one with a bit more insight and one that is certainly a nice little anecdote for Doig and Successables Inc.
“One of the last people to leave the range that day was Vijay Singh,” Doig says. “He had the rain hood on his golf bag." while he was practising, and he was practising late in the day in the rain after a lot of people had left and guess what, he wins, right?