By Tom Ward
Last month while checking out the Stadium Golf Links event held at Globe Life Park in Arlington, I met a couple of high-energy, fun-loving guys promoting their new golf apparel line called Even Par. They had a booth strategically placed right at the front entrance of the event so everyone coming through could see their innovative product line. We visited for a few moments and I came away impressed with their enthusiasm. I learned from speaking with Devin McDowell and Ryan Russell (co-founders and best friends) that they are based in Missouri where they both grew up. McDowell describes himself as the creative engineer of the group and Russell calls himself the Brains of the Operations.
I asked McDowell how they came up with the name Even Par.
“Well, we originally were going to be Under Par to represent our golf game (ha ha), but we didn’t want the initials to be ‘up’,” he replied. “So we threw out Even Par and it stuck.”
“How did you guys decide to get into the golf business with an apparel line with neither one of you having a background in that industry?” I asked.
“Golf is an interesting sport in how it’s evolved over the years,” McDowell answered. “Ryan, my business partner, and myself, we’ve played golf our entire lives. No one knew we played golf and played it well because a lot of our friends didn’t think golf was cool. Golf has started to change because of players like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth and because they are bringing more fashion into the game. We haven’t seen a lot of companies out there that are trying to bring a different style to the game and we don’t consider ourselves an on-course golf apparel company just yet. Right now we are just trying to bring a different side of golf with our apparel that people can wear every day. We are trying to make golf look cool.”
“What are your golf backgrounds?” I inquired.
“Ryan played college golf for 2 years and college baseball for 2 years,” stated McDowell. “I was an assistant pro at Twin Oaks Country Club. I worked at a country club for 7 years and it was a higher-end type of club in our area here in Missouri. Obviously just wearing T-shirts on the golf course was unheard of and very disrespectful and I completely understand that logic because that’s how I grew up playing.”
“How did you guys meet?”
“We first met when Ryan moved to Nixon, Missouri from Oklahoma in the 7th grade,” recalled McDowell. “We went to the same school and became best friends then. We played on the same basketball team together. Golf isn’t our only sport and our apparel isn’t just for golfers. It’s for anyone that shows up for school, like junior high or high school or anybody. Our brand isn’t just golf exclusive.”
“Are you trying to appeal to a younger demographic?”
“Not necessarily,” said McDowell. ”We’ve only been a company since October 1st. We’ve done sales for 7th and 8th graders as well as selling plenty of our stuff to people that are middle age. I don’t know if we have a systemic demographic yet because we only make stuff we believe that we would actually wear. We’re not tailoring just to the younger generation. We want to tailor to what we think will look good and what we like.”
“How did you come up with the phrases that appear on your shirts like ‘Read it, Roll it, Hole it’ and ‘Get Buckets’?”
“Things like ‘Get Buckets’ are things that we just came up with while playing golf,” said McDowell. “If we made a long putt or hit a great drive we started saying ‘Get Buckets’. I guess it just came out from who were are as people. It’s not just for golf as it can apply to basketball, too, as it’s all about doing something great. I think honestly fashion is going into that direction where you’re coining phrases, if you will. That’s what we are running with right now.”
“How have you been marketing your products up to this point?”
“As you know golf is an expensive game to play,” said McDowell. ”From the golf clubs to memberships, and it’s not the kind of sport, unless you have someone bringing you along, it’s not something most people will just pick up by themselves. Our goal is to help grow the game, whether it be through T-shirts or hats to help promote the game. We can also customize our shirts for people that have golf charity events, too. Our biggest marketing tool right now is Instagram. Stadium Links was our first booth. With golf being in the off-season right now it’s hard because there aren’t a whole lot of events to get involved in. We haven’t been able to travel too much yet because we both have day jobs. That will be difficult until we can do this full time. We use social media as much as possible like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, trying to reach as many people as possible. In 2017, we are looking to push heavy to get into as many pro shops as we can to see if they like our product.”
“Currently you have available to purchase T-shirts and hats through your website. What are your plans for expanding your brand in the coming year?”
“We would love to start a women’s line,” answered McDowell. “We’re very close to a local college golf team here. I believe we have great ideas for a women’s line. We haven’t seen anything for young girl golfers that look cool. That’s a market that we might be able to tap into in 2017. Also, I believe down the line we will be getting into polo’s for on-the-course wear. When we’re ready for on-the-course apparel we want to make something the best we can. For right now we’re happy with what we have and we’re taking it step by step.
“Another area we are looking at is the Long Drivers Association,” added McDowell. “We’ve been in contact with a few of the long drivers. I think that’s the coolest part of golf with the long drive championship. That’s a market that no one is tapping into yet.”
To learn more about Even Par Golf Company please visit their website at www.evenpargolfco.com. I highly recommend you order some of their cool shirts and hats which would make great Christmas gifts. I can tell you having both a shirt and hat with the EP logo they are great looking and are made out of top-of-the-line materials. Look for Devin and Ryan to make some big strides with their Even Par brand in the coming year. While neither one of the guys have a background in the apparel industry, they’re experts when it comes having fun on and off the course.
Tom Ward can be contacted at www.teetimewithtom.com