Tom Stites, the chief club designer at Nike Golf since the company entered the club business, is retiring. He will stay with the company as a consultant.
''Officially, Tom has retired,'' Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's global golf club business director, confirmed to Golfweek. ''He is moving into a consultant's role, and we call him the Chief Imagineer.''
Stites made his name as a club designer at Ben Hogan Golf in Fort Worth – under the watchful eye of Hogan himself – and had formed a popular boutique firm, Impact Golf Technologies, when Nike knocked on his door in 2001. Nike Golf's first club launches under Stites came in 2002, and he has overseen the development of every major Nike golf club – including all the ones in Tiger Woods' bag – ever since.
Nike Golf established a research and development facility nicknamed ''the Oven'' in Fort Worth, where Stites has created dozens of clubs, including the recent VR_S Covert line of woods and irons. Stites will continue to work there, but instead of focusing on day-to-day operations going forward, he'll concentrate on conjuring up the clubs that'll make up Nike's long-term future.
Stites' move has been in the works for some months and, late last year, Nike Golf hired Cleveland Golf veteran Nate Radcliffe as director of engineering for golf clubs. Also, Golfweek said, Mario Lafortune, director of the Nike Sport Research Laboratory for the past 15 years, will move to Fort Worth from Nike's headquarters in Oregon.