The final stop on Jethro Liou's three-day tour of his vendors' facilities was Deson Golf Sport Co. Ltd. in Shunde, a suburb of Guangzhou. This factory, too, works with titanium. It had 13 tons of it stacked in a locked storage room. One hundred sixty people work at the plant, which is clean, modern and well-lit, churning out 40,000 heads a month for Pinseeker, Knight, Ram, Dunlop, Pro Select and other companies. About 500 models of clubheads are on display, there for a client's inspection.
Liou stopped during the factory tour and lingered over one clubhead. It was the mold for something called a Power 420. The model that Liou sells to Kmart is called the Super 420, which is also made at the Deson factory. The lettering, size and scoring on both club faces were identical. Liou called over the president of Deson, a man named Su Hiao, and in a moment rich with irony, complained that the Power 420 appeared to be a direct knockoff of, and confusingly similar to, the Super 420 (which is a knockoff of TaylorMade's 300 Series drivers). Liou had planned to order as many as 30,000 Super 420s every two months to keep Kmart supplied. Why would Hiao risk losing that?
Smoothly, with �lan, Hiao dismissed the Power 420 as a one-of-a-kind sample. He couldn't remember why it had been made or what it was doing there. He'd be sure to find out, after he finished with the tour.
Asked if he thought the golf industry in China would ever consolidate, Hiao smiled and shook his head. "If one factory is taken over, another one will be born," he said. "Everyone in China wants to work for himself, to be an entrepreneur. Workers save their money, pool their resources, buy a polishing machine, and all of a sudden you have a new factory." In the past four years two of Hiao's managers had left to start finishing factories.
Could his factory, he was asked, put a logo—any logo—on a golf club? Say, a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED logo? "Absolutely," he replied. "We can do almost anything here."