U.S. newcomer Cross Golf is ready to dominate high-end rainwear market

Cross Golf jacket
David Walberg / SI
A Cross Golf jacket

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In most businesses, the three main roads to success are to be first, best or cheapest.
 
Cross Golf is in the middle category. The company makes golf apparel for men and women, but it is most respected for its rainwear, which is light, soft, stretchy and unbelievably impervious to water.
 
A Sweden-based company, Cross Golf is a newcomer to America, selling gear here for only two years. Its high-tech rainwear is as good as any in the world. The biggest drawback to the company’s product is that many first-time customers feel the lightweight fabric in the jacket and can’t believe it could possibly be rainwear. But it is, and it works.
 
Cross Golf isn’t trying to appeal to the masses. It’s the Mercedes-Benz of its category and priced accordingly. The Cross Golf Edge rain jacket and pants are a high-end entry. The jacket’s suggested retail price is $349, the pants are $295.
 
Diana McCarty is the president of Cross Golf USA. She worked for Callaway Golf during Ely Callaway’s heyday and later worked for hedge-fund billionaire Julian Robertson, who helped build Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, two renowned golf courses in New Zealand. McCarty took a break during the PGA Show action in Orlando last month to talk about Cross and its growing American presence:
 
You once worked with Ely Callaway, a great innovator and master marketer. What would he say about Cross?
Besides "You’re not selling enough"? hat inspired me about Ely was that he was always looking for things in life and in golf that were different and better. We found Cross when we were working in New Zealand and I knew their outerwear was better than anyone else’s. It worked and people loved it. The fabric and the designs stood alone. Ely would say, “Bravo.” He believed in innovation and technology. He was a real apparel guy; that was his first business. He’d be ecstatic about this, and he’d probably take full credit for it.
 
You’re not trying for the mass-quantity sales that Ely got with Big Bertha?
What makes Cross special is that it’s really for your passionate golfer, and it extends to lifestyle. A product doesn’t have to be for everyone to be a successful brand. There are a lot of passionate golfers in the U.S. who appreciate thoughtful designs and will support us.
 
Did you ever do lunch with the original Bertha of Big Bertha fame?
I was not alive during World War II. You know it was named after a cannon, right?
 
Yes, I was trying to start a controversy around a fictional Bertha for this story.
I never got an email from the mystery Bertha woman, no.
 
It makes me wonder if baseball pitcher Catfish Hunter ever really existed.
Now we’ll never know. Did you have a secret online relationship with him that you’re going to tell us about?
 
No, nothing like that, unfortunately. You worked in New Zealand for a few years. What was that like?
New Zealand is a small country in a far corner of the world. I had the amazing opportunity when I worked for Julian. I fell in love with the country, fell in love with a boy and married him and that’s actually how we eventually found Cross. So I owe a lot to New Zealand.
 
What is one thing Americans should know about New Zealand?
It is one of the most spectacular landscape destinations in the world, and the most diverse. Volcanic on the north island, glaciers on the south island. It’s just incredible.
 
How about the golf?
Because of Julian, it’s some of the best in the world. It’s literally mind-blowing when you step onto some of these vistas. You can’t believe they exist anywhere in the world and are so concentrated in such a small country.
 
Where did you grow up?
California.
 
So you’ve really seen the whole world?
I’m working my way around it.
 
What’s on top of your list of places to visit next?
Well, that is a very good question. I haven’t been to China. I would like to do that.
 
I was guessing Saskatchewan. Once again, I’m wrong.  So why doesn’t Cross have a bigger profile in America?
There’s a lot of competition. It takes time, quality, you have to deliver on your word and build on those relationships. It’s been a networking exercise. Those people who try the product tell other people. We’ve only been in the U.S. for two years and we’re happy with our progress.
 
The raingear is only available online or at green-grass courses?
Yes, our plan was always to get established at high-end courses and move into retail.
 
Who’s the biggest celebrity to wear Cross raingear?
That would be Jason McCarty, the director of golf at Sebonack (N.Y.) Golf Club, of course.
 
Your husband. Nice. Who’s the second biggest?
Julian Robertson.
 
Fine., How about No. 3 then?
The actress in that show, The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick. When their show wrapped, she’s a big fan of Cross, and she bought a jacket for herself and the entire production team as a gift.
 
Is she a golfer?
I’m not sure if she is. But I know the producer of that show is a very passionate golfer. On the PGA Tour, Richard Lee has been wearing it.  Pernilla Lindberg on the LPGA and Camilo Benedetti on the Web.com Tour. We may have some interesting people wearing it this year.
 
The fabric in these jackets is amazing. It’s stretchy,  soft, so light and waterproof. It’s hard to believe.
That takes me back to Ely. He was an apparel guy. He was an innovator. He believed you had to have quality behind the marketing. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve had a lot of wonderful business lessons in life already. I think that’s why we’ve had so much fun and so much success.
 
How much golf do you play?
I’ve got a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old so they keep me occupied. I probably play 20 times in a year, maybe.
 
What is your all-time golfing highlight?
When I chipped in off an elevated lie at my pre-wedding tournament at Kauri Cliffs. I was up on this hill, no chance, but I needed to get it in for us to take the lead and I made it.
 
Did you already have the wedding dress and the veil on?
No, but that would’ve made it much more exciting. We were married in New Zealand. We had the wedding in the little town of Kauri and the reception at Kauri Cliffs. We had 100 guests and a tournament the day before the wedding. It was a team scramble. Julian played, the ambassador to New Zealand played, and so did Cindy Callaway and Nicholas Calloway. It was great.
 
Did your team win?
We did win.
 
Did you stack your team with ringers?
No. My father and my father-in-law were paired with me, they’re the worst golfers in the world. I was also paired with a great New Zealand golfer, so we canceled out their horrible performances. Their handicaps did help us in the end, so it all worked out.
 
What did you get for winning?
I don’t remember. I guess I got Jason!
 
Congratulations.

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