Ely Callaway

Founder of Callaway Golf

Known for his visionary leadership and unwavering passion for innovation, Ely Reeves Callaway Jr. emerged as a transformative force in both business and the world of golf. 

Born and raised in LaGrange, GA in 1919 to a family in the textile business, Callaway graduated from Emory University and enlisted in the war, eventually becoming the youngest major in the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. After being discharged, he embarked on a career in the textiles, eventually rising to the positions of president and director at Burlington Industries, the world's largest textile manufacturer.

Staying true to his entrepreneurial spirit, he transitioned away from textiles in the early 1970s to focus on his vineyard in Temecula, CA. His successful company, Callaway Winery and Vineyards, established Temecula as a wine-producing region. After selling the company in 1981, Callaway, while playing golf in Palm Springs, discovered Hickory Sticks, a company that produced wood clubs with steel rod reinforcement. Fueled by a love for golf and a desire to innovate, he proceeded to purchase a 50 percent ownership of the company in 1982, and by 1984, he purchased the remaining half, and renamed it Callaway Golf Company. 

In 1986, Callaway hired billiard cue designer Richard Helmstetter as a consultant and later promoted him to chief club designer. Helmstetter introduced computer-controlled manufacturing machines, helping refine the production of clubs. Callaway’s big break came in the form of the Big Bertha driver. This driver, developed in 1991, helped the ball get airborne more quickly and fly farther, two appealing traits for the average golfer. 

In 1996, the company hired fellow SoCal Golf Hall-of-Famer Roger Cleveland as chief club designer. He would soon launch the Callaway Golf Forged Wedges, igniting a new type of technology. In that same year, Callaway Golf started to focus on developing a golf ball that would be a “complete performance” ball with spin, control, distance and durability. 

Another advancement came with the 1997 acquisition of Odyssey Sports, which expanded Callaway’s line of putters. Under Ely’s guidance, Callaway Golf became a powerhouse in the industry, influencing how golfers around the world played the game. 

Ely Callaway retired from Callaway Golf in 2001, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and growth in the golf equipment industry. By always being at the forefront of advancement and design, Ely Callaway positively impacted both amateur and professional golfers alike. The name Ely Callaway stands not just as a brand but as a testament to the influence of a visionary who forever changed the game of golf.