Tim Clarke admits it -- he'd had Kevin Streelman on his radar for a long time.
Clarke, the vice president of global golf for Wilson, a Chicago-based company, knew that the Wheaton Warrenville South alum would be a perfect addition to the Wilson family.
"I've known Kevin for number of years, and when he was with Cleveland (Golf) I'd see him out at tour events and I'd always mention to him, 'Hey, if you're ever interested ...,'" Clarke said. "It was about three years ago that he gave me a call and said he'd like to talk.
"It was at that point that Wilson started the venture of having Kevin as a staff member, and more importantly having him as a staff member who had his junior success here in Illinois."
Thanks to picking up his first PGA Tour victory last month at the Tampa Bay Championship, Streelman is Augusta bound for the second time in three years, joining three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and former British Open champ Paul Lawrie in the Wilson stable of golfers going for the green jacket this week.
"It's fantastic," Clarke said of Streelman's recent success. "Now, all of a sudden he got a nice paycheck a couple of weeks ago and he's running sixth in the FedEx money list. It's exciting to be part of these things."
What an amazing run for Streelman, who captained the Duke golf team and then put nearly a half a million miles on three cars as he searched for any and all pro tournaments to compete in. A big money endeavor it certainly wasn't.
But having to outwork the field is kind of par for the course for Streelman, just as it has been for Lawrie, Harrington and for that matter Wilson as well in the rough and tumble world of professional golf.
"If you look at Padraig Harrington, who has been our iconic lead guy, three-time major winner, he was never destined for greatness," Clarke said. "The scouting reports on him were that he would be a good journeyman European Tour player. When he joined our staff he was like No. 330 in the world, then went all the way up to No. 4 and now he's hanging right around 50.
"Kevin, now that he just got his first win, was in the 220 zone and now he's 70th in the world and going to Augusta.
"With our brand, we're kind of like the hardest working guys in golf. And our players kind of line up that way, too. And I think that really is what Kevin is -- he's a committed athlete who's chased the mini tours for six years just to get his card."
It's the same commitment Wilson has brought to the golf equipment game, where admittedly they're among the Davids going up against a bunch of Goliaths.
"You have Callaway, TaylorMade and Nike spending an insane amount of money and so you kind of take them off the table. You can also throw Titleist in there," Clarke said. "We put those four brands up there and we look at what Cleveland is doing, what Mizuno is doing, what Adams is doing and we kind of feel like if we can take shares from those brands -- which we are doing right now -- good things will happen."
And they're doing it with good people, especially Streelman, one of the nicest guys in all of sports. That's the only way Clarke and Wilson would have it.
"For our brand, because we're a sports equipment company in a sporting goods industry, character is No. 1," Clarke said. "And Kevin is the nicest guy in the world.
"It's funny because people always ask me who is the nicest guy in golf and I always used to say Padraig Harrington. Now that I know Kevin ... it's flip a coin. If you get a chance to talk to them they'll treat you like they've known you for 20 years."
What would a win at Augusta this week by any of their players, particularly Streelman, mean to Wilson?
"Well, we've won 61 majors -- more than any other iron brand -- we've won about three per decade," Clarke said. "It continues to fuel the legacy that we're second to none on the equipment side of the business. Players who play Wilson Staff equipment, they win big tournaments.
"If Kevin can go out there and have a week like he had in Tampa … he looked like he had no doubt that he would win that tournament. If we could get one of these players can break out at Augusta, it would continue to fuel and accelerate our resurgence by probably a year."