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Par excellence: South Korean golf balls fly over fairways around the world

Volvik staff player Lee Mi-hyang gestures after playing on the 16th hole during the second round of the Evian Championship women's golf tournament in Evian, eastern France, Sept. 11, 2015. / Korea Times file

By Ko Dong-hwan

South Korean golf ball maker Volvik CEO Moon Kyung-ahn was awarded a presidential honor in a ceremony marking South Korea's 54th Trade Day on Dec. 5 for exports exceeding $10 million after surpassing the $3 million mark last year. / Korea Times file
South Korean golf ball technology has claimed a new level of perfection after one of the country's leading manufacturers received a presidential honor for accomplishing landmark exports this year.

Volvik, an original South Korean brand and the nation's most popular, was honored for exports exceeding $10 million after surpassing the $3 million mark last year. The company's performance is relatively on par with another South Korean golf ball maker, Fila Korea, which owns the world's most popular brand, Titleist.

Volvik received the award during a ceremony in Seoul marking the 54th Trade Day at COEX in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. The event, hosted by the Korea International Trade Association and sponsored by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, recognizes companies that pioneer new overseas markets and have impressive export figures.

Volvik exported 420,000 dozen balls worth $6 million last year. The figure jumped to 1.1 million dozen worth $17 million this year, becoming the only native South Korean brand with global recognition in golf ball markets. Volvik began exporting in 2012 and now trades with some 80 countries in Europe and Asia. A company official said that given the current pace, next year's export sales may reach $32 million.

Behind the soaring exports, which jumped 70 percent on the previous year, is the brand's signature "VIVID" product lineup. Special coatings don't reflect light and enable more vivid colors to be applied, making the ball easier to see.

Volvik CEO Moon Kyung-ahn dubbed the company's VIVID XT as "the best thing that has ever happened in the world's colored golf ball history" because of its vivid coatings and dual-core composition that allows powerful energy transfer.

The national ball makers have supported the outstanding performances of South Korean players in international matches. These include U.S. Women's Open winner Park Sung-hyun in July and South Korean-born New Zealander Lydia Ko, the youngest world No.1. American President Donald Trump mentioned this in his speech at the National Assembly during his Seoul visit in November.

In January, American professional golfer Bubba Watson signed a multi-year deal with Volvik to use and endorse the company's extreme-performance golf ball line S4. The company's orange S3 golf ball was used in two LPGA wins. Other lines include Crystal Ruby and Vibe.

Titleist ProV1 / Korea Times file
While Volvik's global sales have skyrocketed, Titleist is famous for its popularity among professional golfers. The latest Darrel Survey ― the industry's independent arbiter of equipment use ― released on Nov. 29 shows that the brand produced the most wins and was used by the most players. The PGA Tour has contracted the survey to perform weekly equipment counts and tabulate each product by player and category.

Fila Korea acquired the Titleist brand from Acushnet in December 2011. It is used by 72 percent of international professional golfers. In the 2016-17 PGA Tour, 69 percent of players used the brand, while the figure was 78 percent in the LPGA Tour. The brand also featured in 24 of 47 wins in PGA events and 25 of 33 wins in LPGA tournaments, according to the survey.

Ko Dong-hwan

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