Head of Golf | Lyle & Scott
Chris Somerton is head of golf for Lyle & Scott, a U.K.-based apparel brand that was founded in 1874 and became a disruptive force in golf in the mid-1950s with its innovative patterns and prints. In September, Lyle & Scott launched its brand in the United States. Somerton talks about his role and giving employees the space to do their job, while trying to minimize their obstacles.
The First Call: What is your handicap index?
Chris Somerton: 17 and working on it.
TFC: What time do you wake in the morning, and what time do you typically start the workday?
CS: I generally wake up at 7 a.m. My day starts by 8 a.m., checking in with our partners in Asia, before moving my way west across the globe.
TFC: What are key elements to leadership or to being a good leader?
CS: Give your team the space to focus on what matters. Minimize the noise, remove the things blocking the way, and enable them to do what they do best.
TFC: What changes, if any, have you made based on the events of the past year?
CS: Naturally, we've all had to adapt to working remotely, probably not something that would've have happened at Lyle & Scott without the impact of the pandemic. The push toward digital adoption that the pandemic has forced, particularly in the golf industry, is a welcome one.
TFC: What's the secret to your success?
CS: I'm privileged to have been given opportunities and responsibilities way above my station ever since I entered the working world. The constant feeling of needing to step up means you never get complacent and continually look to self-improve.
TFC: Who is your role model?
CS: My Dad. He instilled in me a work ethic that only has room for your very best, whilst also considering the needs of others. He sadly passed away in 2015 and I wish I could share all the cool stuff I get up to these days with him.
I also had an incredible first boss in the golf world, Stuart Johnson. His attitude and approach to the issues that work throws up I still try to emulate today.
TFC: Knowing what you know today, what professional advice would you give a younger you?
CS: Control (and worry) and the things you can control. Let everything else go.
TFC: What’s the last book you read?
CS: “The Man Who Died Twice” by Richard Osman.
TFC: What’s the last movie you saw?
CS: “No Time To Die,” the latest [James] Bond movie. They've set it up nicely for Daniel Craig's successor, whoever that might be.
TFC: What’s on your playlist?
CS: Roisin Murphy, Tourist and Khruangbin make up my top three on Spotify.
TFC: When I’m not at work, you can find me …
CS: Ideally on a golf course!
TFC: What is your greatest extravagance?
CS: I have an ongoing — and bougie — monthly wine subscription that I started in lockdown and haven't yet gotten around to cancelling.
TFC: What was your path to the golf industry?
CS: I studied engineering at university, specializing in sports equipment design, with a particular focus on golf. I picked golf because the applications of technology to the sport were just so cool. We had access to a golf ball cannon and a swing robot. What's not to love?
From uni, I went to work for a golf equipment brand in the UK called Benross, designing and developing hardware, apparel and soft goods. We also had the distribution rights for Bridgestone in the UK, which was an insightful experience into a different business model.
I was at Benross for four years before moving to Lyle & Scott in 2018 to manage product development for the sportswear and golf divisions. Three years and several roles later I find myself in my dream role running the golf division.
TFC: What is the favorite golf course you have played?
CS: IProbably Parkstone Golf Club in Poole, England. It's a seaside, heathland masterpiece.
TFC: Which golf courses do you belong to (if you care to share)?
CS: Trying to join a golf club in the UK at the moment is next to impossible — clubs are oversubscribed with long waiting lists. Great for the industry, not so good for my game.