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GolfWRX Interview – Tom Wishon Part 1

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GolfWRX is proud to present an interview with Tom Wishon

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GolfWRX: It is my great pleasure to introduce Tom Wishon with us here today. Tom we appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to talk to us.

Tom Wishon: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to discuss some of these points because there is a whole lot of confusion out there in the industry with regard to equipment and what is right and what is wrong for various golfers.

GolfWRX: Definitely, I think that’s a mild understatement as a lot of people are very confused these days so we are looking forward to your answers about it. Before we get started can you give us a little background about yourself and your time in the golf industry?

Tom Wishon: Yeah, I’m getting to be a little bit long in the tooth these days seeing as how I’m 57 now. I started out right after I got out of college. I joined the PGA program and became a member of the PGA while working as an Assistant Pro because basically in those days back in the early 70’s I made the grand salary of $300 as an Assistant Pro and the golf course I first worked at didn’t have a full driving range. So to supplement my income I got really hooked into club repair and that’s what really got me going and back in those days it was all reshafting and refinishing wooden woods and all that. From there I really got fascinated about making my own clubs so I built and made all my own routers and boring machines and on a very limited basis made a small line of woods I sold. Just really from that it spring boarded into being fascinated why some things work for some golfers and why some didn’t. Whenever I tried calling people from shaft companies and golf club companies and no one would answer my questions. So it got really frustrating so that started what’s become a life long quest to figure out how golf clubs work and then how they work for different people from that standpoint. From going on from starting as an Assistant Pro, I went to work as Vice President for The GolfWorks from 1980-1986 and got the opportunity to take over as President of Dynacraft Golf Products from 1986-1993. Then the guys at Golfsmith wanted to upgrade everything so I was Vice President at Golfsmith and in charge of the component division for the from 1993 to late 2001. Then I decided finally, probably a little too late, I decided to do my own thing. So Mary Ellen and I decided to start Wishon Golf. We opened the doors in February 2003 here in Durango, Colorado and that’s what we’re trying to do now. To really take custom clubfitting and increase its awareness among as many golfers as we can.

GolfWRX: Now throughout all the things you’ve done, what’s been the most rewarding part of your career?

Tom Wishon: When I look back on it I really enjoyed writing as a form of educating. All the writing I would do when I primarily started working at GolfWorks through my years at Dynacraft and my years at Golfsmith, most of that was books which were done to educate the clubmakers – make them a lot more aware of what goes on when clubhead meets ball and make them more aware about clubfitting. As a result of all the research I’ve done on an ongoing basis throughout the years to try to figure out what works for some golfers and why. That’s been a lot of fun, but I would say most recently here in 2005 when I finally got the opportunity to write a book for regular golfers. That was a big thing for me. I had tried to push that and get permission for that when I was with Golfsmith and they didn’t want that done. So I had to wait until I got to do it with my own company. The reaction of golfers that have read one of the two “Search” books, or the “12 Myths” or the one that just came out last week, “The Right Sticks” book. Getting e-mails and phone calls from golfers who are thrilled to learn this information. And have their eyes opened finally to realize what they had been looking at through the years was nothing more than a standard size, one size fits all to be bought off the rack. To learn about how custom fitting could help them and in a lot of cases to hear from many of the after they went through the custom fitting process and how thrilled they were and glad I put the book out and how it opened their eyes. That’s been very, very rewarding to me to be able to reflect on that because in a very small we we’ve had a little bit of an impact on the industry there. No one had ever come along and done anything to create any demand for custom fitting. Although what’s come from the “Search” books is a trickle, it does make me realize, if there’s some way we could get this information to a million golfers we could really change the industry. Because the information in the books is good, it’s not self-promoting in any way it is just this is what works, this is what you need if you’re this type of golfer. People are ready for this type of information. I know the reaction from the readers has been really fantastic because a little more than a month after the first “Search” book came out we got a steady stream of calls from regular golfers who bought the book, read it, the light bulb went off over their heads and they were calling in to see if we could help them find a good clubmaker in their area. Then we started to hear from clubmakers who would call up to order products and they would happen to say, hey by the way I’m ordering these for a fitting for a guy who just walked in from out of nowhere with your book in his hand. So granted it’s just a trickle, but if there was some way we could really get this message out and get more and more golfers to read some of this information, they’re ready for it. They want to find a little bit different way to do things from the standpoint of their equipment so they have more confidence their money was well spent.

GolfWRX: Definitely, I know I’m one of the many readers of your book and it was without a doubt one of the most eye-opening experiences about golf equipment and I’d like to give you a little plug for the new book which is called, “The Right Sticks: Equipment Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game.”

Tom Wishon: It’s funny how quickly things change in the industry and since 2005 when I did the first “Search” book to now there have been a few things which have changed. So there’s a little bit of new information but by and large the publisher likes what I do, the bookstores like what I do because it sells. So for them it’s all about money. For me it’s more about the chance to educate. The books are basically like a broken record. They keep talking about why custom fitting is better than standard off the rack and they give examples in specific parts of each person’s bag with that. But it’s important because this is the only way I have to get this message out. This is a good opportunity with the “Right Sticks” book because the buyers of Barnes and Noble and Borders contacted our publisher and they asked me to write a specific book in a specific format. The internet is huge today and the bookstores are scared of it because people get a lot of their instant information today from the web. Not as many people are sitting down to read 300 or 400 page books as there used to be. So they wanted me to do a book that would be short, covering different topics, no topic covered in more than 3-5 pages so people could get this kind of instant information that they’re getting off the internet. I agreed to do the book and supposedly book stores are going to be promoting this book a little more. So for me it’s all about how many golfers can I get this message to because if I get this message into the minds of the majority of golfers are going to listen to it and say, “Hey that makes sense, that makes total sense. This is what I need to do next time I go look for golf clubs.”

GolfWRX: What about your career has been the most frustrating part?

Tom Wishon: No question, the roadblocks that have been put up to the “Search” books. I have been on the Golf Digest technical panel since 1994. I have a really close relationship with all the technical writers for all the Golf Digest magazines. When the first “Search” book came out they put it in there and the whole thing. From that I had an opportunity, we did a little booklet called, “12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game.” The reason we did that was so clubmakers could have something that was very cheap and inexpensive to give away to golfers. The “Search” book was 300 pages and was too expensive for clubmakers to give away at $20 a pop. We created this “12 Myths” booklet which had key excerpts from the “Search” book and we were selling it to the clubmakers at 75 cents a tour cost so they could give it away. The more “12 Myths” booklets they would give away the more fittings they could potentially see. The guy who was the head of the Golf Digest website at the time, this was back in 2006. He was a guy I had known, he had been a journeyman writer for them. I gave him a copy of “12 Myths” and he got back to me and said this is great stuff, can you put this on audio, read these, and we’ll put them on our website. I said sure thing and did. I sent them our files, and kept looking on their website and didn’t see it. Then sent him an e-mail and never heard back. Many weeks later I got an e-mail from the guy form his home e-mail address not his Golf Digest e-mail address. Long story short, the audio files had gone up on their website for part of one day. Two phone calls came in from two of the very large companies which said if you keep these up you won’t see any more advertising money form us. This guy got reprimanded big time for putting the “12 Myths” up on the website by the high-ups of the magazine. Long story short, it caused him to get really frustrated and seven or eight months later he quit after 15 years with the magazine because he was so disappointed that good information like this got shut down from going to the golfers simply because two companies who buy millions and millions of dollars of ads from GolfDigest and GolfWorld said get rid of this or you can kiss our ad dollars goodbye. So, it told me that some people out in the industry don’t want this information to be known. Since that time in bringing out the other books I’ve maybe had one or two other blurbs in the major magazines about my books. The other ones just ignore it because they’re afraid. Off the record they tell me, “We can’t put your stuff up Tom because it’s going to upset too many people who control too much revenue for our magazine.” I’ve got to say that’s the number one most frustrating thing we’ve experienced – here’s some really good information to help golfers make better buying decisions and there are a whole bunch of people who don’t want that information to be heard.
GolfWRX: That’s really unfortunate, but part of what we can do here is get you a little more exposure about it so we’re excited to hear what you have to say. Can you talk a little about some of the influences you’ve had in your career and some of the people who have influenced you?

Tom Wishon: Most definitely one of the things that got me switched on about digging into learning how things work is when I got my first copy of “Search for the Perfect Swing” by A.J. Cochran and John Stobbs who wrote the book in 1968. That really began the – I’ve got to say “Search for the Perfect Swing” was the trigger that made the golf industry look at engineering their designs instead of just putting out another club that had a different color face insert, or different shaped sole plate, or different color stain on the head. I lived, ate, and breathed with that book, that was something that really triggered that. It was definitely a giant influence in that. The other thing was that I didn’t come out of college with a formal degree in engineering, science, or physics background. Everything I learned about that I learned on the way. So I’ve always learned there are a lot of people out there who have knowledge who if I can turn it in the right direction they can help me learn a lot more too. So there have been a lot of people in my career who I have been able to consult with and who have mentored me. It wasn’t that they knew everything about golf per say but they knew the science and between me and them being able to adapt the science in the right direction, that opened a lot of the doors for really looking at a lot of the stuff we now know and bringing it up and verifying it through a very scientific means. That has been a huge help to me over my life because I realized I don’t know everything and I need to go out and get some help to be able to dig in the right area to be able to come up with the right answers.

GolfWRX: How has golf equipment changed in the last ten years? Are clubs really becoming that much more forgiving? Because even though we’re seeing new changes to clubs and radical designs, we’re not seeing the average handicap drop by much.

Tom Wishon: The biggest reason – and let me put it this way, science really began in golf clubs in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It basically started when Karsten Solheim and a handful of other people recognized that investment casting was a good way to make clubheads. That opened the door for being able to change centers of gravity in clubheads, it opened the door for being able to make cavity backs to get more perimeter weighting for more off-center hit forgiveness and that really triggered the advent of real engineering science in the golf industry. If you say over the past 10 years, 10 years happens to be 1998 which is the year the USGA enacted the rule which put a limit on coefficient of restitution on clubfaces. That began this whole thing of, and I’m sorry if people don’t agree with me, is the USGA’s paranoia. It has really had an effect. First came the COR rule, then came the rule limiting the size of heads to 460cc’s and various dimensional requirements, then you had the limit on the length of the club, then you had the limit on moment of inertia and now you’re looking on various rules that potentially could change the score line configuration. Really and truly, when you look at these five different rule changes as they’ve come about there was no scientific testing done by the USGA to find out what the effects of higher COR were. They got paranoid, they looked at all the drivers that were submitted, they said here is the highest one we’ve seen so far, and we’re sticking the limit right there. They never tested to find out what the effect is if we let the limit go up to .86 or .88. Not one scientific test done to determine what would be the effect of a 500 or 600cc driver head on the game. There wasn’t a test done to determine the effect of a 50-inch driver when they set the limit at 48 inches. There was no test done to determine what would a higher and higher and higher moment of inertia do. Then finally in doing this proposal for the rule change they’re looking at for score lines then they finally decided to go do a major, major test to determine the effects. Then they found that the score line configuration system only affects the really good ball striker with really good swing fundamentals and has no effect on the average guy. Yet they’re pushing these rules through because they’re paranoid about what’s going on at the elite level of the game with Tour players. So that’s been a big one, that really has put some limits on the industry. It changed the landscape a bit over the past ten years. I think the other thing that has changed is we’re at a point where there are five golf club companies who control nearly 80% of the premium golf club business out there. So that means that these five companies if you add their total sales up comprise $4 billion worth of golf sales every year. So when you get to the point where you have five companies averaging $700 million a year in sales, that means in order to make their numbers, every single year they’ve got to sell 300 -400,000 drivers, 300 -400,000 fairway woods, 200-250,00 sets of irons. So that means when these companies come out and they market on the basis of a new technology they saturate the market with that technology in one year. So one year goes by, they can’t get two full years of their required forecast sales out of one new technology any more. You go back to the 80’s and 90’s even and companies could get two or three years out of a brand new technology. So here you have a situation with all the marketing that crows about a brand new technology coming out each year, it changes the next year. I think what it does do at least some golfers out there, it puts the golfers in a situation where they say, “Wait a minute you’re changing your mind already? You’re telling me there’s something out there that’s better than the year before and it’s only one year later?” The golfers go out and buy these things and the majority don’t improve to the level they think they should based on the ads or marketing they read about it. So I think you’re getting into a situation now where a lot of golfers are beginning to adopt a little bit of a mindset where a lot of golfers say fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you. I think that’s starting to affect the frequency of buying new equipment among new golfers. That began four or five years ago. Certainly this year we’re in a little bit different situation because of the recession, price of gas, daily expenses are going up for all of us, price of real estate is going down. Certainly, there is no question that is slowing down sales in the golf industry. But this whole thing of things beginning to flatten out a little bit, companies not growing quite as fast as they have before, that began four or five years ago when the product life cycle began to get shorter and shorter and companies began bringing out things every year and touting them as being great. Those are big things that have happened over the last ten years that have had a real impact on the golf equipment industry.

GolfWRX: Now you touched on writing the book, "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and like you said it has been a big change in terms of how stuff is marketed and how people look at custom clubfitting.

Tom Wishon: Of course I go way back and I have been reading golf magazines all my life. But as I got to be more and more involved in the golf industry and as I became more and more knowledgeable about golf clubs, reading some of the ads or statements about golf clubs really got to be frustrating to me. I said, "Gee man I know a lot about golf clubs and I know this is not completely true, what I am hearing." But what about all those millions of golfers who don’t know quite as much as I do who aren’t being influenced by this. I said someday I’ve got to be given the chance to write about golf clubs for consumer golfers so they can learn more of the truth of what’s going on. As I said, I was at Golfsmith I begged them to let me do that book and they wouldn’t allow me to do that because they were building a giant retail division that was making most of its money selling OEM clubs. I knew the information I would want to write about to educate golfers probably would fly in the face of that business model. But the impetus was strictly the fact that I knew people who really don’t know or have the opportunity to know as much about golf clubs as I do from my work, I really felt they needed to know some of these truths so they could make a lot better informed buying decision about their golf clubs and from that potentially be able to play a little bit better and enjoy the game a little bit more.

GolfWRX: I know your book has potentially helped a lot of people do that. Another book you mentioned was your "12 Myths." Is there one mistake you see most golfers making with their equipment?

Tom Wishon: The biggest mistake, and it’s not fault of their own, please I’m not faulting golfers for this because they can only ask about the things they know about and there has been no marketing on the basis of how professional clubfitting could potentially benefit a wide range of golfers, the biggest thing is the fact that we still sit here and fight a lot – the myth that perpetuates that custom fitting is only for good players. I just noticed Frank Thomas, who was the Technical Director for the USGA for 26 years or so and now he has been on his own for the last several years doing consulting. He has just written a book and in that book he states, "Standard clubs are fine for all golfers until you get to a point where you shoot in the mid-70’s." Well that’s garbage. Frank doesn’t know fitting. He’s never worked in it. He’s never done the research to see what the effects are of a shorter length, higher loft, proper face angle, proper total weight, proper shaft can do for an 18 handicap golfer compared to what he can buy off the rack standard as advised by some nine dollar an hour guy who doesn’t really know more about golf clubs than he does. So that is probably the biggest one most people still cling to the myth that I’m not good enough to be custom fit and that’s only for good players. It’s the exact opposite. I’ve almost coined a new phrase over the last few years here as I’ve watched all this, "A golfers level of improvement and score improvement is inversely proportional to their handicap when they get custom fit." IN other words if we go out and fit a 2, 3, 4, or 5 handicapper and it’s pretty rare that from the fitting they actually lower their score. It can happen if we include wedge and putter fitting because those clubs affect the score more directly than any other clubs in the bag. But when you look at 14, 18, 23 handicappers, these are golfers who regularly get the ball airborne most of the time, they generally make the same mistakes in their swing most of the time. Sure a lot of people still hook and slice with this, but if you look at shot patterns, you do one more than the other. All of these people have been playing with clubs that are standard off the rack. Woods are too long, most of the irons are too low lofted, they’ve got the wrong set makeup, they definitely don’t have their total weight and swing weight matched for their size, strength, athletic ability, and swing. You can just go down the list with all the different ways to change things to help offset some of the mistakes average players make. It happens all the day long. For years since I’ve worked in this side of the industry, I wish I had kept track. It would be a gigantic number of e-mails, letters and phone calls from clubmakers who would relay their experience of taking some average golfer, completely refitting him, out he goes, and he’s about five or shots better. He only loses one ball a day instead of three. Things like that which are forms of measurable improvement for golfers. So it does happen. That’s been the biggest myth we fight, is just the sheer education of who can benefit and by how much from professional custom fitting.

GolfWRX: Another hot button issue is the Tour versus retail debate. We were wondering if we could get your take on exactly what the differences are?

Tom Wishon: Having had a little bit of experience in my past creating original club head design or original custom fit designs for a handful of tour players, there are some that can play with the stock head that’s made to be shafted up in standard form and sold off the rack. In my experience Bruce Lietzke was one of those. We could take a head I had created, that was a low offset players shape profile moderate cavity back. He didn’t need any variations on the heads. He just needed his shaft, his length, his total weight, his swing weight, etc. that sort of thing. Then you run into people like Scott Verplank and Payne Stewart who had to have something made from scratch. Different grind here, different swoop from the toe, different topline, different look for the bottom of the hosel, different leading edge look, on and on and on where each one had to be hand ground and custom made until they would look at it and say, "Okay, now put it together with my specs, my shaft, and everything like that." I also remember back when I was at Golfsmith back in 1998 when we bought Lynx out of bankruptcy and then the trucks came in and unloaded all the junk and all the assets and stuff from having bought Lynx. When I was going through all the boxes and boxes of stuff from the R&D side I would see molds specially made for the Lynx players, heads that had been specially made for players that had been on the Lynx staff over the years. Outside, they looked like what was being sold that particular year off the rack, but when you looked at it, you said, "No, that’s a different type of clubhead that this guy insisted they make just for him." There are some cases out there where the Tour players insist on something that is very different form what the head would be that is built to the standard form to be sold off the rack. Probably more of that I would say in my experience than players who would just take the standard head and have it built with their shaft and to their specs out there. So those differences do exist but they only exist for that particular player. It’s not like saying, gee I love this suit Bono was wearing at a charity event. I’ve got to go buy that exact suit in Bono’s size. Well it doesn’t fit you like that. It’s the same thing to go out there and buy something that is a Tour issue, maybe it isn’t what you need and it won’t do you any favors in that. But if it makes your ego feel good, I guess maybe you spent your money and got some pleasure from it. It’s really the only reason Tour players ever have special models made for them – it is because they and only they wanted these changes on something they and only they would play in competition. That doesn’t mean it’s right for a guy who wants to wave it in front of his playing partners and say, "I’ve got the same head Ernie Els played with in competition."

GolfWRX: Another thing I remember reading is your advocacy of shorter than stock lengths. Why is it we are seeing more OEMs go to longer driver lengths which are approaching 46 inches stock and stronger lofts which are based off 44 degree pitching wedges?

Tom Wishon: Most of my focus on the length thing falls in the driver and wood area a little bit more than it does in the iron area although there is a definite history for this. If you go back to the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s era, going into that era or the 50’s and 60’s and before, if you wanted to be a golf company you had to make everything yourself. There were no subcontract factories out there to make your heads for you. You had to make your heads. You could buy the shafts from True Temper and the grips from Golf Pride, but you had to make your own stuff. Now when investment casting hit the industry, that all changed. A couple of the big golf club companies tried to open up their own foundries and they found it wasn’t very cost effective unless they could do a whole lot more than just make their own heads. So what evolved then was a series of subcontract factories, investment casting factories. Once that happened, you didn’t have to really be all that knowledgeable manufacturing wise to get into the golf club business. When you went in this era when investment casting took over, the number of golf club companies between the mid-60’s and mid-70’s, almost tripled. So now all of a sudden you have this intense competition so to try and get themselves above the rest of the competition two things happened, some companies started making their lofts lower because they knew people would go out and if they hit this year’s five iron ten yards further than last year’s five iron they would think, hey that’s a better golf club. People didn’t know what the loft numbers were on the five iron or six iron or any of their club heads. So lower lofts, shrinking loft disease as I call it in my book began from the move to investment casting and the sheer competition that came because of it. Longer lengths was the other one because most of these companies whenever they go out and create a brand new model. In the old days, a lot of testing was simply gather around a whole bunch of good golfers, give them a golf club, and get their feedback. Good golfers with good swing fundamentals will get a higher club head speed from a longer length shaft. So somebody got the bright idea, hey drivers have been 43 inches long forever. Let’s make our driver 44 inches, people will hit it farther and they’ll love us. That began this whole thing with length also. So once the first companies began to increase length and decrease loft, every company had to do it. You could not get away with it because at least in the area of loft that was a definite. If you start making a five iron at 28 degrees instead of 33, virtually every golfer is going to hit that further when they make solid contact. The other side of the coin, the longer length driver, that was something most companies didn’t understand because they weren’t doing any kind of research into fitting. It’s really only the golfer with the inside-out path or the square path and late wrist cock release who are going to get a higher clubhead speed from a longer length shaft. I’ve done this test twice in my career where take different length drivers with golfers of all different levels of abilities and that’s what we learned from it – those golfers who swing a little over to top to a lot over the top and those golfers who release their wrist cock a little early to a lot early – they don’t see higher clubhead speeds with longer length shafts. How many are there like that? A whole lot more with poor swing fundamentals than there are good swing fundamentals out there. So that’s why I camp on driver length and wood length. All those standard lengths being 45-46 inches for a man’s driver with every single company out there, it’s really hurting the majority of golfers who buy those things off the rack. That’s why we get so many positive reports from clubmakers when they take these over the top, outside-in, or early(ish) release players, get them into something that’s 43-44 inches and see that they actually hit the center more often and they hit it straighter with that. Yet nobody questions this because it’s a big, big company, they make tons of money, they’ve got tons of players on Tour playing this stuff, how can they be wrong? Well, 46 inch drivers don’t work for the majority of golfers and that’s why I camp on that as a big one because if you do get that change and you are a golfer who is a little over the top to a lot over the top or a little early to a lot early release, you will definitely hit the tee ball better with a shorter length driver.

GolfWRX: Now kind of on a side note to that, what would happen if all the irons in a set had the same length of shaft?

Tom Wishon: That’s an interesting  one. I’ve followed that and there have been discussions on forums about that sort of thing. It’s possible, most definitely because when you look at your set of irons and ask what is it that makes that 10 or 12 yard difference between each of my irons? 80-85% of it is the loft change. Only 10-15% of it comes from the length difference. Actually with an awful lot of golfers, let me give you an example you can pick any two irons in the set, say a 7 and 8 iron. Keep those at those actual loft differences but make both clubs the same length. You’ll pretty much hit those clubs the same length within a yard or two when they were a half inch difference from them. Now change those lengths by an inch or more and then that length comes in with an awful lot of golfers out there with that. So in theory it’s possible to go out and build a set of irons so they’re all the same length. But you get your distance difference strictly between the lofts. Now you might have to some cases tweak the loft increments than the typical 3-4 degrees to ensure that but it can be done. There is an example in the history of equipment for a company having done that. We got back to the mid-90’s or 96, or 97 I think it was when Tommy Armour Golf brought out a model called the EQL. That model sold standard off the rack, all the woods were the same length as a five wood. All the irons were the same length as the six iron. In addition to talking about consistency there, we now know later that by making all the clubs the same length you’re also making the moment of inertia the same, but they didn’t tout that back in those days. Long story short, six months later, Armour basically was out of business. The reasons were two fold. Number one there were enough golfers who noticed they couldn’t hit the five wood as far as they used to hit their old driver and that hurt them because nobody wants to lose that much distance off the tee or at least those who do lose the distance and don’t like it are very vocal about it. Then you have this situation where golfers who were playing a set of irons that were all the same length as a six iron were starting to have problems with their 9, PW, those clubs down there – they hit them too far. Or they felt they didn’t have the finesse feel to be able to knock it down into a half shot or three quarter shot so they were losing shots around the greens and they were not patient enough to work with that long length on the short irons and get used to it. Armour went bankrupt as a result of that one product line introduction. So I can say single length irons – sure. If a golfer is very inconsistent with the irons that might be worth an experiment there. But along with that you might have to be very patient with the situations that can come along with the 8, 9, PW to be able to control those shots when you need to hit a less than full swing shot.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jack Demyan

    Jan 17, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Interesting article and makes much sense. I’m 68 yrs old with a 4 index. I’ve had the same thoughts about the value (or lack thereof) of purchasing clubs at a “rack store” for some time and have been doing alot of research on Tom Wishon since talking with Rick @ TnT Golf here in Augusta. I met Rick while contemplating changing shafts in a set of irons and he got me hooked on doing the “right thing” with custome clubs. I am currently set-up for a fitting with Rick next Monday and feel confident in the results I will receive. Hopefully, I can find this web stie again and let you know how everything worked out and also let you know how much I am enjoying my new custom fit. I’m looking forward to seeing some improvement but realize that the results may not be world changing. At the very least I am hoping to enjoy the game more with clubs built just for me.

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

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Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
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Adam Woodard at Golfweek hyping the Trojans! 
“There’s no denying the NCAA Championship-level talent on hand this week at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M.”
  • “Since its inception in 2014, the event has boasted the best field in women’s Div. I golf. But if you ask preseason No. 1 USC, this week’s competition at Royal Golf Club is no more difficult than one of its pre-tournament qualifiers.”
  • “If you ask (Gabriela Ruffels), probably the biggest driver in her improvement is having to compete at home every week in qualifiers,” head coach Justin Silverstein said of his 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
  • “Silverstein’s squad returns eight players – five of whom were Golfweek All-Americans – from last season’s team that won seven events. Just how good are the Trojans on paper…”

(Find out in the) full piece.

6. Knee injury for Rose
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Rose withdrew from Wednesday’s pro-am at the European Tour’s flagship event citing a knee injury.”
  • “Last Thursday I slipped and jarred my knee,” Rose said in a statement. “Since then I have been getting treatment on the injury and I have been working hard with Justin Buckthorp and my medical team away from the course in order to ensure I am able to play in this week’s BMW PGA Championship. I am doing everything I can to be fit to play on Thursday.”

Full piece.

7. Who needs an equipment makeover?
I don’t agree with the premise, but it’s a witty piece nevertheless! E. Michael Johnson at Golf Digest rounds up players in need of an “equipment makeover”
“Henrik Stenson…It’s hard to knock a former major winner who also sits at No. 31 in the world ranking, but it’s time for Henrik Stenson to retire some clubs in his bag, notably the Callaway Legacy irons and Callaway Diablo Octane 3-wood (above). We know he has the strongest level of comfort with that fairway wood. But it dates back more than a decade (it debuted in 2008), and the Grafalloy Blue shaft in it goes back another five years to 2003. It’s one thing to have a “trusty” club in the bag. It’s another to have something that leads people to believe you might have stolen it from the USGA Golf House Museum. As for the irons, Stenson used this model to win the FedEx Cup … in 2013. We applaud loyalty, just not this much.”
“Bubba Watson…”I hate changing equipment,” Bubba Watson told Golf Digest in 2013. When it comes to his irons, that’s a bit of an understatement. The two-time Masters champion has used his Ping S55 irons since the 2012 BMW Championship (save for a few weeks with a different set). This after using the company’s S59 irons since 2004. So change comes slowly for Bubba. There are reasons, however. For starters, Watson is the ultimate “feel player,” noticing the slightest of differences. His specs are also not typical. His S55s are a half-inch longer in length with an extreme heel grind on the 3- through 5-irons. They’re also one degree upright, and the grips are massively oversized with 10 wraps of tape on the top and 12 wraps on the bottom. Still, having the same irons for seven seasons would seem to indicate it’s time for a change-even if you don’t like it.”
8. The craziest thing you’ve ever done for golf? 
Ryan Barath frames his trip to Sweetens Cove for the Oil Hardened Classic…
  • “Let me start by saying that I’m not a “Bag Tag Barry” or really a bucket list course kinda guy. Yes, I have courses I want to play, but at the moment the highest on the list starts and ends with the Old Course at St. Andrews – because, simple – it’s St. Andrews. Beyond that, my “hoping to play” list pretty much the standard classics.”
  • “But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t gone WAY out of my way to play, especially when you think about the recent 1600-plus mile journey I just took to Sweetens Cove to play in the First Annual “Oil Hardened Classic” run by Eternal Summer Golf Society.
  • “Sweetens has been on my radar since I first heard about it, and if you are at all interested in course architecture I’m sure it has been on your radar for a while too…”

Full piece.

9. The golf art you didn’t know you needed
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”Phil Mickelson’s foray into social media the past year has produced its share of art works. But the masterpiece-or should we say, Masters piece-that made the digital rounds on Monday takes that phenomenon to a new level.”
“Matt Landers is a painter specializing in oil canvasing. A fact we only know thanks to this thing of beauty…”

 

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Morning 9: Solheim Cup finish for the ages | Credit where it’s due | Will Tiger pick Tiger? continued

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

September 16, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. For the ages!
Ron Sirak for LPGA.com says this year’s Solheim Cup was one of the best ever (and he’s not wrong!)…”Rarely in sports does reality match expectation. More often than not, the happening falls short of the hype. But the 14½-13½ Solheim Cup victory by Europe over the United States on Sunday at Gleneagles was better than advertised – almost better than imaginable.”
  • “You’d have to search far and wide to find a more dramatic finish anywhere in the history of sports. With the last shot of the day, Suzann Pettersen – a controversial captain’s pick – rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to secure the victory. A miss and the U.S. would have won for the third consecutive time.”
  • “Like the Ryder Cup, this has just grown so hugely,” said Catriona Matthew, the Scottish woman who captained Europe to victory in her homeland. “It came down to the last putt on the last hole. You can’t get more exciting than that.”
  • “The victory by Europe denied Juli Inkster a chance to become the only captain with three victories and it stopped the Americans from winning three in a row for the third time in the competition. The Solheim Cup now stand 10-6 in favor of the United States.”

Full piece.

2. Credit where it’s due
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins says that while Pettersen will rightfully get the headlines, don’t forget the work of Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall at Gleneagles.
  • “But while all of this is going on, let’s not forget two other players who deserve a lot of the credit for Europe’s win: Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall. Each posted 4-0-0 records for the week, and together they earned five of Europe’s 14½ points at Gleneagles.”
  • “Like Pettersen, Catriona Matthew took Boutier with one of her captain’s picks. The 25-year-old from France won her first LPGA event in February, the ISPS Handa Vic Open. She then went on to top-10 finish in two major championships, making her a sensible choice.”

Full piece.

3. Bright spots for the U.S. 
Golfweek’s Roxanna Scott on the shining stars for the Stars & Stripes…”Rookie Nelly Korda joined her older sister Jessica as the leading players for the U.S., with both earning 3½ of four points. Friday they played together in morning foursomes, making history as the first sisters to be paired in a Solheim Cup match. It was also the first time their parents, Petr and Regina, watched their daughters play together. The sisters won their opening match 6 and 4, and went on to dominate Carlota Ciganda and Bronte Law 6 and 5 in Saturday’s foursomes.”
  • “Both Kordas were down early in their singles matches Sunday. Nelly Korda was down by three against Caroline Hedwall before the American made consecutive birdies on the 10 and 11th holes. Nelly Korda won the match 2 up.”
  • “Jessica Korda was down by two against Caroline Masson before she pulled it to all square on the 8th. Jessica Korda had three birdies in her last five holes to win 3 up.”

Full piece.

4. A late bid to flip his 2019 script
A year notable more for destroying courses in a literal sense sees Garcia get the better of a track…
SkySports report…”Sergio Garcia has won the KLM Open by one shot from Nicolai Hojgaard after finishing 18 under in Amsterdam to claim his 16th European Tour title.”
  • “Garcia went into the final day as joint-leader with Callum Shinkwin and seemed on course for a routine victory as he led by two shots at the fifth.”
  • “His playing partner Shinkwin then edged ahead by one shot at the seventh following successive bogeys on a mixed front nine at The International from the Spaniard.”
  • “But a double bogey at the 10th by Englishman Shinkwin offered Garcia some hope and the 2017 Masters champion looked to have sealed victory with a stunning approach from the rough at the 16th, despite having his feet in the bunker for the awkward second shot to dial in to five feet.”
5. Niemann breaks through
The first victory by a Chilean on the PGA Tour will no doubt be the first of many for Mr. Niemann.
  • AP report…”The 20-year-old cruised to a dominant six-stroke win on Sunday at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, picking up his first career win in the inaugural event of the 2019-20 season.”
  • “My game was feeling great, and mentally (it) was awesome,” Niemann said. “I was just feeling like I was going to win this tournament since the first day. I was in a really good mindset.”
  • “Niemann entered the final round with a comfortable two-shot lead over the field, and started the day steady – firing a 1-under 33 on the front nine.”
  • “That’s when he took off…”

Full piece.

6. 2 months, 2 Champions Tour wins
AP report…”Jerry Kelly played bogey-free Sunday at Warwick Hills and closed with a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the Ally Challenge, his second victory this year on the PGA Tour Champions.”
  • “Kelly also won two months ago in his native Wisconsin at the American Insurance Family Championship.”
  • “He started the final round with a one-shot lead over Charles Schwab Cup leader Scott McCarron and Woody Austin. McCarron fell apart with a 75. Austin remained within one shot until a bogey on the par-4 15th, and Kelly stretched his lead to three with a birdie on the par-3 17th.”

Full piece. 

7. Tour pulls back curtain on POY voting process, says integrity is “not up for debate”
Golf.com’s Josh Berhow got in touch with the PGA Tour to discuss the…much remarked upon…2019 PGA Tour Player of the Year award given to Rory McIlroy…
  • “In a phone interview with GOLF.com, Laura Neal, the Tour’s senior vice president of communications, did not say how many players voted in 2019 but she did say that in any given year 45 to 60 percent of players participate. The Tour also provided GOLF.com with a copy of the ballot” [see in the link to “full piece”]
  • “…Neal said the ballot is delivered electronically to eligible voters – players who have played in at least 15 events. The completed ballots go directly to the Tour’s accounting firm, Grant Thornton. Employees there tabulate the votes without Tour supervision and send the results to the Tour. The process is broadly similar to how Academy Award votes are tabulated.”
  • “Feel free to debate whether the PGA Tour membership should have voted Rory or Brooks as Player of the Year,” Neal wrote in an email Friday. “What’s not up for debate is the Tour’s integrity – in this process or otherwise.”

Full piece.

8. Will Tiger pick Tiger, continued
Woods filed a captain’s blog for PGATour.com as he ponders his captains picks…
  • “While I was disappointed to not earn one of the top 8 spots, I’m hopeful to perform well at my next start in Japan. In the meantime, I’m going to rely on playing with some of the guys in Florida to stay sharp. I’ll practice hard, work on my game, and we’ll have some matches. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also always fun.”
  • “At the end of the day, the decision of who rounds out this team will ultimately be my call, but I’m going to lean heavily on the opinions of my captain’s assistants and the eight guys who have already earned a spot. My plan is to keep an open line of communication to ensure we find the four guys who best fit this team. We will be watching the fall events closely. There are so many guys who are world-class players who aren’t yet on the team like Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth and many more. The Fall events will also allow me to get extended looks at two young rookies, Matthew Wolff and Colin Morikawa, who both played well after turning pro late in the season.”

Full piece.

9. Niemann on Presidents Cup squad? 
From a piece by PGATour.com’s Helen Ross…

Els, who will announce his picks in early November along with U.S. Captain Tiger Woods, was well aware of what Niemann had done. The Chilean finished the automatic qualification period ranked 28th.

  • …”What a fantastic win for Joaquin at The Greenbrier,” Els told PGA TOUR officials via text message. “I’m really proud of him, and it’s a wonderful start to his season. I’m looking forward to more of his great play.”
  • Niemann may be a relative newbie as far as The Presidents Cup is concerned. But he’s clearly focused on playing for Els at Royal Melbourne in December, calling it a “dream” – not unlike his wide-ranging thoughts on Sunday morning.
  • “I know that there is a lot of good players fighting for the first spots,” Niemann said. “I know it’s going to be tough, and this win definitely helps to get a little — probably a little help to get in the first spots. But I don’t know yet.
  • “Just got to be patient and get a couple more tournaments to have good golf and hopefully get in that team.”

Full piece.

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Tour Rundown: Incredible Solheim Cup | Niemann, Garcia, Kelly

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In the northeast USA, where I live, the leaves are poised to change colors. There was a generational change in this week’s Solheim Cup where a young European team showed it could win at singles. There was a generational change in West Virginia, site of the first event of the 2019-20 PGA Tour. It wasn’t quite the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but the second weekend of September gave us a glimpse of the exciting, young talent that inhabits all the world’s tours. And so, we are more than happy to offer a Tour Rundown for Monday, September 16th, 2019.

Solheim Cup won on home soil by Europe

Last weekend, a young USA team of amateurs left British soil with the Walker Cup, thanks to a singles-day rally. Team Europe made certain that the history did not repeat itself so promptly, albeit with a similar comeback of its own. The young European team was championed by Suzanne Pettersen but made a name for itself, Young promise in the guise of Georgia Hall, Bronte Law, Carlota Ciganda and Celine Boutier earned Sunday wins for the Blue team. Their efforts were supported by stalwarts like Pettersen and Nordqvist. The latter smoked Morgan Pressel in the day’s final match, ending it early at 4 & 3, giving Team Europe a boost in the day’s closing moments.

It was left to Pettersen, on the cusp of retirement, to knock down a 10-feet birdie putt on the final hole, outlasting the USA’s Marina Alex by 1-up and securing a Solheim Cup in her farewell appearance. Team golf isn’t always brilliant, but the Presidents Cup in December, and the Ryders and Curtises of 2020 would do well to emulate the spirit of Solheim Cup Gleneagles.

Niemann fulfills promise with first Tour title

The thing with prodigies is, they feel like they’ve been here forever. The trouble with golf prodigies is, if they don’t win enough, they never win enough as professionals. Joaquin Niemann won the 2018 Latin America Championship. That’s a big event, as it earned him invitations to the Masters, U.S. and Open championships of that year. He was the No. 1-ranked golfer as an amateur, but that was the only big win he ever had. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t an NCAA title, nor a USGA Junior, nor an Amateur championship from the isles nor the USA. Niemann looked good and played well, but he never threatened to win anything else, until Sunday.

Niemann turned pro after that 2018 Masters, giving up the chance to play in the twin Open championships. This week, he worked his way around the Greenbrier Resort’s Old White course like the conductor of a train, or a symphony. The young Chilean held a towo-shot advantage with 18 holes to play, but ceded the top spot to Tom Hoge after front-nine struggles. On the inward half, he was the Niemann of old (or should that be, of young?), posting six birdies for 31 and 64 on the day.

Hoge could not keep pace, and settled for second spot at 15 under, six shots behind the winner. Early in the week, the news belonged to Kevin Chappell, who posted 59 in round two. Curiously, the Californian never visited the 60s all week, with three rounds in the 70s, and a place in the middle of the pack. From on high, looking down, stood a young golfer, beginning to fulfill his promise.

Kelly locks up midwest for locals in Michigan

There have been a few events of note in the upper midwest of the USA on this season’s PGA Tour Champions. Jerry Kelly won the AFI in Wisconsin in June, and was followed by friendly rival Steve Stricker at the Senior Open in Indiana. In sort of a rubber match resolution, Kelly came back this week to claim the Ally Challenge in Michigan, posting a two-stroke victory over Woody Austin. Even if Stricker had entered this week, he would have been pressed to keep up with his fellow cheesehead.

Kelly was that little-bit better than everyone else during every round, this week. Beginning round three a shot off the pace, Scott McCarron inexplicably faded again, adding wood to the suggestion that he will never become the clutch player that his physical talents deserve. His 75 dropped him to a tie for 15th. Kelly never wavered, posting four birdies on the day for 68. His only bogey of the week came on Thursday’s ninth hole, and it was more than offset by a run of five consecutive birdies, mid-day Friday. With the victory, his second of the year, Kelly jumped into second spot on the season-long Schwab Cup list, just behind McCarron.

Garcia rehearses alphabet in march to KLM win

In the late 2000s, the Spanish Royal Academy eliminated the LL from its alphabet. That news was lost on golfers, until this week’s KLM Open in Holland. Sergio Garcia, clearly not worried about a KLLLM disparity, won by one slim stroke over Nicolai Hojgaard.

Absent this week from the Spaniard’s performance were the phlegm-filled, earthworm-seeking histrionics that have spotted an otherwise-memorable career. Garcia’s game was on, with birdies at 15 and 16 affording a cushion for a 17th-hole bogey. In fact, Garcia made seven birdies on the day, most of any, on the week, for the Iberian. The unheralded Hojgaar, hailing from Denmark, was in control most of the day. His late bogey, at the 16th, brought him to 4 over on the week for the antipenultimate hole. If he looks back with any regret on the week, it would certainly focus on the wee par 4.

Fishburn secures elevation at Canada Life Championship

At week’s opening, Patrick Fishburn held a tenuous grasp of the fifth and final hockey sweater, symbolic of a Korn Ferry Tour card for 2020. By Sunday evening, the young man from the USA had secured not only a promotion to the next level of tour success but all the confidence that comes with a clutch victory. On Fishburn’s heels in the Order of Merit, just $1,000 back, was Hayden Buckley. Just outside but with some hope, was David Pastore. Buckley faded this week, finishing mid-pack, but Pastore was electric. He posted constantly-improving scores of 68-66-65-63, concluding the week a solid 18 under par. He beat everyone in the field … everyone but Fishburn.

The young alum from BYU never strayed from the mid-60s, posting a pair of 64 over the weekend to outdistance the field with a 21-under par for a total. The title was Fishburn’s first of the year, and certainly must have provided the sort of assurance that beating the field brings. With the victory, Fishburn, Lorens Chan and Jake Knapp of the USA joined Canada’s Taylor Pendrith and France’s Paul Barjon in the elite group of five to receive life-altering tour sweaters and membership in the penultimate stage of tour success.

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