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Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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Scott is a writer with a love for all things golf. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science from the US Air Force Academy and can be found on twitter @commishidente.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Jeremy

    Jun 12, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    This is a great concept. I just found out that you can purchase the driver if you love it and all you monthly payments go towards the purchase price. They also told me that as a member, i get free shaft swaps at anytime, i just have to pay for the shipping which seems reasonable. I have a driver that i like but have been really wanting to try something new to see how good it is. now i can do that for only 90 bucks. if i like it i may play it longer or even buy it. not sure yet but i love the flexibilty.

  2. ButchT

    Apr 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    No senior shafts available?

  3. steve

    Apr 21, 2019 at 10:18 am

    There is a retail shop in Sacramento, California that offers some pretty high-tech fitting technology at no charge, to get you into a club that fits your skill set. How about a golfer getting fitted for a club and learning to be consistent with it. That should last at least a couple of years (minimum) if he or she is any good and willing to make an effort. Chasing that elusive driver is nothing more than throwing money down The drain. However, the reality is that manufactures know consumer golfers are a bunch of suckers!

  4. genius man

    Apr 20, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    there’s no difference between the 913D2 and TS2 for 97% of golfers, the other 3% aren’t renting their goddamn clubs.

    moronic concept that i’m sure will steal millions from morons.

    • Genius Man 2.0

      Apr 23, 2019 at 11:43 am

      The core of your statement is true, for most golfers, there is no difference in performance for a wide span of years. However, I find the statement of “moronic concept” quite ridiculous. There is a large number of people, in fact, the majority of consumers, who would upgrade every year if they could. As a result for most of us paying $30 a month is going to mean we get three years with the newest product in the bag for the price the driver is currently retailing. As a result, there is a clear market at a reasonable price, resulting in a brilliant concept. But hey keep swinging that 913D2 if that’s what you want to do!

  5. Mark Brownell

    Apr 20, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Love the concept, but the have a couple of concerns. I wonder about the word “damaged outside of what the OEM manufacture warranty covers” Obviously we would all agree about structural damages, but paint blems are not covered in OEM warranties. Wondering if you had a paint chip or blem that they would put you on the hook for that?

    Also the shaft options that I can see are limited to 4 or 5 per club. That seems a far cry from the articles implications.

    My
    02

  6. Milo

    Apr 20, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Now can they do other clubs as well?

  7. BeachBum

    Apr 20, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Sounds like a great way to make golf more expensive!
    I love the latest and greatest equipment but any real golfer knows that changing your Driver every 6 months isn’t going to make you better. Unless you are playing 300 rounds a year, you should be able to keep a driver for 3-5 years.
    I’m still playing a Titleist 905S that I bought used for $100, and I still blow it by all my buddies by 20-30 yards, guys that are playing the latest and greatest.

  8. Tiger

    Apr 19, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I signed up nearly a month ago and to date still no driver. I keep getting excuses that they are back ordered. So if you’re going to sign you better check they have it in stock or you will be waiting….

  9. Wilymo

    Apr 19, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Seems like a decent idea that could benefit a large number of people. Especially those that live in areas where the golf season might only be 4-5 months and they aren’t into the whole buy/sell thing. Seems comparable to the camera lens rental market. Of course you could spend $1000 on a lens, use it and sell it and be better off than renting it for say $100 for a weekend. But not everyone wants to spend so much money up front and deal with selling it.

  10. Tiger Noods

    Apr 19, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Frankly, this is a good way to long-term-demo some things, assuming you can get them. I can’t see having this all the time, but if I wanted to try out some stuff, I’d call it money well spent.

    Basically, to make sense, you need to make a call on it within 2 months.

  11. Bryan Hopkins

    Apr 18, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    So let me get this straight… I can spend $500 and own my own driver, play with it for multiple (let’s say 3) years, and then sell it at the end for (let’s say $200). Total net cost of $300 for a 3 year driver.

    Or I could use this model and spend $371 per year to rent a driver that I never truly own. Total net cost for 3 years = $1,113.

    Sounds like a tough one…

    • Bryan

      Apr 19, 2019 at 1:13 am

      Nailed it haha

    • Samson

      Apr 19, 2019 at 9:20 am

      You must not have sold clubs in a while. No way are you getting 200 bucks on a 3 year old driver. Not too mention that you can purchase the driver from dollar driver club at anytime and your monthly payments go towards the purchase price.

    • David Brozenic

      Apr 20, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      Yeah right Bryan, good luck selling your 3 year old driver for $200.

  12. dat

    Apr 18, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Wasn’t there a shaft trial company that did a similar thing? Sounds stupid. I tried the dollar shave club, products weren’t very good and it sure wasn’t a dollar…

  13. BobbyLightGonnaDo.......

    Apr 18, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    After some poking around on thier site it kinda doesnt sound like a terrible way to finance a new driver if you really “need” a new one. They offer the option to buy out remaining balance at the end of the year and they are only charging industry standard prices. From what i understand its like a 0% loan and good luck finding money that cheep anywhere else. Then again im with the guys who buy the stuff 1-3 years old for a fraction of the price, play it for a year then hopefully get 1/2 my money back but usually it ends up in a pile that eventually goes to the kids at the first tee.
    Cool idea they have and hopefully it works (imagine it will to an extent) hopefully the other dollar club doesnt slap them with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

  14. Nick

    Apr 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    For the past few seasons I’ll buy a nice used driver head for about $175, use it for a season, sell it the following season for about $100, then repeat. That seems a heck of a lot cheaper than this.

    • constantine

      Apr 19, 2019 at 9:27 am

      if you like sloppy seconds have at it. Nothing like taking the plastic off a brand new driver. Every driver sent out is brand new.

  15. Rich Douglas

    Apr 18, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    If you purchase a $500 driver and sell it a year later, you’ll probably get around $200 for it. The numbers don’t make sense.

    I used to be such a club ho, chasing one drive (or set of irons, or putter) after another. But then I got fitted professionally for the driver and switched to single-length irons (also fitted professionally). I’ve held onto both for more than two years now–a personal record. I’ll switch only when there is an obvious advancement–really obvious. Like Ping bringing out a single-length set or some amazing advancement in drivers. (No, the TM twisty face thing or Callaway’s “jailbreak” doesn’t qualify.) Like give me a new driver I can fit at 43.5″ in graphite and not lose distance. Otherwise, I’ll just enjoy my best-fit equipment and continue chasing the perfect golf ball.

  16. Chris

    Apr 18, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    What a stupid idea. You could just buy the driver and still have at least $200-250 left in equity. Sell that, and boom, your driver cost you $250-300 to play for the season.

    • samson

      Apr 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

      you must not have read the part that the money you spend monthly goes towards the purchase price if you want to buy it. So you can do the exact same thing you are talking about but try it risk free before making that decision and if the driver you picked doesnt work for you, you upgrade to something else instad of having to spend a few trying to flip for the right price. . It is about performance and ease of access.

  17. IHL

    Apr 18, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    “To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400.”

    who the hell does this? most places will do a fitting at no charge if you’re buying from them. and very few people need a $400 shaft. most will fit into one of the many “stock” offerings from the manufacturer.

    this is like leasing a car, but much worse financially. most golfers don’t change drivers every year. so you’re paying over $700 over the course of 2 years for a driver that retails for $500.

  18. Wileyz

    Apr 18, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    So If I understand this correctly, you’re going to pay $371 to use a $550 product for a year (excluding upgraded shafts) and at the end of the year you own nothing. Personally, I’d pay the extra $175, own it and sell it for $300 at the end of the year. That way it only cost me $250 to use it for the year. The only way this works is if you must have an upgraded shaft.

    • Drew

      Apr 18, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Great point. However, the website says you can buy it after paying for a year. I’m curious on what that price would be.

      • Chris Ewalt

        Apr 19, 2019 at 9:10 am

        Just normal retail, I was very skeptical of this too, but I researched it a lot, and found no sketchy details.

  19. Michael Gower

    Apr 18, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    I am a member and it’s works exactly how Dollar Drive Club states it does. I joined last year, got my driver, and just last month swapped it out for a newer model. You pay the shipping for them to send you the driver but they pay the return shipping for your old driver. Customer service is top notch.

    Not a shill and I was skeptical before I signed up. Try it for yourself and see if it suits you.

    • Jay

      Apr 18, 2019 at 11:27 pm

      I’m a member too, it’s awesome. I got fitted, purchased the shaft I needed and I just use the head from DDC… I want to upgrade to something form this year, but I’m very happy with the driver I have. I will probably purchase it from them, but the best part is I dont have to decide. It’s literally 1$ a day, and these guys are financing it.

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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Podcasts

TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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