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Gear & Equipment

Wilson celebrates its centennial with some vintage swag

By Stephen Hennessey

Drawing on a history that includes ties to legends like Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead, Wilson is marking its 100th anniversary by selling throwback gear.

As a part of the yearlong celebration, Wilson staffers Kevin Streelman (below), Ricky Barnes and Padraig Harrington, among others, are wearing hats with the company's former shield logo. The retro caps ($20) can be purchased with other cool items sporting the historic trademark. They include vintage-looking FG Tour 100 irons, a centennial model of the company's Nexus carry and cart bags ($200), headcovers ($20), golf balls and towels.

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The brand has been around since 1914, and its tour pros have won 61 majors using the company's irons. For more information go to Wilson.com.



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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with Cobra Puma Golf's Tom Olsavsky

From the Nov. 20 edition of Golf Digest Stix:

tom-oslavsky.jpgAfter 17 years with TaylorMade, Tom Olsavsky recently left to become vice president of research and development for Cobra Puma Golf. He answers five questions from Mike Stachura.

Q: Through all the advances in technology, are there some universal ideas that haven't changed?
It probably sounds like we've been talking about ideas like lowering the center of gravity forever, but that's because it's the most important thing we do. It affects playability, it affects speed, it affects everything.

Q: What's driving innovation today: ideas, materials or manufacturing?
It's all three. There are still improvements to be made, whether it's the design, the shaping, or the processes. In some cases, these are incremental improvements in performance, but in some cases, they're quite more than that.

Q: Which group of golfers aren't benefiting from new technology?
It's the group still in old equipment. Some golfers doubt that new clubs can make a difference because of their swings, but I think that's the place where the benefits of new technology can really kick in.

Q: Are average golfers taking enough advantage of club adjustability?
We've struggled as an industry to make these clubs simpler. There are all kinds of resources, like a fitter or a golf professional, that can help them make the right adjust- ments so they don't have to do it on their own.

Q: How's the equipment industry's relationship with the USGA?
I wish the ruling bodies would look more at what might help average players. Like the rule limiting clubhead size to five inches wide by five inches deep. Some amateurs might benefit from this change, but tour pros wouldn't want that, so it's one thing where we could say, "Do we really need that rule?"

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with caddie and jerky man Jeff King

jeff-king.jpgJeff King has caddied on the LPGA Tour and on the PGA Tour. Among the bags he has carried: Vaughn Taylor's and Luke List's. In his spare time he also makes a beef jerky that has become so popular it's now being marketed to the public. He answers five questions from our E. Michael Johnson.

Q: How did you get started?
A few years ago I bought a dehydrator. There was really no reason other than I wanted to try and make homemade beef jerky. It was the ultimate impulse purchase.

Q: When did you start making it for tour pros?
Two years ago at a Nationwide event I gave some to [player] Scott Brown, and he said I should sell it. He said, "If I can get three or four guys to buy it, will you make it?" From there it just took off. I've never actually ever had to ask anyone to buy it. They just do.

Q: How did you get it in the hands of Tiger Woods?
Lance Bennett caddies for Matt Kuchar, and they play a lot of practice rounds with Tiger and shared it with him. I actually just dropped off a batch to him at East Lake this week, which was the first time I hand-delivered it to him.

Q: So how much do you make selling it?
I sell it for $40 a pound, but I don't make all that much. I figured out once I was making about $3.70 an hour making jerky. But the looks on the guys' faces makes it worthwhile. The guys who like the Buffalo-style jerky say it's addicting and often buy four to six pounds at a time. That's pretty gratifying that they like it that much.

Q: Now that your jerky is available for anyone to buy at www.kingmadejerky.com, could you ever see hanging up your caddie bib?
I really can't. I caddie for the competition. I love it. Luke [List] and I have a goal to play in the Ryder Cup, and when I set a goal, I normally don't stop short of it. I'm not leaving until we reach it.


[Photo courtesy of Kingmade Jerky]

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with 'The Short Game' director Josh Greenbaum

the-short-game-josh-greenbaum.jpgJosh Greenbaum directed "The Short Game," a documentary that tracks eight 7-year-olds at the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. The film debuts today in select cities. He answers five questions from Mike Stachura.

Q: Why junior golf?
As a filmmaker, I love finding a new world, but that can also mean going into a world we already know, but with a new perspective. We all sort of know the golf world or the sports world, but we've never really seen it from the 7-year-old's perspective. It's enlightening, I think. Inspiring, too.

Q: What was most enlightening about the kids?
First, how they have a short memory -- on bad shots and good ones. The other thing I saw is that when they step up to the shot they always see the flag, they always see where they want to go. We, as adults, see those hazards, and they can start to get bigger and bigger. Focus on where you want to be, not on what's in the way.

Q: Is this a film about the kids or the parents?
I truly think it's both, and I don't want that to sound like a cop-out answer. To me, the kids are the stars of this film. They are the leading cast, and the parents in many ways are the supporting cast. It's just a wonderful age to follow. It's sort of that last age before you become really self-aware.

Q: How is the parents' role unique in golf?
Dan Van Horn of U.S. Kids Golf told me early on how the idea of kids playing golf with their parents was so important to him, that there was so much benefit to having your dad or your mom out there with you on the course for a couple of hours, building a relationship. That's bigger than learning a game, bigger than trophies.

Q: Do you think any of these eight are destined to be great?
They all have the potential. I feel like these kids are going to be incredibly successful at whatever they do. It certainly makes me think of doing a follow-up documentary.


[Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images]

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with Ian Poulter

ian-poulter-interview.jpgIan Poulter is known for his fashion -- partnering his IJP Design company with FedEx has made his product accessible globally. But what people might not know is that he's just as interested in equipment. He answers five questions from Keely Levins about the golf studio in his Florida home.

Q: How did you decide what to stock your studio with?
I wanted a repair facility there because I enjoy getting back to basics. When I was growing up, I worked in a shop and regripped my equipment as well as my customers' equipment. I still regrip my own clubs.

Q: What else do you have?
I have a Full Swing Golf simulator and a V1 camera system, so I can track my swing. I have a surface I can putt on, but it's relatively small. I have a TrackMan launch monitor. There's enough room to pick up data before the ball hits the net. It picks up ball speed, club angle -- all the numbers I'm after.

Q: What's the benefit to having the studio?
The reason I live in Orlando is because the weather's normally pretty good, but if it's not, I can go inside and still do some work. If there's something I want to tinker on at 8 o'clock at night, and it's dark, I can go in the studio -- so it's good.

Q: How often do you use the simulator?
It's fun, but there's nothing like seeing the ball fly outside. The simulator is there as a backup. And my kids love it, especially [9-year-old] Luke. He's always on it.

Q: Do you think simulators are going to become more popular with amateurs?
If you can afford it, it's a great thing. It's probably more beneficial to an amateur player than it is for [pros]. It's a luxury for me. An amateur is going to get a lot of use out of it because he's going to want to train on it when he gets back from work. I've got all day to practice outside.


[Photo: Nathaniel Welch]

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with PGA of America's Teaching and Coaching committee chairman Ed Ibarguen

ed-ibarguen.jpgEd Ibarguen, director of golf at Duke University Golf Club, is chairman of the PGA of America's Teaching and Coaching committee, which is developing teaching guidelines for the rule change banning anchored strokes. He answers five questions from Mike Stachura.

Q: Why don't people putt as well as they should?
When you're on the green before a round, you're probably taking three balls and hitting putts from 20 feet and missing them and starting again. It's like what Davis Love Jr. once said, "You're just practicing missing." What you've done in five minutes of warm-up is watch yourself miss putt after putt.

Q: Why is the rule change good for teachers?
This rule will open up an opportunity to talk about putting as the most important stroke. When people come in for a lesson, and you ask them about their putting, they often say, "Oh, my putting's fine."

Q: What's a successful alternative?
Johnny Miller once won a tournament by looking at the hole when he putted. If you're a little yippy, that's a great option. When I have beginners in clinics putt that way, their distance control gets better, their follow-through is better, and almost every time someone holes a putt from about 30 feet.

Q: The physical challenge is only part of it, right?
Any time golfers think it's the equipment that's making them better or worse, you have a hard time convincing them otherwise.

Q: Your colleagues are now at the front lines in this issue.
This is such an opportunity because we have 21⁄2 years to deal with it. PGA professionals can organize putting clinics specifically to help players who anchor. Maybe bring some wine and cheese, too, in case it gets a little rough.


[Photo: Brent Humphries]

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with Tommy Gainey at Callaway's golf-ball factory

tommy-gainey-interview.jpgTour player Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey, who once worked on the assembly line at water-heater company A.O. Smith, visited Callaway's Massachusetts golf-ball plant last week to see how his Hex Chrome+ ball is made. He answered five questions from Mike Stachura.

Q: Did you understand the explanation of how a golf ball works?
It's kind of confusing because this deals with a lot of chemistry and physics -- rocket science. I'm pretty smart, but I ain't that smart when it comes to being a rocket scientist.

Q: Does touring a factory bring back memories?
It certainly reminds me of how important teamwork is. When I worked in a plant, I realized it was all about teamwork. Even if you have the right product, you've got to have a lot of teamwork to get that product the way you want it. But I never had a clue as to how many steps it takes to make a golf ball.

Q: What did you learn about the process?
It's more than just putting something in a machine and pressing a button, and it gets made. Everything has to be done within certain numbers, and if it's not between those certain numbers, it's rejected.

Q: It's harder than you thought, isn't it?
I know it's not easy. It might look easy walking through the factory watching these men and women making a golf ball, but it's not, because one mistake ruins the whole batch, and that's 3,000 dozen in a batch. And you can't catch up if you get one bad batch in a day.

Q: Do you think you could do factory work again?
I'm blessed to be doing what I'm doing. I think I'm done working with this kind of heavy equipment. I kind of like the equipment I'm using now.


[Photo: Brent Humphries]

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with Nike TW '14 designer Tobie Hatfield

Including Sunday's win wearing the Nike TW '14, Tiger Woods has won eight times since switching to a sneaker-like golf shoe he designed with Tobie Hatfield, the mind behind the Nike Free running shoes. Hatfield answers five questions from Mike Stachura.

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Cruel shoes: Tiger Woods' precision extends to Hatfield's shoe design. Photo: Marc Lecureuil

Q: What's the challenge in designing golf shoes?
Golf has been one of the more unusual sports for me to work on because the golfer is on so many different types of terrain in one round, even in one hole. I mean, a gym floor is a gym floor wherever you go. In track, everything's the same. In golf, it's crazy. It's anything and everything.

Q: What changes were made for this year?
Tiger wanted to build upon the idea of mobility with stability. We've brought the dynamic Flywire technology of our other shoes to the golf shoe. It works with his foot when he's moving, but when he's at address and the club is moving, then it holds him in really nicely, and he can feel that power translate into the ball.

Q: How is a minimalist, "natural motion" design important in a golf shoe?
You want to feel what's underneath, not in a bad way but in a good way. The easier it is for the computer that's your mind to understand those differences, the better you're able to make adjustments and stay balanced. Balance is so key.

Q: How is Tiger as a shoe designer?
It felt like I was talking to this amazing computer. He remembers every shot he's hit in his life, what it felt like at the moment of impact, and he's very precise in how he describes things.

Q: How important is it for Tiger to win with this technology?
I can have all the technology in the world, but if the greatest golfer wasn't wearing it, it would be much more difficult. If anyone is going to change what golfers wear on their feet, it's Tiger.


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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with Holly Sonders

A member of the Big Ten champion Michigan State golf team in 2007, Holly Sonders has been part of the Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" team since January 2011. Here she handles five questions from E. Michael Johnson.

stix-holly-sonders-5-questions.jpgQ: You just joined with Cobra-Puma. What kind of input might you have on its apparel line?
I've already spoken to them about that. For the Puma logo on my apparel, I'd like sequins or some kind of stones and have that be my signature. Girls like bling, and I think that would be cool to have on my Puma cats. I would love to have a say in shoes and developing golf dresses. I love fashion, and Puma is fashion-oriented.

Q: Is golf more frustrating or more fun since you entered the workforce?
A little of both. You have expectations for yourself, so when you chunk a chip or miss a five-footer, that's a little frustrating. I'm still a competitor. But the pressure is off. I played competitive golf for 16 years with teammates and coaches counting on me. Now I don't even have to keep score. That's a relief, so I think I enjoy it more.

Q: What have you learned from Martin Hall?
Martin is one of the most knowledgeable teachers on the planet. He thinks of items you might have around your house you can use as training aids. He's very visual and tailors tips to different players.

Q: What would you do on your first day if you were LPGA commissioner?
I'd like to see them move to a Friday or Saturday finish and get it away from the men's schedule.

Q: What time do you have to get up for work?
I used to live 30 minutes away and woke up at 1:45 a.m. to get in by 3:30 a.m. I got so many speeding tickets I had to move. I'm less than a mile from work now, and the call time is 5 a.m. I don't have to wake up until 4:15. That's a big 2.5 hours.


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Gear & Equipment

Michael Phelps signs equipment deal with Ping

By E. Michael Johnson

When you've conquered one sport (as in winning 22 Olympic medals in swimming -- 18 of them gold) you might decide not to take on another sport. Not so with Michael Phelps. An avid golfer, Phelps has decided to make a concerted effort to get better at the game. And Phelps has chosen to play Ping golf equipment to do so. Ping announced Tuesday that Phelps has reached an agreement to play a full set of the company's clubs.

Related: Phelps one of Golf Digest's "Golfers Who Give Back"

The bats Phelps will swing in pro-ams (he is slated to play with Bubba Watson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open pro-am) and on the Golf Channel's "Haney Project" highlight Ping's commitment to custom fitting. Standing 6-feet-4 with long arms and large hands, Phelps' Ping G25 irons were made one inch longer than standard and 3 degrees upright. His grips are 1/32-inch over standard size. Phelps also will play the company's G25 driver (9.5 degrees), 3-wood (15 degrees) and hybrid (20 degrees). Ping Tour Gorge wedges and a Ping Scottsdale TR Senita mallet putter round out the bag.

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Ping added some custom touches to the 27-year-old Phelps' clubs, including red, white and blue paint fill on the irons as well as "Phelps22" on the irons, wedges and putter with the number 22 in gold paint. Gold highlights also are on Phelps' metalwoods. Here Phelps speaks with GolfDigest.com on the fitting experience as well as his thoughts on taking on his next sports challenge.

How did the relationship with Ping come about?

As soon as I picked up the Ping clubs -- I was able to get into a set of G25s --there were no other clubs I was able to get as comfortable with. The other thing that struck me is that they are a very family-oriented company and that is very important to me and I wanted to be a part of that. Other sponsors I have had have felt like a family away from home and I like that. When I walked into the headquarters here in Phoenix you could feel it the moment you walked in.

Plus they have the putter vault with all those gold putters from champions using Ping putters in their wins.

I just found out about that today [Jan. 29]. There's a lot of gold here so it seemed like a perfect fit.

Have you ever been fitted for clubs before and what was the fitting process like for you?

I've never been fit for equipment before like this. When I first got the clubs they sent me I was able to play with them for a week or two and get a feel for them but that was really it. But during that time I was able to pick up on a few things that needed some changing. And Hank [Haney] and I were able to see how that affected the ball flight, so when I got here for the fitting I had an idea of some things that we wanted to do, such as stiffer shafts, different grips that didn't feel like sandpaper, etc. We both felt the ball flight was super high. So we wanted stiffer shafts to bring that down. With the driver and 3-wood the shaft felt like a U, it felt like it was bending so much. So the Ping guys put me through a very thorough fitting. I never realized it was so technical. I never knew that there were 50-plus shafts to choose from or that a fitting was so technical.

How does that compare to swimming? Did you get fit for your suit, cap and goggles?

When I was in the pool you got a swimsuit, a cap and a pair of goggles and that was it. The last four years we had one kind of suit we swam in. With the cap it was small, medium or large and that's all. The suit goes up in waist size from 22 to 24 to 26 to 28 to however big you need it. There are about 15 types of goggles to choose from but we all have to follow the same guidelines. It's nothing like getting fit for golf clubs. It will be fun to become more educated about things such as the shaft in the driver and the loft gap in the wedges. I'm really looking forward to that. I want to be more knowledgeable about this.

What kind of improvement did you see?

As soon as we changed the grips and the shafts the improvement was noticeable. I'd hit one good one, one bad one. Then after some changes I hit three consecutive 7-irons from 170 yards to 180 yards and they were pretty much dead straight. At that point I knew what kind of improvement was possible. A lot of it is simply being comfortable with the club. Having confidence in it. When we added the length and some weight in the shaft it felt more comfortable. It didn't seem like I was swinging a wiffle ball bat like it did before. It's something I noticed just from holding the club and I liked the feeling.

Describe yourself as a golfer.

I'm learning. I think it is the same as in everything I do. I don't like to put limits on anything. This is a passion that I have and I'm going to do everything I can to improve and get to where I want to be. I have friends that are single-digit and scratch golfers that I would love to be able to compete with. I know it is a very challenging sport. It's the most humbling sport I've ever played in my life. And I know the small things can make a big difference. Eliminating three-putts and working on the short game are important. To get in a rhythm and be consistent is key. I know the more time I put into it the better I'll get.

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You're a competitive guy. Does the challenge of the game appeal to you?

There were times that I've been really frustrated and didn't want to pick up the clubs anymore. But now it is hard to get them out of my hands. I know it's not going to happen overnight and I have to put in the time. There are ways to move forward and improve, but it has to be something you want. And this is definitely something that I want. I cannot stand to lose and I can't stand the thought of being beat every time I go out there with my friends. I don't want them giving me 15 strokes or even more than that sometimes. It's annoying for me. I'd like to play at the same level as them or even someday pass them.

Related: Watch Michael Phelps make one of the longest putts ever

Not to mention the golf course is a little more interesting than a pool I would think.

The playing grounds are much prettier than a pool. It is something that is very different from swimming. There we have the same pool. It's the same length, the same temperature and not much is different from one pool to the next. But being able to travel all over the world and see the courses, well, it's wild. At the Dunhill Links event I think I figured out I never want to go back to Carnoustie. That is the hardest golf course I have ever played. I was stuck in the rough so much and couldn't get out. It was so frustrating. There were times I wanted to just pick the ball up and move to the next hole. It was driving me insane! The greens at the Old Course were cool, though. They were the biggest I'd ever seen. So it's neat to play different courses with the weather changes and the different layouts. The different lengths of course. It's interesting to see how every course is different. I have a little board of all the top 100 courses and so far I don't have a lot on there but at some point I'd like to say I've played them all.

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