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Little Shop Of Hope

Continued (page 2 of 2)

"He used real good wood"the hard persimmon with scrumptious grain that grew around Memphisrecalls Tim DeBaufre, former head pro at Philadelphia CC and an occasional PGA Tour player. "He took a lot of care in shaping. He was very particular on balance."

At the height of George M.'s career, from the 1950s through the 1970s, most Philadelphia pro shops carried Izetts beside clubs of national manufacturers. Pros from coast to coast regularly called in the orders still kept in dusty files. In 1959, when Golf magazine sought a clubmaker to build a story around in its debut issue, it went directly to Izett's. As did the tour pros when they came to town. "Everybody knew that George Sr. would do everything he had to do to get it right," says historian Pete Trenham, former head pro at nearby St. David's GC.

Ike used Izetts. JFK so loved Izett woods that he presented them to others. Arnold Palmer bought drivers six at a time. Jackie Gleason once ordered, and received, a set of lofted woods to replace every iron in his bag. "You always got what you wanted from George," attests Bill Kittleman, Merion's head pro from 1969 to 1997. "If a club was supposed to have 11 degrees of loft, you knew it had 11 degrees of loft. If he said the swingweight was D-1, it was D-1."

George G. and his partner Mike Morrison, a former commercial banker who opted for a summer hiatus from finance to hone his jones for equipment in the late '90s and never left, don't make clubs the way George M. did. They could, but those days and those clubs are gone; what hasn't changed is the hands-on care.

"It's the old-world craftsman in us," says Izett, who inherited his father's demeanor, skill and principles.

Consider the folder Morrison calls his bible. In the 1990s Izett realized what he identified as the fallacy to most fittings: There's no real industry standard for flex. A regular in one brand may be the equivalent of a stiff in another, which he verified by testing their frequencies on a meter. Now, every shaft that arrives in the building is testedand logged. When one is pulled down for a fitting, Morrison checks it in his bible.

"They are a dying breed," sighs Sigel. "They are perfectionists."

Sigel knows. Coming off a shoulder injury several years ago, he went through the Shaft Lab but didn't like what the results indicatedthat he would benefit from a softer shaft. Experience told Sigel that meant his swing speed was slowing, and he wasn't ready to accept that. But the Shaft Lab doesn't measure clubhead speed via a launch monitor; instead, it measures the force with which you load the club. When he came back for a retest, the numbers were remarkably similar. Sigel reluctantly tried the softer shaft. And believes.

So do I. Turns out that though I have the swing speed of a waterlogged hippo, I load like a longshoreman, but that's not why I believe. I believe because what Morrison and Izett were telling meand taking time to tell memade sense. "Our way of testing levels the playing field," says Morrison, "because it doesn't matter how well you hit the ball"a distinct advantage in my case. "With a launch monitor, you have to hit a good shot. But on our machine, whether or not you hit the ball well, you are still intending to swing well. You load what you load. The numbers don't lie."

By the time I was through, I'd been tested for flexes in irons and woods and was measured for proper length and grip. As it happens, my clubs were almost an inch too long, hence my overly upright stance and difficulty clearing. The clouds seemed ready to part.

Once we chose shafts, we picked heads, beginning with irons. I could have switched to one of the brands Izett carriesMizuno, Miura, Adams or Nikebut I like my Hogans. Instead of forcing a sale, they suggested I keep them, assuring me that with the adjusted lies and proper shafts they would work better. A few swings into the net with my remade 6-iron two days later seemed toyes!confirm that.

The woods were a bit more complicated. The testing includes the standard launch monitor but supplements the usual readings. A raw-data subscreen adds information like attack angle and effective loft to clubhead speed and spin. For me, an adjustable Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driverthrillingly red to go with my green Oban Revenge shaftheld out the promise of Christmas everytime I swung.

So, if what I left with wasn't an Izett driver with high gloss and stunning grain, I still left with a driver custom-built for my specific needs by the hands that touched the hands that learned from Ben Sayers and helped Bobby Jones. Maybe, just maybe, it's the beginning of an enduring romance, like Snead's.

In the early '60s, DeBaufre, then a young assistant, joined Snead for a practice round when Snead was in town to film an episode of "All-Star Golf." DeBaufre had just signed a contract with Wilson and proudly showed his partner the new staff bag with his name. Snead, a loyal Wilson man himself, grabbed DeBaufre's driver and removed the headcover. It was an Izett. "That's a funny way to spell Wilson," Snead said.

DeBaufre wasn't sure how to respond. Until Snead pulled out his driver and offered a confession: "I spell it the same way."

That's I-Z-E-T-T.

My new alternate spelling for hope.

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