Undercover Tour Pro: Toys In The Truck
Illustration by Peter Oumanski
I'm old enough to be a father to most of the players out here. In a way, that's the role I often assume. Fixing their old toys, building them new ones, pumping up their confidence and then shuffling them out the door to go play against the other boys.
I live not with any of their mothers, but with whom I call "my 30,000-pound date." It's the 18-wheeler I drive across the country to nearly every PGA Tour event. In the back is my shop, stocked with every club and component of my company's line. The truck is my responsibility, and she's with me everywhere I go. Meet you for a beer downtown or catch a quick movie? Sorry, but we'll need to talk parking.
In general, tour players are a fantastic group of people. Their contracts don't prevent them from experimenting with every brand, so I see them all. As with any assortment of 200 humans, inevitably there will be a handful who are a pain to deal with. A big part of my job is to protect them from themselves. When it comes to equipment, it's staggering how misinformed some players are. I once had a top player tell me he needed to hit his 3-wood 15 yards longer, but he absolutely didn't want to decrease the loft or lengthen the shaft. When I told him that was impossible, he challenged me and got all pissy. Another player once asked me to make a club an inch longer, but to keep the swingweight the same. Hello? The only way to do that is to start from scratch. I appreciate the players who recognize that in the truck, we're the experts. Jason Day and Paul Casey, just to name a couple of the good guys, totally get that.
There aren't many, but some players like working on their clubs. I understand the desire to be hands-on and respect the need to know intimately the tools of one's trade. But it's a liability issue. With changing grips, my rule is, I cut them off, and you can slide the new ones on. It takes a fair amount of physical force to slice rubber and cord, and the last thing I want to read is a news item that so-and-so has withdrawn from the U.S. Open because he lopped off his finger in my truck. Sergio Garcia, for instance, is a guy who loves shaping the soles of his wedges. Now, a grinding wheel isn't an especially dangerous machine, but accidents do happen. Just look at the scarred hands of any tour technician. So I do my best to supervise. The most important thing a player can walk out my truck with is confidence, and if applying the finishing touch himself achieves that, so be it.
Some players are plain nutty. Years ago, we had a dude who insisted on this tedious system for building the shafts of his irons. I had to cut the shafts at precise spots and then fit them into the steps of other shafts. It took almost 20 shafts to build a set of eight irons. He claimed it affected the balance point differently on each one. A real nice guy, but his only engineering degree was from hanging out on a PGA Tour range—with most of the credits transferred from the Web.com.
I love the rookies who act sheepish. "Excuse me, sir, but if it's not too much trouble, do you think you could check my lofts and lies sometime today?" Yeah, kid. That's why I'm out here and get a paycheck.
Of course, there's the flip side, too. Some players take one step into my truck and turn into Al Czervik. A lot of the time they're just immediately giving the clubs we build to their friends and family, or maybe their caddie. And we always know. Every pro is extremely particular with his specs, and so when a guy places a loose order like, "I want to try that head with that shaft but just throw whatever grip on it," I know right away he's lying. But it's cool. As long as it's not an unreleased prototype, it's worth looking the other way to maintain the relationship.
And hey, it's hard to say no to your kids.
—with Max Adler