The Loop

Winning amateurs use old sticks at the Hope

January 23, 2011

It wasn't exactly the National Hickory Championship where clubs from the 1880s and 1890s are used, but there was an awful lot of ancient equipment (by today's standards) being played during the pro-am portion of the Bob Hope Classic.

The bags of the winning amateur threesome of Bob Antin (a 7-handicapper), Paul McCombs (a 13) and Sal Palermo (an 11) served as a microcosm for amateur equipment at the Hope. Antin, who is CEO of the largest pet health-care firm in the country, wielded a Ping G10 driver and had a Callaway Hawk Eye 3-wood. The Hawk Eye was a fine fairway wood in its time. That time was about a decade ago.

McCombs had Antin beat on the driver front, going a generation earlier with the Ping G5. He couldn't quite match Antin in the fairway-wood department, however, using G5 fairways slightly newer than the Hawk Eye. He made up for it in his choice of irons, however, using Mizuno T-Zoids. Palermo's Cobra SZ irons were only slightly newer. Clearly none of these players read last year's Golf Digest Obsolete List.

What the clubs in the bags of those players reveals is two-fold: One, golf equipment in the last decade has gotten really good -- so good that often players think what they have in their bags is good enough. It also points out the incremental improvements in equipment have been, for the most part, more subtle, with the big breakthrough happening less frequently. However, lost in all that is the fact the incremental improvements add up, and for those such as the winning threesome still playing equipment more than five years old, they are leaving something on the table.

Still, it's hard to argue with guys who shot 61 under as a team, winning by three shots. Of course, if they had some newer, better-fitting equipment perhaps they would have won by 13. -- E. Michael Johnson*(Follow me on Twitter at EMichaelGW)*