Golf Buzz

October 2, 2013 - 7:42am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Imperial
You might not realize it, but there’s a good chance you own at least one hat -- if not several -- from a brand known as Imperial Headwear.
 
Imperial, you see, has been a leader in the headwear industry since the company started nearly 100 years ago, in 1916. Imperial began as a dress cap manufacturer in Denver, Colo., and then uniform headwear, and even military hats.
 
“The reason Imperial is here today is because it has pioneered the sports headwear industry and found a very nice niche in golf,” said David Shaffer, Director of Marketing for Imperial Headwear. “We were one of the first companies to recognize and capitalize on the growing popularity of sports headwear in the baby-boom era. Being first to cater to the golf market was a huge advantage in those booming economic times. In the 1980s, it was estimated that Imperial sold 70 percent of all golf caps.”
 
Imperial hasn’t stopped, either. Just over a year ago, the company was acquired by Paramount Apparel International, which also owns the brands Oarsman, American Dry Goods, Midwest Graphics and Kid N’ Me. 
 
With Paramount Apparel International stepping in, rather than make drastic changes in an effort to get younger and hipper, the classic look Imperial had become known for -- its wheelhouse -- was simply redefined.
 
“Just before Paramount purchased Imperial, they had decided to take the brand in a whole new direction,” Shaffer explained. “Imperial had always been known as a very upscale, traditional country club hat brand. In 2012, their executives decided to move away from this niche and attempt to make Imperial more of a younger, modern, consumer hat brand. They changed the logo, website, catalog, etc. They even added a flat bill cap to the line.
 
“I don’t think it was much of a surprise that many of these changes were not so well received by our customers and sales reps (including the flat bill style which is being dropped from the line for 2014),” Shaffer added. “So when Paramount took over, we decided to reverse this whole new direction of the brand. Right about now, you will start to notice our move back to the old Imperial script logo and branding. Our website is being re-designed as we speak for re-launch in January. Our marketing collateral and product trim is reverting to more of a classic, timeless look. We believe this is the niche that has made the brand prosper for decades and where we need to be moving forward. It’s our heritage and luxurious imagery that holds all of our brand assets.” 
 
On a recent trip to Bandon Dunes, we noticed all the on-site pro shops were loaded with Imperial headwear. You can find a lot of those great hats selling now on the Bandon Dunes website too.
 
Imperial prides itself on the reputation of having the best fitting hats in the industry. To stress that point, the company’s new tagline is, “The Best Fit in Golf Since 1916.”
 
Imperial is also a brand that has a strong commitment to the PGA of America and its members.
 
“Through our support of PGA Golf Professionals with PGA Golf Retirement Plus program, Imperial is able to give back to the organization that has helped our company grow into what it is today,” Shaffer said. 
 
“Our supply chain – including domestic embroidery capabilities – is also second to none,” he said. “Imperial’s ability to turn orders around quickly and accurately in large volumes is extremely rare. It’s common for Imperial to replenish product in a PGA Tour merchandise tent on a daily basis. We do inventory at the end of the day and have new product delivered in time to stock the shelves before the gates open the next morning. Some of the largest licensed professional sports cap companies don’t even have the quick-turn capabilities we do today.”
 
To learn more about Imperial, click here.
 
You can also find Imperial on Twitter, @ImperialHats, on Facebook and on Instagram.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
October 1, 2013 - 7:16am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
MannKrafted
LaMont Mann
MannKrafted, owned and operated by putter-maker LaMont Mann, can customize your putter however you dream.
Arguably the most special -- and certainly the most personal -- piece of equipment in every golfer's bag is the putter. It's the club you use to strike most of your shots (whether you're a hacker, or a professional) and -- at times – it can truly be a love-hate relationship.
 
The fact is you want your putter to be the club you're most comfortable with. Does it look right at address? Does it feel solid when it makes contact with the ball? Is it the right length? Is the grip standard, oversized, or something in between?
 
There are so any factors that go into a great putter.
 
And if you're looking for that "extra special" touch, we've found just the thing for you. Meet LaMont Mann, the founder of the putter-making boutique, MannKrafted Custom Milled Putters, which specializes in handmade, one-of-a-kind putters.
 
Mann, who makes his home in Arizona, estimates that he's been involved in the game of golf for most of his walking life. By the age of 10, Mann scored a summer job picking up range balls and was more excited about the free golf and free range balls that came with the employment than he was the actual money. 
 
Even at that tender age, he was drawn to putters.
 
"My dad rolled an old Offset Bulls-eye and I wanted to be just like him," Mann said. "I played a similar putter for quite a while, then changed to a heel-shafted blade that stayed in the bag for at least 14 years. When that blade went cold, I went on a hunt for years that probably included over 300 different putters. I was a bit of a prima-donna when it came to the condition of my clubs, so when I would find one I liked, but it was in rough shape, I would take the time to bring it back to 'pretty,' game it for a while and move on." 
 
Over the course of those many trial runs that started around 1997, Mann was learning from each putter -- the effects that different materials and shapes had on what he was able to do with the club; the look and feel that he liked in his own hands. Ideas were sticking in his mind. Mann wanted to show them off but wasn't sure where things would go. So, he put some pictures of his work on the Internet and suddenly people started contacting him wondering if Mann could bring their magic wands back to life. 
 
And talk about a labor of love. For a while early on, Mann was refinishing putters for just shipping costs. 
 
"I was a framing carpenter and trying to do much more," he said. "Spending 9-10 hours in the Arizona sun was not what I was looking for. The putter business grew steadily and over the next few years, I had worked on virtually every maker’s putter that you could think of.  Some were basic tune-ups, others were total re-builds and no two were the same."
 
With his passion for putters running wild, two makers in the business were key to helping Mann create his own putter line. 
 
"Byron Morgan has been like a long distance mentor and has given me tips, encouragement and even helped me to put a model into my line that I was unable to afford, at the time," Mann said. "He's one of the true 'good guys' in the game of golf, although you will be hard-pressed to get him to admit it. Tom Slighter also has been key in the encouragement department. Tom made my first custom putter when I was still a customer shopping around and when I was at a key point in my decision-making process, he allowed me to spend an entire day at his shop outside of Seattle and watch exactly what it was going to take to get to the next level. He showed me that what separated he and I was time in the craft and some tooling. The skill set was there, I just needed to develop it. I left his shop that day with the conviction of having my own name on a putter, within one year's time. It happened almost exactly in that time span."
 
In January of 2009, Mann met with the owner of a small, local machine shop called Karas Kustoms to discuss having some heads milled -- essentially, instead of fiddling with the works of other putter makers, Mann was ready to be his own full-fledged putter maker. 
 
From there, Mann came up with a design he calls the, "Superstition," head by MannKrafted. He sold out of 25 in a month, ordered another 50 and those kept selling too. 
 
As Karas Kustoms owner Bill Karas got to know Mann better, he allowed Mann access to more of the shops machines. 
 
"I learned from doing and from asking questions how to mill my own heads, one at a time and in the shapes that I was seeing in my mind," Mann said. "Guys liked what they were seeing, loved the way the putters felt in their hands and I kept growing my craft. Today, there are a handful of guys that do what I do. We are the 'little guys' in a market that's dominated by Asian-made clubs that are produced by the thousands, with very little handwork applied to create any special look or feel. Being part of that small club is what drives me to be the best I can be and to create putters that are not just copies of what Karsten Solheim designed all those years ago. You can see the influence of his work in some of my putters, but my deepest goal is to craft putters that stand on their own merit and make the customer truly love the choice they have made to purchase a MannKrafted Custom Milled Putter."
 
When Mann puts together his custom creations from scratch, the process takes place at several different locations in Arizona -- the machine shop, a golf shop and his garage at home in Apache Junction, which was converted to a finish shop years ago. 
 
"My wife has sacrificed her shady spot to park her car, until further notice," Mann joked. "I do most of my shipping from home, as well as some assembly and all paint fill on putters. The trio of locations makes the back seat of my car look a little odd most of the time; full of putters, shafts and boxes, but for now, it has to work. I'm the 'little guy' with a budget to match, so I do what it takes to keep moving forward."
 
From start to finish, Mann estimates it takes 8-20 hours total to build a new putter. The time is dependent on materials, shapes and details.
 
Being a boutique putter maker, Mann's business is reliant almost 100 percent on referrals. That fact isn't lost on Mann, who works relentlessly to insure that his putters live up to the hype.
 
"As little as 1 percent of my customers have ever held or putted with a handmade putter from my shop, yet they are willing to place their trust in me to build them a putter that will exceed their expectations and in some cases, be the most expensive golf purchase they have made to this day blows me away," he said. "When I get a phone call that thanks me for creating a putter for them that they have been seeing in their mind's eye for years, but had no one willing to do the work, that also hits my heart. The past few years have been an amazing testament to the quality of people in the game of golf, for me."
 
Mann is so confident in his work that he offers a money-back guarantee on every putter he sells. 
 
"There's fine print on that guarantee, but it is nothing sneaky," said Mann -- after all, we all know it's not always the putter that's causing you to miss those 3 footers. "My goal is for every customer to have what they pictured in their mind's eye when they ordered their putter. If I miss that target, I don't want them stuck with a putter that they don't intend to use."
 
Prices for a handmade MannKrafted putter start at $249 and can go up significantly.
 
"Some of the upgrades or options that would add cost to that base price would include using 303 SS, fancy necks like a Twisted 'N' Sick or Rebar-Styled neck," Mann explained. "Reasonable amounts of stamping are included."  
 
One of Mann's works -- his favorite to date, which he calls the "Esperanza" -- sold for $1,650 at a silent auction for a charity event.
 
"The benefit was the Cardons Childrens Medical Center, part of the Banner Hospital site, here in Mesa, Ariz.," Mann said. "I used one of my base CNC'd heads and crafted a neck that reminded me of a gorgeous lady's leg in the way it flowed from the head and had lines as smooth as silk. The shaping took a little extra time and when it was done, I decided to go with a clean, Raw Torch'd finish that brought out blues, purples and golds that made for an incredible look."
 
That putter now resides in the bag of a lead singer for a prominent current rock band, who Mann, said, "treats it like a piece of art." 
 
So what's the end game for Mann? To be the next Karsten Solheim or Scotty Cameron?
 
Not at all.
 
"I would be misspeaking if I said that having a putter in the hands of someone when they win a major would not be part of my dream," he said. "It would be a mistake to aim low and just hit those goals. If you are going to do something, heck anything, I believe that you should strive to be the absolute best at it, or you will flounder in your own struggles and slowly fade away. I want to be the guy that the pros come to for the putter that nobody else can seem to create -- the guy that makes magic happen when they pull out their flagstick and the putts just start to drop. 
 
"Do I want to be huge? Not really. My motivation has never been to get rich from making putters, never at all. When I asked a good friend, a few years ago, 'Who is Byron Morgan?'  His answer was, 'He's a guy who lives at the beach and makes putters. Loves what he does and isn't in it to get rich.' That is what I want people to say about me someday. I'm a guy who lives in Arizona, loves his family more than they know, and can flat-out make the best putter you will find, anywhere."
 
If you'd like to learn more about MannKrafted, visit, www.MannKrafted.com and view a photo album of Mann's hand-milled work here.
 
You can also find MannKrafted on Facebook, or you can follow on Twitter, @MannKrafted.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
 
September 30, 2013 - 10:27pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Jack Nicklaus golf balls
Courtesy of Nicklaus Golf
Jack Nicklaus designed his new line of golf balls to make it easy for golfers of every skill level to determine which ball is most appropriate for their game.

Jack Nicklaus is introducing a line of golf balls that the Golden Bear says can help simplify your golf game and help sick children as well.

The line of three balls – the Nicklaus Black, Nicklaus Blue, and Nicklaus White – was designed to accommodate three skill levels of player, using the tees from which they typically play. A percentage of the proceeds from every ball sold will be donated to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation to support pediatric programs and hospitals nationwide, and visitors to Nicklaus.com can support the foundation by making a voluntary contribution.

''We are trying to simplify the decision-making process of selecting the right golf ball and at the same time provide consumers the highest-quality golf balls and at a price that encourages charitable support,'' Nicklaus said of the balls, which will be available this fall. ''By buying these balls, players will get the added benefit of supporting these wonderful charities that help children in need as well as the families that dearly love them.''

The Nicklaus White ball is designed for the players who typically play from the white (forward) tees. The Nicklaus Blue is designed for players who usually play the blue (middle) tees, and the Nicklaus Black is for the single-digit handicapper who generally plays from the back (black) tees.

Nicklaus and members of his family tested and perfected the balls, and Nicklaus says the new spheres will outperform other top-of-the-line golf balls. Each ball, Nicklaus explains, incorporates the most cutting-edge multi-layer technology to achieve the optimal compression for the level of player it is designed for. 

''For more than three years, we have contemplated entering the golf ball business, so over that time, I have been researching and testing golf balls,'' Nicklaus explained. ''There are a lot of very good balls on the market, but I was not able to find a ball that fully met my expectations and hopes – not just for me or other professionals, but more important, for the everyday golfer. 

''So I simply decided not to enter the business until I found that ball,'' he added. ''Well, I found that ball. Actually, I found three.''

Nicklaus' ball strategy is based on a simple principle: Skill level is an extremely important factor when selecting the right ball. ''From the tees you play, we know your swing speed; this is paramount when choosing a golf ball,'' he said. ''But no matter the percentage of players who know their swing speed, 100 percent of them know the tees they play.''

The Nicklaus Black will sell in golf shops for $50 a dozen, while the Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White will retail for $46 in golf shops. By ordering directly from Nicklaus.com, however, golfers will pay only $32 for the Black and $28 for the Blue and White, and will be able to make a voluntary contribution of up to $20 if they so choose. And during a month-long pre-order period, customers can order the ball for the discounted introductory prices of $30 (Black) and $26 (Blue and White) per dozen.

For more information and to place your order, visit www.nicklaus.com.

 

September 30, 2013 - 4:15pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Believe us -- we're not making up a story here to convince the folks from the hit show Breaking Bad to come back for another season.
 
This, unfortunately, is real life. WBTW News 13 in South Carolina is reporting that Donaldson Golf Club in Greenville, S.C. was evacuated last Thursday after golfers found meth in a wooded area near the course.
 
 
Just off the golf cart path, close to the fourth green, Harold Alexander said he and his golfing buddy found some weed killer containers.
 
"He just thought it belonged to the clubhouse and they had been killing weeds," said Alexander.
 
They took the containers to the club house.
 
"The owner, he took the top off and he said it had a really vile smell, almost knocked the top of his head off, he said. So that's when he called the Sheriff's Department," said Alexander.
 
Greenville County's Hazardous Materials team, EMS and the Donaldson Fire Department rushed to the scene and evacuated the club.
 
Crime scene tape was put up around golf carts and trees at the 9-hole course that was originally built in the 1940s as a private golf recreation facility for officers of the United States Army Air Base, later called the Donaldson Center.
 
"It's okay, I didn't have a great round that first nine anyway. So I'm waiting to go back out and get a chance to get them back," said golfer Gerald Smith, who works at the club.
 
 
This story reminded us of another story from earlier this year when a meth lab was discovered at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa just outside of PGA Tour Headquarters.
 
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
September 30, 2013 - 1:59pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Funny typo at LPGA event
Courtesy Christina Kim's Twitter
LPGA star Christina Kim shared this hilarious photo from China
I'm sure they meant "Hole in One" but still. 
 
The LPGA is in Beijing this week for the first ever Reignwood LPGA Classic. By all accounts, the Tour and its players have been well received and anything that helps grow the game (and the LPGA for that matter) is nothing but a good thing. 
 
Even better, as is the lifeblood of professional tournaments, sponsors seem eager to pitch in and be a part of the event. But pity at least one poor graphic design team that apparently doesn't quite grasp the terminology of golf just yet.
 
LPGA player Christina Kim, who is always a great follow on Twitter, sent out this great photo with the classic line "Ummmmmmm. Damnit. You had ONE job...."
 
So a little bit lost in translation perhaps...but make an ace, I bet you still get the car.
 
You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @JohnKim
September 28, 2013 - 9:44pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Bubba Watson and Georgia mascot Uga
Bubba Watson via Twitter
Bubba Watson got to hold Georgia mascot Uga during the LSU-Georgia game, but had to leave him at the stadium. He did, however, get a souvenir ball to take home.

Bubba Watson appeared on ESPN's ''College GameDay'' show before the Georgia-LSU game at Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon, and had about as good a day as you can have.

He appeared before a huge – and hugely enthusiastic – audience of his fellow Georgia Bulldogs, correctly called for a Dawg win, spent some time on the sideline during the game, and even got a little game ball as a souvenir. Most likely, however, his most memorable moment came when he and wife Angie got to hold Uga, the Georgia mascot.

In the photo above that Watson tweeted, Uga doesn't look too impressed – though this is likely the first time he's been held by an actual Masters champion, not to mention one with a University of Georgia connection. 

As for Watson, might this be the second-best thing that's happened to him in the state of Georgia? He helped the Bulldogs win the SEC Championship in 2000 and, after turning pro in 2001, he returned to school and completed his degree in 2008. He also met Angie while both were in school in Athens. 

So okay, holding a big ol' slobbery dog probably doesn't rank second on his list. But it might round out his top five.