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Pet Clubs

Great find here courtesy of PGT friend Bradley Hughes.  I like these articles that embed little details about that classic clubs and swings of the persimmon age: Johnny Miller played a wedge w/ F2 swingweight, O’Grady favored a power-fade w/ a 7 degree Taylor Made driver, Haas played a 693 w/ heavy lead tape, Trevino a pyratone R-90 wedge, etc.

With a few exceptions, I can’t really imagine a modern player loving any club the way it’s described here.  Tiger sure loved that silver Scotty but even he kicked it out of the bag for the right price.  It must be hard to develop a connection when your contract makes you rotate clubs every other season.  Anyways – without further ado:

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THE LOVED ONES

The pet club is an endangered species on the PGA Tour.  But some pros still hang on to tried and trusted mates.

Transcribed from Tour 89 Special Advertising Supplement

January 1989

PGT Note: There was a creepy picture of Paul Azinger tucking 2 golf clubs into a bed but I took it out.  Just too awkward… Here’s a picture of just the clubs; PT1W?

by: T.R. Reinman

In this age of customized and computerized, densitized and sensitized golf equipment, pet clubs are handing on with the tenacity of the once-endangered alligator.

Unlike the ‘gator, however, this pet is a friend, a long-cherished one that offers little in the way of sophistication or state-of-the-art design but brings the golfer welcomed, idiosyncratic comfort.  It’s the kind of can’t-play-without-it stick leaned on from Pine Valley to Pine Knot Muni – or even the PGA Tour.

Yes, some pros still carry pet clubs.  Ben Crenshaw’s pet putter has been with him through triump – and tribulation.  Johnny Miller acknowledges that it’s a bit silly to carry a pet club – but don’t try and separate him from his favorite wedge.  Paul Azinger searched long and hard for a driver he could treasure.  And the only way Canadian pro Dave Barr found the first of his three pet clubs was to drown another that was becoming a problem.

That was in 1970 when Barr was playing for Oral Roberts University.  “Playing” is perhaps the wrong word, for Barr was finding himself making too many three putts.  Like six in one particularly memorable round at Southern Hills.

A sympathetic teammate told Barr the only way he could change that was to change putters.

“I really didn’t want to do that,” Barr recalls.  “I loved that BullsEye.”

The teammate said the only way Barr was going to change that was to throw the BullsEye into a lake by the 18th fairway.

Barr hesitated.  He looked at his BullsEye.  He looked at his teammate.  He looked at his scorecard.  He looked at the lake.  As the ripples began to spread, he began his quest for a new putter.  The one he found was a MacGregor custom blade, with CB5 stamped on it.  It the only one Barr has used since.

That was also about the time Oklahoma State coach Labron Harris Sr. ended Barr’s search for a driver.

Harris took Barr into his workshop where they found a MacGregor Jack Nicklaus model W271.  It had no grip and had cracks in the neck and heel.  Barr like the feel of it, however, as well as the price.  For $12.50, it was his.  Barr has tried others, but really, it’s the only one he has used since.

Barr’s own coach, Myron Peace, gave Barr a sand wedge the following year.  It was a Console model, like the one Deane Beman was using to win four tournaments in five years.  Right, it’s the only one Barr has used since.  Well, almost.

“I can’t seem to find another that I can get out of soft sand or long stuff with any sort of finesse,” says Barr.  “But I can’t use it out of the fairway, either.”

Well worn by the sands of time, the wedge doesn’t work off a tight lie.  So Barr carries a third one for fairway approaches and drops a 4-wood or a 1-iron, depending on the course.

Miller does likewise.  His sand wedge arrived in a 1972 trade with Jerry heard for a MacGregor driver.  The Dynapower wedge was 13 years old even then.  Under Miller, it’s gone through 15 grips, four shafts and a weight-loss program.  Thanks to Miller’s tinkering and general wear, its swingweight has gone from F-2 to D-7.  It’s face is virtually flat now, and it wears a strip of lead on its back.  Even Miller shakes his head when he thinks about what he’s put it through.

But it’s always in the bag along with a pitching wedge and a second sand wedge because, as Miller says, “I hit probably the best shot I ever hit in my life with it.”

Crosby Pro-Am, 1972, final round, par-four 16th hole at Pebble Beach.   Miller shanks his approach under a tree and can only chip to a bunker, 40 yards out.  Miller’s blast flies to the green, takes two hops, pops in the cup, then out.

“Didn’t get the par,” says Miller, who lost in a playoff that day to Jack Nicklaus, “but I’ll never forget the look on Jack’s face.”

Crenshaw defends Miller’s and other pros’ intimacies with their wedges.  Like putters, he says, good wedges are tough to replace.

“I feel like I can replace an iron,” says Crenshaw, “but it’s not that easy with a sand wedge or putter.  It takes  a long time to build enough confidence in a sand wedge or putter for tournament play.”

Crenshaw’s confidence in his paddle-gripped 8802 putter (which goes by the pet name “Little Ben”) goes virtually all the wya back to 1967 when his father picked it out of a barrel at Austin [Texas] Municipal.  It broke the next year, but Crenshaw put in a BullsEye shaft and used it well until it snapped at the 1987 Ryder Cut when he wasn’t using it so well.

Included in Crenshaw’s “200 to 300″ spare clubs are 10 copies of the 8802.  he says he can play with two or three of them, but he spent frustrating months trying to find the right balance in a new shaft for his pet.  Crenshaw smiled and sighed after he won the Doral-Ryder Open last year and said, “I know what it’s going to do now.  It feels good again.”

This all suggests that sometimes pet clubs are made, not born; found, not sprung full grown and ready-to-us from a machine shop.

There are exceptions, of course, and – of course – one is in Mac O’Grady’s bag.  It’s a 7-degree Taylor Made driver.  “It’s a reflection of modern technology,” says O’Grady.  “The golf ball may represent the flight of imagination, but the driver reflects the baser instincts of man, the animalistic passions to dominate.  With my passion, which is a power fade, I am totally addicted to my driver.  It’s bombs away, bombs away, bombs away.”

O’Grady is not alone in his adoration of the driver.  Almost universally the pros, when pressed to pick a pet club, name, in order, the driver,  sand wedge, and then putter.

“Probably,” says Fuzzy Zoeller, “because the driver is the hardest club to find that look sand feels good.  Maybe that’s why, when they find one, they like it the best.”  Notice Zoeller says “They,” because his pets include his putter and his 8-iron, which he often uses around the green.  “My first set of clubs had one I really liked,” Zoeller explains.

Jay Haas prizes his MacGregor Tommy Armour 693 driver, which, he says, “sets up the rest of my game.”  Haas’ uncle, Bob Goalby, once owned it and tried to trade it to Chi Chi Rodriquez.  But Rodriguez couldn’t use it, and eventually it was handed down to Haas.

For a time, Haas represented Taylor Made, but found his game changed with metal woods.  He could fade the ball but couldn’t draw it.  So in 1987 he went back to MacGregors.  Using the 693, he almost immediately won at Houston.

“Most people would get top dollar for this club,” Haas says (top dollar being about $750 in today’s market), “but they wouldn’t get from me unless they stole it.”

The drive to find a club is nearly as strong as the attachment once it’s found.

Azinger, for instance, searched forever for a driver that didn’t produce “knuckeballs” that rolled who-knew-how-far fair or foul.  He finally found one, an old, 11 1/2 – degree MacGregor.  “And I was sweatin’ it until I did,” he says.

Azinger also lists a putter as a pet, because it’s been a loyal partner through some rough times on the greens.  In three years, Azinger has risen from 134th in the putting ranks to a position near the top.  His putter, Azinger says, “embodies the idea that you drive for show and putt for dough.”

The dark side of having a pet club is that along with the sense of security can come ill-considered dependence.  Lee Trevino’s infatuation with his brown-shafted Wilson R-90 pitching wedge cost him “many strokes and probably a few tournaments because I got to using it where I shouldn’t have.  The worst thing you can have in your bag,” Trevino contends, “is a pet club.”

World Series champion Mike Reid is of similar philosophy.  “When I was 5 years old,” he says, “my father told me in no uncertain terms never to avoid hitting the right club for the shot.  If you have a pet club, that also means you have a club you don’t like.  You have to treat clubs like children; you can’t favor one or the others will get mad.”

Test show that as clubs wear with age, shot control diminishes.  One way around that hazard, Trevino suggests, is to replace the heads but retain the original shafts.  Craig Stadler’s Spaldings, for example, include new heads on the shafts he used in 1982 when he won The Masters and the Tour money title.  The Walrus, therefore, has not so much a pet club as pet shafts.

Then, too, Hale Irwin had a favorite driver for years, but when he sent it out for a new insert, he says, “It came back nothing like it was.  I can never get that club back.”

The understanding of that sense of loss by manufacturers has led to the boom in customizing and computerizing of pet clubs.

“Now they can weight ‘em, study ‘em, test ‘em, x-ray ‘em,” says Irwin.  “You don’t see the odd club out of sequence the way you used to.”

Last spring, just before the Independent Insurance Agent Open in Houston, Texas, Davis Love III felt his Pings were a little off and sent them to the maker to be checked.  Love used his back-up set in the pro-am on Wednesday, got his “A” set back that night and played the tournament with them.  “It was nothing,” says Love.  “I knew the clubs would come back perfect.”

Sandy Lyle, winner at Phoenix, Greensboro, and The Masters last year, used to get several sets of clubs from Dunlop, play them all, then pick his favorite clubs to form his “A” set.  Now, like Love and any number of others, Lyle can set his specifications on paper, leaving the factory to grind a set out in the time it takes Lanny Wadkins to pick a club and finish his backswing.

And that’s what puts the pet club on the endangered list.  But as hard as it is to imagine the TPC at Sawgrass without ‘gators patrolling it’s ponds, it’s almost impossible to think of pet clubs vanishing from the tour.

 

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