Dentist Commercialized the Wooden Golf Tee

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
The booming drives that will be launched next week during the PGA Championship have at least one thing in common with the hooks and slices that plague weekend hackers: They all start with the ball on a simple golf tee, invented just miles from where the world's best golfers will play the final major of the season.
 
The roots of the modern-day tee trace to New Jersey, where a dentist who didn't like using a mound of dirt as a tee tinkered in his garage until he found a better way to elevate a golf ball.
 
Dirt tees were the accepted method for several centuries. That didn't suit Dr. William Lowell, a member of the Maplewood Country Club, who disliked the process of mixing sand and water.
 
Maplewood is only a few miles from the Baltusrol Golf Club, site of this year's PGA Championship. Play begins Thursday.
 
Although another dentist - Dr. George F. Grant of Boston - had patented the first wooden tee in 1899, it was not widely used since he did not market it, according to golf historians.
 
'This idea of a wooden golf tee sort of languished until you had Dr. William Lowell experimenting in his garage in the 1920s,' said Rand Jerris, director of the museum and archives of the United States Golf Association, in Far Hills.
 
While Grant's tee was a narrow cone topped with a concave rubber tip, Lowell's all-wood tee had a saucer-like platform atop the peg, similar to the shape in wide use today.
 
Lowell filed his application on May 5, 1922, and was granted patent No. 1,493,687 on May 13, 1924.
 
He also painted them red, formed the Reddy Tee Co., and hired two professional golfers, Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood, an Australian, to use his product in 1924 as the pair played exhibition matches.
 
'They were the perfect sort of showmen,' Jerris said. 'They did a great job of promoting the product.'
 
The pros would leave the pegs in the ground after they hit, and spectators would scramble to retrieve them, he said. Other inventors and patents soon followed.
 
'The transformation happened very quickly,' Jerris said. 'Within a couple years the sand tee disappeared.'
 
Reddy Tee has also faded into history, and USGA records indicate that Lowell eventually lost his patent after a long legal struggle.
 
Tees now come in many designs and materials, but the simple wooden tee remains the most popular. Some 288 patents for inventions with the words 'golf tee' in the title have been granted since 1976, said Ruth Nyblod, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
 
Some of the newfangled designs, including one that perches the ball atop a cluster of thin plastic fibers, cost about $2. But the basic wooden tee is available for just a few pennies, making it the cheapest aspect of a game in which high-tech carbon-titanium drivers can cost hundreds of dollars.
 
Lowell's contribution to the game is still celebrated at Maplewood Golf Club, which is less than four miles from Baltusrol. A plaque in the main bar honors Lowell, and the men's opening day tournament in April is named for the dentist, said head pro Mickie Gallagher III.
 
'In honor of him, everyone tees off with wet sand on the first tee,' Gallagher said.
 
He cautions newcomers to avoid the little pyramid of dirt when they swing. 'Just make sure you don't do that. It might scratch your driver a little bit,' he said.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.