Legendary clubmaker joins Scratch Golf

By January 6, 2010, 1:29 am

Ari Techner, the president/CEO and one of the founders of Scratch Golf Clubs, sats down for a Q&A. Scratch Golf is the fastest growing golf club company in the industry and a pioneer in wedge fitting and design. Techner is an expert in club fitting and design and has been in the golf business since he was 15 years old. He has fit thousands of people for clubs from Scratch's Tour Custom line as well as helped to design all the clubs that Scratch has produced. Scratch recently announced that they have hired clubmaker Don White to work with chief design engineer and master craftsman Jeff McCoy in hand crafting irons and wedges in Scratch's Tour Custom Department. White worked as master craftsman and head of club design at MacGregor Golf for nearly 40 years. In that time he has worked with many high-profile clients including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman.

Q: How did you manage to get Don White to come work for Scratch Golf?

A: First of all let me say that even with all of the exciting things that have been happening with Scratch Golf in the last few months like signing Ryan Moore and making the Golf Digest Hot List as a Gold Medal award, this agreement with Don has been the most exciting for me. The story of how this all happened actually spans all the way back to 1998. I had a friend who knew someone at MacGregor and managed to work it out for me to go down to the MacGregor factory in Albany, Ga., to work with Don on a set of irons for my personal use. The experience of going down there and working with Don was just incredible and it really opened my eyes about how a golf club was properly made. Watching Don make my clubs was actually what first inspired me to think about starting Scratch. The set that Don made for me was so much better than any other set I had ever had in terms of feel and consistency and I understood why after watching the time Don put into them when compared to the mass produced product that I got from other companies. Fast forward to 2009, MacGregor announced that they were going out of business and that they were closing the Albany, Ga., factory. I got a call from a writer at Golfweek that was doing a story on MacGregor and Don White. In talking to Don about who he should call for info on this story I was brought up as a person of interest and someone worth talking to. Apparently Don remembered working with me and had followed my career and Scratch Golf over the years. I was informed that Don had declined multiple seven figure offers from most of the big OEMs to come work for them and that he was considering retirement. I was given his contact info and gave him a call. I found out that not only did he remember working with me but he even remembered all of the exact specs of my set from 11 years earlier. Just amazing. He told me that he had in fact been offered jobs by pretty much all of the big OEMs but he had turned them all down as they would all require him to move out to California and he had no interest in leaving the south. We talked about Scratch and he expressed interest in possibly working for us but wanted to look at all his options before he decided exactly what he wanted to do.

Q: I bet when you went down to Albany in 1998 you never thought that Don would end up working for you did you?

A: It is kind of amazing how it all worked out. There was never a point before I talked to him again for the first time in 2009 that I ever though Scratch Golf would have had a chance to have Don White working for us. He is a living legend and possibly the best club grinder to ever live. The list of people he has worked with is just amazing. I am still a little bit in awe of him to be honest with you.

Q: Why do you think he was interested in working for Scratch when he had turned down every other major OEM that approached him?

A: Part of it was location and at first we talked about him staying in Albany and making clubs for us from down there. With our new studio in Chattanooga this seemed like a workable possibility. He also told me that all of the other companies wanted to use him as a name to put on clubs and basically have him work as an assembly line. He said he did not want to “make 3 irons on Monday, then 4 irons on Tuesday, 5 irons on Wednesday etc.” He wanted to “make clubs for specific people.” He likes to know the name of the person who will be playing the clubs he grinds. He liked what he was doing at MacGregor, which was making personal irons for customers who wanted a hand ground set with all their custom specs as well as working with Tour players on their irons and wedges. While he could have obviously worked with Tour players working for another company that work is always limited and he wanted to continue to make clubs the same way for the public during the rest of his time. He told me that he wanted to work for us and not another else because “Scratch Golf is the only company who still makes clubs the right way” and he wanted to be a part of that.

Q: How did it end up that he is moving up to Chattanooga to work at the Scratch studio?

A: It was a huge compliment and it was really when I realized that we had a great chance to have Don come work for us. In the end we both decided that it would be best for everyone if he came up to Chattanooga and worked with us directly at our new Studio. It was a tough decision for him but luckily he has some family in Chattanooga and has spent some time here over the years. I am not sure how many other cities he would have been willing to move to.

Q: What will Don's role at Scratch be exactly?

A: Don will be in charge of hand grinding our Tour Custom irons and wedges. He will be working with our every day customers along with our tour professionals on PGA, LPGA and other major worldwide tours. Scratch chief design engineer Jeff McCoy will work on tour rros clubs along with Don, but hiring Don will allow Jeff to concentrate most of his time in our new line of hand made putters which are already in play on the PGA Tour before their official introduction. Don will also work alongside Jeff and I and the rest of our design team on future Scratch products. We could not be more excited about the future of our golf clubs with Don on board.

Q: So you needed to bring someone else on to help Jeff McCoy make your hand made clubs anyways?

A: Yes that is what made the timing of this so perfect for everyone. We have been planning on introducing a line of putters for a little while now as we have gotten a ton of requests from our customers. We realized that we needed a craftsman to make our putters for us. Jeff had made some completely hand made putters in the past for some VIP customers that were incredible but simply did not have the time to make all of our irons and wedges along with all of our putters. He barely had enough time to make all of our irons and wedges. We explored some different options for bringing someone on to make putters but could not find the right long term fit. That is when Don came into the picture. We could not have come up with a better solution than bringing Don onto the team to work on irons and wedges to let Jeff concentrate on putters. It is perfect for Scratch Golf. We are bringing in one of the greatest club makers to ever live to work on our irons and wedges and we can have Jeff use his incredible talents to make our putters. Jeff's first hand made prototype of our new putter line is in play on the PGA Tour this week at the SBS Championship.

Q: What makes Don so special as a club grinder?

A: I read a quote from Chi Chi Rodriguez in an article talking about how Don's a genius along the lines of Mozart or Picasso and that his genius is in his hands and I think that really sums it up well. He has a touch with a grinder and an eye for clubs that simply cannot be taught. The clubs he produces are true masterpieces. The shape and sole grind of each club blends perfectly into the next club and each edge and line is perfect. His genius has been recognized over and over by the best players in the world and it is what has gotten him the reputation as the best at what he does.

Q: How else do you think having Don White as a part of Scratch Golf will benefit you guys?

A: Having Don as a part of Scratch Golf will make us a better company in literally every facet of our business. We are all incredibly excited to learn all we can from Don. He is a fountain of golf knowledge about making golf clubs. He knows everything. He has almost 40 years experience but he really has over 100 years experience as he has learned from all the great MacGregor craftsmen before him. I also am excited about how much he can raise the profile of Scratch Golf. As a small but growing company brand recognition and acceptance is one of the biggest challenges that we face and having a guy like Don associated with Scratch will really help.

Q: What is the benefit of playing with irons or wedges with a custom ground sole?

A: The key to seeing the benefit of playing a custom ground sole is making sure the grind that is chosen properly fits the players swing. Every person swings the club differently and depending on the players angle of attack and how the clubs goes through the ground a different sole grind is needed to achieve the players maximum ball striking potential. For example a player who has a steep angle of attack and is aggressive through the ball needs more bounce and sole width on their wedges while they need more bounce and camber on their irons. This helps prevent digging and greatly increases their chance for a purely struck shot. On the other hand a person who is has a shallow angle of attack and does not really have much turf interaction or take much of a divot needs lower bounce and a thinner sole on their wedges and lower bounce and less camber on their irons. This allows this type of player to get down into the ball without the sole getting in the way causing a thin shot.

Q: I have seen different wedge grinds before but I have never seen another company offer different iron grinds. Is this something unique to Scratch Golf?

A: Yes, we are the only company to offer different sole grinds on irons. We offer three different grinds on our retail irons and an unlimited amount of grinds on Don's Tour Custom irons. Other companies try to design a sole grind that will work for everyone by taking specs that work for Digger/Drivers and combining them with other specs that work for Sweeper/Sliders. The end result of this is a sole that almost works for some people but does not really work perfectly for anybody. With our irons you can match the sole grind of you clubs to your specific swing which assures better contact and better golf shots. It is also worth noting that while other companies offer different wedge grinds we are the only company that offers multiple sole grinds that are designed to fit specific swing types. Most wedges are designed similarly to most irons trying to make a sole that will work for everyone and making one that does not quite work right for anyone.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.