Finalists Announced for Golf Channel's New Driver vs. Driver Series, Premiering Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 10 p.m. ET

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 24, 2016, 3:57 pm

Wilson Golf Taking Unique Approach To Find Next Great Golf Driver, Shining Spotlight on Aspiring Equipment in All-New Elimination-Style Reality Television Series 

Finalists Range from College Students to Former Golf Professionals to Engineers and Product Designers 

Panel of Celebrity Judges Includes Former NFL Linebacker and Avid Golfer Brian Urlacher; Two-Time PGA TOUR Winner Kevin Streelman, Former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas and Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke  

Driver vs. Driver Series Trailer

Morning Drive Interview With Host Melanie Collins

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 24, 2016 – Golf Channel announced today the 11 finalists who will present their innovative driver concepts and ideas with the hopes of ultimately becoming Wilson Golf’s newest driver for 2017 on a new, first-of-its-kind television series, Driver vs. Driver presented by Wilson. The series premieres Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 10 p.m. ET.

Driver vs. Driver will follow the trials and tribulations of aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the chance to win $500,000, and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name. The finalists, selected through an open call application process, will present to a panel of celebrity judges – former Chicago Bears linebacker and avid golfer Brian Urlacher, former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas and President of Wilson Golf Tim Clarke – during the series’ first two episodes. Two-time PGA TOUR winner and Wilson Advisory Staff member Kevin Streelman joins the series as a judge beginning with the third episode.

Following the presentations, the judges will debate on which finalists’ concepts will advance in the competition. The seven-episode series will then take viewers behind the scenes as the advancing teams work with Wilson LABS – the innovation hub at Wilson – engineers to evaluate, critique, refine and test their concepts, all while the panel of expert judges evaluates the best concept that will help golfers perform off the tee.

Viewers also will get a look behind the curtain at one of the most iconic sports brands in history, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. Golf Channel cameras will give viewers a glimpse inside the company’s Wilson LABS facility, an expansive innovation center that serves as a primary design and testing hub for its sporting goods concepts and products, including tennis, basketball, baseball, football and golf, among others.

The series’ finalists are a diverse cast that includes professional golfers and former club manufacturers, college students, engineers and product designers. Some of the finalists are well versed in the sport of golf, where others have never taken up the game but have extensive engineering and design background.

FINALISTS:

Jonathan Dineen (26, Wilmington, N.C.) – An industrial engineer with a determined work ethic, Dineen’s driver design concept is called “The Wasp,” the concept for his senior thesis at Appalachian State University.

Richard Gischer (37, Crowley Texas) and Kimberly Leonard (35, Pinckneyville, Ill.) – A brother-sister team, Gischer is the golf expert and Leonard is the sales and communications expert. A graduate from the Professional Golf Management program at Campbell University, Gischer formerly worked at Nike, building custom golf clubs for some of the best players in the world before leaving the company to pursue another passion of his – mission work. Their driver concept is a green design, with the hopes of creating a driver using renewably sourced bio-product.

Kyle Hanquist (26), Kevin Neitzel (30), Ann Arbor, Michigan – Colleagues and friends at the University of Michigan, Hanquist and Neitzel are both PhD students in aerospace engineering, studying aerothermodynamics of high speed flight. When they aren’t in school together, they play golf and travel the world – their idea for Driver vs. Driver was submitted while traveling through Europe.

Jimmy Huynh (26), Brian Mar (21), Patrick Soriano (25), Sheila Pancani (45), Patrick Soriano (25) and Matt Ulery (30), Long Beach, Calif. – Seniors in the industrial design program at California State University, Long Beach, this diverse is determined to create a driver that is, in their words, “Sick.” The group – who has no golf experience – underwent a three-week driver cram session to learn everything they could before submitting their driver design. Their micro-honeycomb design was modelled after Formula 1 cars and the grill from Ulery’s motorcycle.

Branndon Jones (21) and Ryan Nelson (21), Knoxville, Tenn. – Students at the University of Tennessee, Jones and Nelson have known each other since their freshman year of high school. Nelson is more outgoing and creative, where Jones is more analytical. They plan on having a balanced approach to try to create the most unique and technologically advanced driver on the golf market today. Their design idea came about after Jones watched Serena Williams, a long-time Wilson Advisory Staff Member, on television competing in a tennis match.

Steve Kirouac (59, Welland, Ontario, Canada) – A retired art teacher, Kirouac had a “eureka” moment one afternoon grilling sausages in his backyard that led to his driver concept. The sound of the fly swatter hitting the wood while he “shooed” away bees reminded him of a driver hitting a golf ball and thus, an idea was born. The result is a honeycomb golf club, an aerodynamic club designed to increase club speed.

Weston Maughan (35, Draper, Utah) – A former golf professional who is now working in the business sector, Maughan has been hooked on the game ever since Hall-of-Famer Johnny Miller gave him instruction tips that yielded instant results as a young child. Maughan is utilizing his golf expertise in developing his driver design, which allows the driver to dial in the weight of the club, making it customizable.

Matt Purtell (37, Sonoma, Calif.) – An avid golfer and building contractor who has lived his entire life in Sonoma, Calif., Purtell’s driver design idea stemmed from often mis-hitting his driver, but never his 3-wood. His concept focuses on overlaying the crown of a 3-wood on top of the driver to help make a more controlled golf swing.

Eric Sillies (26, Cincinnati, Ohio) – A product designer who believes in the power of making better products to make life better for people, his driver design is called “Manta,” a multi-piece construction with a unique alignment feature. Sillies formerly interned with Dick’s Sporting Goods while in college, where he had the opportunity to help design the aesthetic direction for the 2012 Nickent golf club line.

Gavin Wallin (40, Eagle Mountain, Utah) – A product designer who has extensive experience in golf club design with multiple manufacturers, Wallin is combining his real-world experience and his industrial design college degree to develop an adjustable driver concept that has benefits for both the low handicap and high handicap player.

Karl West (43, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) – Originally born in New Zealand and now residing in Victoria, British Columbia, West is a long time golf instructor at Royal Colwood. A self-professed “tinkerer,” West enjoys conceptualizing and designing putters and drivers in his basement lab. West is self-taught in developing concepts for drivers and putters, and his ultimate goal is to bring his driver idea to life through the series.

MELANIE COLLINS TO HOST: Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins will serve as the host of Driver vs. Driver. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins also was co-host for Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

GRAND PRIZE: The finalists are competing for $500,000 and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name.

SERIES PRODUCTION: Following a call-for-entries in the summer of 2015, production for Driver vs. Driver began in the fall of ’15 and continued through July 2016. Driver vs. Driver will air weekly for seven episodes, concluding Tuesday, Nov. 22.

ABOUT WILSON SPORTING GOODS:

Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a subsidiary of Amer Sports, is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of sports equipment, apparel and accessories. Wilson Golf is a global leader in high performance golf equipment and uses player insights to design products that push golf innovation into new territories. Through its dedication to creating products that enable athletes at every level to perform at their best, Wilson has earned its place as a leader in sporting goods for over a century.

ABOUT GOLF CHANNEL

Golf Channel is a multimedia, golf entertainment and services company based in Orlando, Fla. Serving the most-affluent audience in all of television, Golf Channel – co-founded by Arnold Palmer in 1995 and now part of NBC Sports Group – is available in more than 200 million homes in 84 countries and 11 languages around the world. Golf Channel features more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, including tournament action from the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour, The Open Championship, Olympics, and Ryder Cup, as well as high-quality news, instruction and original programming. Golf Channel’s digital platforms, headed by GolfChannel.com, are leading golf digital destinations, delivering unmatched coverage of the world of golf. Fans are able to enjoy 24/7 live streaming of Golf Channel content through Golf Live Extra and NBC Sports Live Extra and select programming is simulcast via SiriusXM’s PGA TOUR Radio. In addition, Golf Channel connects the world to golf through a wide array of digital and lifestyle services including Golf Channel Mobile, a comprehensive app covering golf’s latest headlines, scores and analysis; GolfNow, the world’s largest online tee time booking platform and golf course technology partner, which includes the GolfNow Mobile App, featuring on-course GPS tracking, in-round scoring and game tracking; GolfAdvisor.com, the world’s largest golf course ratings and review resource for golfers, by golfers; a North American network of Golf Channel Academy instructional facilities; and Golf Channel Am Tour, the world’s largest amateur golf tour.

-NBC Sports Group-

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”