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SPORTS EXTRA / FOCUS ON GOLF: The Masters | INSIDE
THE INDUSTRY

Gadget Hunters Go to Heaven

If everybody's looking for an edge, Golf Expo is clearly the place to find it.

April 08, 1999|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clearly subscribing to the theory that golfers will buy just about anything that they believe will improve their game--or at least make their round more enjoyable--more than 150 companies set up shop recently at the Long Beach Convention Center.

The Southern California PGA Golf Expo is a sort-of duffer's bazaar and to attend is to subject yourself to sales-pitch hell.

Or a slice of heaven, depending on your perspective.

Everybody has something to hawk, from nylon shaft protectors to wood putters that can be customized by carving a name or message into them.

"If you're a golfer," says Bill Richardson, who was at the expo selling Tectonic magnets, which are used to control pain in the body, "you're always trying to catch up to your opponent, whether it be through equipment or pain relief or fashion. Everybody's looking for an edge."

It's difficult to see where you'd find it in a palm-sized, golf hole-shaped gadget that spits out one-liners (i.e. "You da man" or "Your handicap's what?" or "Nice hit . . . Alice," among others) at the push of a button.

But Patti Hayes says you could, especially on those teeth-gnashing days when you've put a couple of drives in the water and your putting has gone south.

"If you can make yourself laugh," says Hayes, a buyer for Chipshot.com, an on-line golf shop that carries everything from serious equipment such as custom-built clubs to novelty items such as baby-sized spikes, "it absolutely helps your game."

Of considerably more help, it seems, would be Lazereyes, a dual-laser swing analyzer that allows players to track their swing through--what else?--lasers beaming from each end of a club-like device.

"If you read a lot of golf books," says the product's inventor, Robert Wurster, "there are 80 different things they tell you to watch for and do. With this club, you can track your swing at four points [take-away, top position, down swing and impact]. . . .

"All you have to do is groove those points in and your swing becomes rock steady. Muscle memory is directly trained instantaneously with your eyes while you're watching the ball like you're supposed to."

Of course, locking in a rock-steady swing might be for naught if your grips are slick.

Enter the Pro's Choice Performance System, a solution to clean, refurbish and recondition golf grips.

"The common misconception is that golf grips wear out," says Andy Burich, a distributor for Arizona Golf Marketing. "But golf grips don't wear out, they rot out because the salts and acids and oils from our hands get on them and deteriorate them. . . .

"With this system and this solution, you'll never have to replace your grips again."

According to Burich, the solution has "totally eliminated the need for golf gloves."

This comes as news to Jack Gately, a sales representative for Mizuno Golf, which sells gloves.

Though unfamiliar with the Pro's Choice Performance System, Gately smiles and says, "They can affect the grip, but they can't affect the hand. . . . Have they eliminated sweat and blisters?"

Of course not, but the Golden Retriever "pickup" putter eliminates something else.

"It's amazing," says Joe Turpel, director of marketing for the Golden Retriever Co., "how much energy you can save through 18 holes if you don't have to bend over to pick up your ball."

Equally amazing is the energy it takes to wade through all the products at the Golf Expo.

"You'll never run out of things to [sell] a golfer, that's for sure," says Hayes, the Chipshot.com buyer. "Golfers would buy a swing if they could, especially if it would let them hit the ball straight and toward the target every time."

Inventors are probably out there right now. . . .

They'll be at next year's Expo.

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