16 Mar A Golf Geek’s Dream: Time in the Tour Van
One week ago, I walked up my driveway with a bounce in my stride that I only get at the end of a great day. Watching the sunset from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro was special, but spending the day in a PGA Tour Van at the Valspar Championship was beyond words.
“Honey, I’m home,” I called out to my girlfriend as soon as I walked in the door. “I went to the Valspar and watched a bunch of tour players hitting bullets on the range,” I said. “But then I got to hang out in a tour van and watched Scott build a set with an SST Pure. It was the most amazing thing!”
“Sorry,” she said, looking at me like I was a bit crazy, “but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I tried to explain it in plain English.
“Today, a friend took me into a tour van and introduced me to Scott E. Garrison,” I said. “Scott owns and operates a tour van. His van is basically a tractor trailer truck that’s a pro shop on wheels and steroids. Imagine a science lab crossed with a tailor shop crossed with the best stocked pro shop you could imagine.”
“Let me see if I get this,” she said. “Your great mood is because you spent the day in a tractor trailer truck?”
“Not just any… Scott’s,” I said. “He travels to about 32 tour events per year, usually stays from Monday to Wednesday, repairing, fitting and building clubs for tour players. His van is full of the most unbelievable technology, a lot of which you can’t find anywhere other than a van like his. He has a couple of lie and loft machines, a gripping station, a saw, a belt sander and a machine to get shafts PUREd.”
“A PUREd?” she asked. She looked at me like I was crazy and speaking a foreign language.
“Yes, a PUREd,” I said, barely holding back my excitement. “It’s this machine that analyzes golf shafts and identifies the most stable plane. It’s helped PGA Tour players earn $2 billion around the world.”
“PureD made $2 billion?” she asked. “Sounds like a vitamin or a workout tape.”
“No, it’s better,” I told her. “What you do is load a club shaft into the machine, then the machine spins the shaft around to locate the strongest point in the shaft. When the machine identifies the spot it even marks it! Then, when Scott builds a club, he puts that spot into the 12 o’clock position on the club, which optimizes performance.”
Her interest piqued. “Why is that important?” she asked.
“Because even something as well built and precise as the shafts in golf clubs have individual characteristics that can be used to make how you use them more or less effective. In this case, it allows you to position the club so it can be its strongest, most consistent and most effective when you swing.”
“Wow, now I get it,” she said. “So that machine could be the difference between someone winning or losing on tour?”
“Exactly,” I said. “I also got to watch Scott put together a set for a big deal on the PGA Tour while the guy stood there. The process was pure artistry. First, Scott looked at the desired specs for the player. Then he weighed all the heads, all the grips, PUREd the shafts and then set upon building what was literally a perfect set.”
“A true artist at work,” she said.
“You got it,” I said. “As he moved effortlessly, he spoke of the precision required in his work, teaching me about the nuances of the process, as well as the challenges of working with tour players. Many of these guys can tell even one swing weight.”
“At one point he held up two brands of golf grips: an Iomic and a Golf Pride,” I said. “He pointed to the end of a club and said, ‘See here, Iomic has no butt, but Golf Pride has about a quarter-inch butt. When you build, you better account for the difference.’”
I kept chattering.
“He was moving from machine to machine through the process, snipping a little hear, measuring a little there, then some mixing and a little light banging and VOILA!” I said. “The perfect set; all lengths, swing weights and frequencies spot on!”
I had her attention as she sat sipping her water.
“The process continued,” I said. “A hybrid for another household name player. Then a putter grip and then a loft and lie check.”
Scott told me that many PGA Tour players came into his Tour van every week to check their lies as he measured a golf club using his $6,000 digital loft and lie machine. “And then there are some who come less often,” he said. “Depends on the guy. Some are very particular, others are not.”
I continued recounting the events of the day to her.
“Around 11 a.m., the Pro-Am was about to start,” I said. “The players and everyone other than Scott left the van. As he continued to work I asked, ‘Was that stressful?’ He laughed. Just how he looked at me, it was clear that he loves his work as much as any artist or craftsman who needed to be on his game all the time. He made it all look very easy.”
“And then what?” my girlfriend asked.
“I watched him work silently for a long time,” I said. “It really felt like he was the master sword fitter, arming the greatest Samurai in the land, and I was watching him build the swords that would make the difference between life and death.”
“Come on young Skywalker,” she said laughing. She kissed me and led me into the kitchen for for dinner; I could smell the spaghetti bolognese, my favorite.
“It didn’t just seem like it,“ she said. “He probably was.”
“Yup,” I said. A perfect day, as I kissed her lightly on the cheek, a happy, contented man.