2004: Business - Supply can’t meet demand for Goosen’s putter

Want to buy the same putter model used by Retief Goosen to win the 2004 U.S. Open?

Get in line, and be prepared to wait.

The Tracy model of the C-Groove putter, manufactured and sold by Yes! Golf of Denver, is in short supply. Company CEO and president Francis Ricci says it could be months before more are available.

“If we can’t strike while the iron is hot, or I guess I should say while the putter is hot, then the impact will cool – unless we launch a huge marketing campaign, which we’re not in a position to do,” Ricci said.

Such is the fate of small club companies. Ricci has been there before because Goosen used the exact same putter to win the 2001 U.S. Open. Then, as now, Ricci saw his star rise and recede as the supply of C-Groove putters could not match demand.

Allan Strand also knows exactly what it’s like to have the golf world at his doorstep, albeit temporarily. Strand’s Dandy putter was used by Vijay Singh when he won the 2000 Masters.

“When Vijay won, it was great for us, but at the same time we got killed,” he said. “Your phone rings off the hook . . . everybody comes out of the woodwork, and they want the putter right now. And we simply couldn’t supply them.

“The only time you can get investors is when you’ve got the commodity and got a big billboard. And all that’s not possible.”

Strand’s Dandy putter ($189 from the company) has an onset configuration, with the face sticking out in front of the shaft. He actively promotes a precise, straight-back-and-straight-through putting method with the putter, and has recruited Gil Morgan as his spokesman.

Ricci’s C-Groove putter was invented by legendary English putting instructor Harold Swash. The concentric lines in the face are arched in the shape of a half-moon, which Swash says produces a truer roll.

When the putter was introduced in the mid-1990s, it was known as the Swashbuckler from Pro Gear.

Pro Gear initially made a complete line of golf clubs. Ricci assumed control of the company in 1997. He adopted the name Yes! Golf and began to concentrate strictly on putters.

The Swashbuckler II model, used by Goosen, became the Tracy – namedafter Goosen’s wife. Thereafter all C-Groove putters were named after women. Ricci currently has eight different models and is adding two more. The Tracy sells for $149.

“We’re just a dinky little company in Denver, but we do a lot of custom work on our putters,” Ricci said.

Goosen’s putter is face-balanced, has no sight line (he was adamant about this), is 34 inches long and has a 70-degree lie angle that is two degrees flat. Goosen is a TaylorMade staff member, but remains free to use any putter he chooses.

The C-Groove line of putters has claimed more than 20 professional victories worldwide.

Small putter makers have had an impressive run in major championships in recent years, the most visible victory being Payne Stewart’s dramatic 1999 U.S. Open victory with a SeeMore putter.

When Jim Furyk captured the 2003 U.S. Open with a putter made by Bob Bettinardi, the putter was officially called a Bettinardi from Hogan because Bettinardi had signed a deal to make a certain number of putters for the Ben Hogan Co.

“That putter, the Baby Ben, was a prototype,” explained Mike Crockett, vice president of sales and marketing for Bettinardi. “Regardless, our phone didn’t stop ringing.”

The Baby Ben, a face-balanced putter with a double-bend shaft, was formally introduced in January at the 2004 PGA Merchandise Show. With a suggested retail price of $270, it is readily available.

Ricci wishes he could say the same about the C-Groove.

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