Fast friends on tour: Molinari, Pirelli and Lamkin

Francesco Molinari shows off his Pirelli grips on Tuesday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Francesco Molinari shows off his Pirelli grips on Tuesday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Francesco Molinari attracts attention in his native Italy. After all, he's a golf star in a country with very few of them.

Recently, Molinari added Pirelli, the iconic Italian tire and rubber manufacturer, to a sponsorship list that includes international giants Nike and BMW.

“It is a huge honor for me to represent all these companies,” said Molinari, 30, a three-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 39 in the Official World Golf Ranking. “It is motivation for me to play well because they all believe in me.”

Molinari agreed to use special Pirelli grips on his Nike clubs. He chose grip manufacturer Lamkin because he already felt comfortable using Lamkin’s i6 3GEN grips.

“I like these grips very much,” he said. “There is no reason to change.”

So yellow grips were installed on all of Molinari’s clubs. Those grips soon will be replaced with grips of six different colors, all of them Lamkin i6 3 GEN.

Why six colors? Because Pirelli’s major sponsorship in the world of sports can be found in Formula One racing, where various speeds and conditions are represented by different colors. Red, for example, is the fastest of the colors, and thus Molinari’s driver will have a red grip.

Lamkin isn't quite as old as the 141-year-old Pirelli, but the grip manufacturer holds a number of distinctions in its nearly nine decades of golf.

In 1925, Elver B. Lamkin founded Lamkin Golf Grips in Chicago, where he made leather grips for an enthusiastic clientele.

The privately owned company has remained a family enterprise, with individual Lamkins assuming and maintaining control. Elver eventually was succeeded as president in 1960 by his son, Robert E., who held that position for 40 years before passing the torch to his son, Bob, in 2000.

Molinari’s i6 3GEN grips have become a very visible example of the company’s i6 design philosophy. The model features two distinct surface patterns: the underside has an aggressive hexagonal pattern for a firm grip in any weather, while the topside has a softer keyhole design to provide comfort and tackiness.

At this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, Molinari was accompanied around the Bay Hill course by a small team of publicists and tire experts. Think of it as his version of a pit crew.

“We are very, very careful about our sponsorships,” said Tom Gravalos, vice president of marketing and original equipment for Pirelli Tire North America. “This young man is everything we could ask for. He is nice; he is polite; he is well-spoken.”

And now he's got the green light for world-class driving at Bay Hill.

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