Rife re-emerges with new products

The Rife Iconic, which is part of the Vault 001 series.

The Rife Iconic, which is part of the Vault 001 series.

There is no way Rife could have planned it this way, but the recent Masters provided something of a springboard for the company in the new golf year.

Ted Potter Jr., playing in his first Masters, used a Rife Iconic putter to win the annual Par 3 Contest that precedes the 72-hole competition.

On Wednesday of Masters week, Potter beat superstars Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar in a playoff to win the Par 3 Contest. Unfortunately for Potter, the Masters Par 3 jinx was alive and well as the left-hander battled the demons at Augusta National Golf Club.

On Thursday, Potter shot 76 in the opening round of the Masters. No Par 3 winner has gone on to win the Masters. Most have failed somewhat miserably, and Potter seemed to be upholding that tradition. He added a 73 on Friday, missing the cut by one shot.

Beyond the Par 3 Contest and the jinx, however, Potter's story segues into the re-emergence of putter manufacturer Rife. The company is introducing new putters and new golf balls for 2013.

Potter, who is not paid by Rife, won his first PGA Tour title at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. At the time, Potter was emerging as one of the most consistent putters on the PGA Tour.

Heading into the Masters, Potter was ranked 13th on Tour in the statistical category of strokes gained/putting. Tour players seem to accept it as a legitimate measure of their putting success in competition. Anybody in the top 20 generally is considered a superb putter.

As the Masters started, Tiger Woods held the No. 1 spot in strokes gained/putting, while Kyle Stanley was 187th and dead last.

The 30-year-old Potter won the Par 3 Contest with a center-shafted Rife Iconic model. The Iconic is a member of Rife’s Vault 001 Series of putters, new for 2013. The Iconic is a classically designed blade featuring Rife’s Roll Groove technology face.

(As a matter of record, Potter birdied the second playoff hole with a 12-foot putt to beat Mickelson and Kuchar in the Par 3 playoff. Ernie Els and Nick Watney opted out of the playoff, which was created when all five finished at 4-under-par 23 for nine holes.)

Rife and Yes! were the two putter manufacturers that more than 10 years ago decided to champion face grooves for a more consistent roll. Rife became widely known for its 2 Bar putters with grooves in the face.

Ben Zylstra, president and owner of Rife, wants the company to be known as a manufacturer of putters that look like pieces of art.

Vault ultimately will include 14 different models, each featuring Rife's Roll Groove technology, designed to grab the ball and roll it smoothly rather than produce a hop, skip or jump.

Many of the new Rife putters feature bi-metal construction that incorporates stainless steel on the sole and face, along with aluminum on top. This design concept provides the freedom to create new sizes and shapes, in addition to new sightline options, according to the company.

New finishes also are part of the Rife plan. They include, among others, a bronze-like finish called Phantom and a distinctive deep-black PVD finish. All Rife putters sell between $149 and $199, depending on the model.

Zylstra orchestrated the purchase of Rife in 2012 under the banner of Innovex Golf, the company started by Zylstra in 2004. For 2013, the name Innovex is gone. All products now carry the Rife name.

"Historically Rife was more domestic than international," Zylstra said. "Now we're very, very focused on developing our international market…. We want golfers to talk about 'the Rife feel,' which is a much softer feel that golfers really love."

The 2013 products also include two new Rife golf balls which have made their way from Innovex to Rife.

The V-Motion, according to the company, is a three-piece cast urethane, tour-caliber ball made for the golfer who is looking for superior feel and optimal spin around the greens. Rife says the outer cover that includes 318 dimples is designed to reduce drag and improve carry distance. The cost of the V-Motion is $32.95 per dozen.

The E-Motion is a three-piece Surlyn golf ball with a Progressive Dual Motion Core and a 392-dimple Aeroblend Cover. The cost of the E-Motion is $19.95 per dozen.

With more golf balls and more putters on the way, Zylstra is optimistic about his company's outlook in the golf business. He said: "With so many new models, there is so much excitement at Rife."

Sharing that sentiment likely is Ted Potter Jr. Though he may have been momentarily jinxed, he's won $401,607 through the RBC Heritage and is sitting 85th on the PGA Tour money list.

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