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Wade Liles, PGA Tour technician, TaylorMade Golf
When Dustin Johnson and Camilo Villegas need club work, they go to the humongous TaylorMade trailer and ask for Liles. After he does his thing, they presumably ask for his autograph. (Liles, a.k.a. Rock Star, plays himself in TaylorMade commercials.)
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Ann Cain, Player promotion executive women's golf, Acushnet Company
LPGA players don't have to visit Cain's shoe-clogged garage to find the footwear that goes perfectly with their outfits. She's a master of social media, tweeting tour players around the clock as "TFJgolfgirl." ("My mom just asked me what BTW stood for? She thought it was 'back to work!' LOL.")
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Tom Preece, R&D vice president, Cobra Golf
With fashion plate Rickie Fowler signed to Cobra, Preece has taken on the task of Rickification (the color coordination of players’ equipment and clothing). Now you know whom to credit—or blame—when someone notices that Lexi Thompson’s driver head matches her skirt, blouse and cap.
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Austie Rollinson, Principal designer, Odyssey Golf
“I always love the Friday-afternoon fire drill,” says Rollinson, referring to the changeitis that afflicts tour players after two rounds of lip-outs. When Phil Mickelson wanted to try a lefthanded version of Keegan Bradley’s Sabertooth belly putter, Rollinson made him one over a weekend, cut a half inch off the shaft the following Tuesday and saw Mickelson put it in play two days later.
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Bob Mednralla Jr. and Bob Mendralla, Master clubmakers, Wilson Golf
The Mendrallas concede that they haven’t built every set of Wilson sticks used to win major championships—just 38 of an industry-record 61. But pretty much every Wilson major winner since Gene Sarazen’s time, including Sam Snead, Nick Faldo and Vijay Singh, has used their clubs.
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Brent Newsome, Cleveland Golf/Srixon tour department manager
Tour players demand a personal “grind” on their wedges, a specific combination of shape and bounce. So Newsome, the designer of the best-selling 588 wedge, spends as much time replicating wedges as he does inventing them. But that doesn’t mean his wedges can’t be customized—e.g., by engraving David Toms’s initials on a sole decked out in LSU purple and gold.
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Tobie Hatfield, Kitchen innovation director, Nike Inc.
Presumably any tour player could have asked Hatfield, a onetime college pole vaulter and pop-music drummer, to make a golf version of the popular Nike Free running shoe. But it wasn’t just any tour player; it was Tiger Woods. “No problem,” said Hatfield, already famous for putting gold shoes on the feet of Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics.
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Brian Beatty, Mark Berry and Christian Cervantes, Tour reps, Adams Golf
Tour reps tend to be spindly fellows, who grunt lifting a staff bag, but the Adams reps (from left: Cervantes, Berry and Beatty) average 6' 4" and 245 pounds, and look like they just broke out of a Dallas Cowboys huddle. (“But really nice guys,” says an industry insider.) Tour players go to the Big Boys for that one-off hybrid club that’s hidden by another company’s headcover
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Dan Murphy, Marketing vice president, Bridgestone Golf
Drafting off his successful Bridgestone Challenge marketing campaign, Murphy sends truckloads of balls to PGA Tour events so players can compare the balls they’re playing with Bridgestone’s orbs. You’ll spot him in the company of Fred Couples, Paula Creamer, Matt Kuchar and Davis Love III.
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David Glod, President and founder, Tour Edge Golf
Other golf CEOs hire reps, but Tour Edge’s founder is the rep. Half-salesman, half-tech, Glod serves the tour pros like the manufacturing pioneers of old, who sold clubs out of their car trunks. But he’s just as likely to show up at your driving range’s demo day with a staff bag full of Exotics fairway metals, one of which will be perfect for you.
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Mike Nicolette, Former PGA Tour pro and senior product designer, Ping Golf
It’s one thing to design a popular golf club, as Nicolette did with Ping’s S56 series. It’s another thing to wield that club deftly enough to qualify for last year’s U.S. Senior Open. And it’s really something when you have a marquee PGA Tour title—the 1983 Bay Hill Classic—to back up your shoptalk.
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David Llewellyn and Bill Price, R&D managers, Mizuno USA
Llewellyn (below, left) and Price were part of a global team that developed the Shaft Optimizer, a device clipped to a six-iron that renders optimal specs based on a golfer’s tempo, clubhead speed and release. If Luke Donald thinks his fitness program has made him stronger, he can hit a few balls with the Optimizer to see if he’s playing the right shafts. If he’s not, Llewellyn and Price’s staff can swap them out on the spot.