Greenbrier Classic: Golf techs build clubs in mere minutes
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The men are akin to a pit crew for a NASCAR driver, but you won't see them changing any tires.
Instead, the tour technicians in the TaylorMade Golf tour van are at the Greenbrier Classic to help tune up players' equipment. They can build a new driver from scratch in less than five minutes, a process that usually takes up to 24 hours from start to finish in a factory setting.
"We're the only guys out here that can do what we do so fast," said Henry Luna, one of the technicians.
This is California-based TaylorMade's second appearance at the Greenbrier Classic.
"We're here for the players," Luna said. "We're a little farther away than we are at some other tournaments, but the players know where to find us if they need us."
TaylorMade is known for its "white technology," which provides maximum contrast between the club head and the ground, making it easier for players to align their clubs.
The entire truck, the largest in the TaylorMade fleet, was stocked to the brim with white-technology club heads.
"Everything is about the white technology," Luna said. "It's huge in tournament play this year."
It's common for players to get a new club before a tournament, Luna said.
"Maybe their driver didn't work so well for them last week, and they feel like it's a little worn out, so we give them something new," he said. "We're constantly working with these guys to give them the best clubs we can."
TaylorMade also can make adjustments to a club, such as changing a grip -- something Luna said players do constantly.
"We're here for whatever they need," he said.
On Tuesday, Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey asked TaylorMade to outfit him with a new club after he was having problems with his club hitting too far to the right.
Tour representative David Williams got right to work.
Each time a new club is built, the representative or technician takes into account everything from the length and size of the shaft, to the weight of the head, to the lie and loft of the face.
From start to finish, the company can have a new set of irons ready for a player in 30 to 45 minutes, something Luna said helps set them apart from their competitors.
"That's fast-fast," he said.
The longest part of the process isn't actually putting the club together, he said. It's making sure the club head is correct.
"It's all about that part," he said.
Whoever is building the club will start with the club head, getting the right loft the player wants from their club. They then measure and cut the shaft, adjust the angle of the club, glue it all together, and add a grip.
Luna said the company's special two-part glue mixture is one of the reasons the construction is so fast. The club is placed in a heat cell for two minutes at 380 degrees, fusing the club together.
After that, "it's hard as a rock and ready to go," Luna said.
After the club was finished, Williams delivered it to Gainey, who said that unfortunately, the club was still hitting too far to the right.
After Gainey sized up the new club, he sent it back to TaylorMade for a couple of adjustments.
"It's hard to get it just right on the first try," Gainey said. "You've got to keep working it and keep getting it done."
But he was not worried.
"They know what they are doing, and they don't stop until they get it right," he said. "The second time will be the charm, no doubt. They'll figure it out. It might take them a little bit, but they won't stop. And that's nice."
The work the technicians do, and the clubs themselves, come at no cost to the players.
The company hopes the publicity will pay off.
"If they win with our club, then we can sponsor them," Luna said. "We're putting the money out there hoping that we win and get it back in the long run."
The technicians spend the day adjusting clubs for various professional golfers. Luna said John Daly called him bright and early Monday morning to have a new club built.
"He texted me at 6 a.m. to see if I was awake," Luna said with a smile. "He gave me all the specs so when he showed up, we were able to get going immediately."
Daly, who played at the Greenbrier event last year, was thankful for the new, fast work and donated his club to TaylorMade. The company will auction it off and give the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps severely injured service members.
The tour bus must pack up and move out by Wednesday. PGA regulations do not let any of the technicians stay at the event after that day. They'll be driving that day to the next tournament.
"Then we do it all over again," he said.
Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathr...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.