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Inspiration on the green
"Of all the seductive illusions of golf, perhaps none is more deeply ingrained than the notion that the latest equipment can overcome all the manifest flaws of one's swing.But Patrick Broom and his island-based Optic Golf are attacking one aspect of the game where physical limitations really aren't confining - the putting game. We've designed a putter that's easy to line up visually, Broom said. And it's easier to make a pendulum stroke through the ball.The first thing you notice about the Optic Z putter line is the Z shape of the neck head. The neck thrusts forward from the club's shaft, then back at a 90-degree angle to join the putter head.The weight on the leading edge (the part that thrusts forward) raises the center of gravity of the putter, Broom said. That makes it easier to create top spin, which holds the ball on line longer.The club is also balanced in such a way that it's less inclined to rotate during the putting stroke, Broom said.Then there's another thing about the putter that golfers really like, even though they're reluctant to admit it. It's pretty cool looking.Wing Point head professional Dave Tunkkari was impressed after spending just five minutes with the putter.The hardest thing about putting is aligning properly, Tunkkari said. I think it's harder with this putter to do a lot of manipulating with your hands and get off line.For Broom, a 1977 Bainbridge High School graduate, equipment manufacturing is his key to a golf career. After a brief stint at Western Washington University, he got involved in construction work - boat-building and carpentry. But then wanderlust struck, and he hit the road in 1986 in a used motor home.Eventually, he would up at the Desert Mountain golf resort in Arizona, where he met famed golf instructor Jim Flick. Flick encouraged him to enroll in the Professional Golfers Association's five-year school program, where he learned merchandising and management in addition to playing skills.Broom's playing career never soared. He played mini-tours, but a shoulder injury in 1996 ended his competitive golf career.In 1997, I realized that my time could be better spent closer to home, he said. So I came back to Bainbridge. My choices were either the real estate business or my golf company.He decided to go the golf-company route. He did his designing, then had to negotiate for approval from the United States Golf Association, which has to sanction equipment for official play, including tournament play.They were sensitive about some of my design features, he said, but we were able to satisfy them.One innovation that he did have to scrap to win USGA approval was a calibration line across the putter's neck. The idea is to line up that calibration with similar lines on the top of the putter, which puts the player's hands in the same position each time.Broom preserved that feature in what he calls the Z Trainer - a club that is not sanctioned by the USGA.But it's great for the millions of people who just play for fun, Broom said.Optic's manufacturing facilities in California are capable of turning out several thousand putters a month. But Broom said widespread distribution won't occur until his design in properly patented in Asia.There are factories in Asia that can knock off 100,000 clubs a month, he said. If you start first in this country, without Asian patent protection, the market will be flooded with imitations.The putter is Optic's first product, but not its only one. It's also marketing clothing and hats. People really like the logo, Broom said.And in the future, Broom is planning to design and market a full line of clubs.Right now, the putter, which retails for about $200, is available at the Newcastle Golf Club on the Eastside. But Wing Point will be the second outlet, Broom said.After holing three straight 20-foot putts on Wing Point's practice green, Tunkkari was a believer.I'm definitely going to give it a try, he said. I've been playing great lately, but putting lousy. This feels really good. "