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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Thousands of people think they have the next big golf invention. Now, thanks to a new series on the Golf Channel, some of those inventors will get a chance to market their products to a panel of judges.
The show is called Fore Inventors Only, and it features 103 golf inventions that will eventually be whittled to the top five. The winner, voted on by viewers, will receive shelf space for a year at a golf retailer, a fully developed infomercial and $50,000 worth of commercial and promotional airtime.
The show is hosted by Vince Cellini. PGA Tour player Fulton Allem, golf instructor Bill Harmon and Golf for Women senior editor Stina Sternberg are the judges. It premieres at 10 tonight.
There are five bay area inventors involved: Tampa's David Bellagamba, Mark Cokewell and Richard Trammel and St. Petersburg's Matthew Chute and Allen Webb. Most have invested heavily in their products. Some are in debt.
How it works: Made from PVC pipes and Velcro. The golfer wears a belt with Velcro on the back. The belt sticks to a mat set up on the PVC pipe. A bar behind the right knee keeps the leg from moving on the backswing. The golfer takes a backswing with the Velcro shifting to the right side, then follows through with the Velcro shifting back to the left side.
Benefit: Claims to properly align the body at address, create flexibility in the muscles used during a swing, prevent swaying back and forth, going up on the toes or a reverse pivot.
Drawback: Unless the PGA or USGA changes rules, it is illegal to take the Golf Workstation onto the course. And how would it fit in the cart anyway?
In his own words: David Bellagamba - "There are generally about 10 faults that people have during the golf swing. There is a different position for each portion of the golf swing. If you don't take the proper backswing or the proper downswing, you can't hit the ball with this device. It helps the average golfer develop the proper golf swing through repetition. It helps develop muscles needed to swing the club. I've been studying this for a long time. I've done my homework. I know this works."
Final note: Babe Bellagamba is deceased. He invented the full-circle swing trainer for beginning golfers. Made from PVC, that invention teaches the up-and-down plane of a swing.
The Universal Alignment A-1 Alpha Golf Ball
Inventor: Matthew Chute
Cost: $49.95 for one dozen (comes with instructional video)
How it works: The horizontal line makes the ball even with the ground. The vertical line aligns with the middle of the fairway or the hole. The slanted line represents the swing plane. The lines act as a visual aid to assure that the golfer is lined up properly.
Benefit: Once a golfer understands the concept, Chute said, it will guarantee 18 perfect tee shots and 18 perfect putts.
Drawback: At about $50 a dozen, don't knock them in the water or the woods. And it doesn't help you line up your fairway shots, unless it's lift, clean and place.
In his own words: Chute - "The process of lining up correctly is the single biggest problem in golf. The lines act as visual confirmation that the setup is correct. It's just like aiming a rifle or a bow. You have to have your body set up in a specific way. I have the background to know that this is a pragmatic approach. Once people know more about this, it will revolutionize the golf ball industry just like the metal wood revolutionized the equipment industry."
Final note: Chute said he has studied spherical trigonometry at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and is a licensed teaching pro. He has gone close to $50,000 in debt trying to market his alignment golf ball.
How it works: For a right-handed golfer, a specially made glove with a metal piece stitched in is placed on the left hand. Vice versa for the left-handed golfer. The glove prevents the left wrist from cupping, or bending, at the top of the swing.
Benefit: By keeping the wrist straight, it allows for more distance on drives and iron shots. It puts the ball on a lower trajectory, which helps with distance.
Drawback: Because the Wrist Firm stretches almost to the elbow, it takes some getting used to.
In his own words: Trammel - "I've been a teaching pro since 1989, and one day I started working with a student who had problems cupping his wrist. I tried a lot of different products, but nothing worked. I worked on it for about five years, then in 2001 I finally came up with the Wrist Firm. It really gives the golfer a feel that can't be taught because the swing is so fast. It forces the golfer to get into the position you want to be in. It keeps the wrist straight."
How it works: The putter rests on the armpit as the golfer looks straight at the hole. It is swung like a pendulum as the golfer stands on one side of the putter.
Benefit: Based on the theory golfers have one dominant eye. By looking straight at the hole, most golfers will have a better look at the hole and not be dictated by the dominant eye.
Drawback: It is designed to have only one hand on the club, so it will take practice to get a steady hand.
In his own words: Cokewell - "I was playing golf and not doing too well at it when I started hitting the putts one-handed. I was getting them very close to the hole, so I started thinking that I was on to something. The hard part was getting it anchored in the armpit and also have it conform to the rules of golf. But it's really that most people are right-eye dominant. This gets them looking straight at the hole and gives them a better chance, especially on the long-distance putts."
How it works: The finger sleeve is a neoprene stretchable mesh fabric that fits over any finger and beeps when the club is gripped too hard. A snap on the bottom of the device has a sensor, powered by a triple-A battery. It goes off when too much pressure is applied.
Benefit: It forces golfers to grip the club loosely, which should allow for a smoother swing and cut down on injuries a tight grip may cause. It can be used in tennis and baseball.
Drawback: It could be distracting to hear a beep in your backswing.
In his own words: Webb - "It really started, for me, with tennis. I had some tennis elbow problems. It came from gripping the racquet too tightly. I started gripping it loosely, and I've been pain-free for 30 years. I got to thinking about how I can create a device that tells people when they are gripping too hard. Through trial and error, I came up with the Grip Loose, and it's helped a lot of people. It's really preventative medicine. People will see that they don't have to grip a racket or club hard to get results."