January 10, 2019
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
- Ping has a collection of gold putters to commemorate majors wins throughout history in a vault in its headquarters.
In the 1970s, Ping began making two gold-plated replica putters for golfers who won major TOUR events using a Ping putter. One of the gold putters went to the player, the other was kept at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix.
Eventually, the stockpile of gold putters, which mimic the exact specifications of the game-used putters, grew into a collection of nearly 3,000 that are now housed in Ping’s “Gold Putter Vault.” And the collection continues to grow.
In turn, the Gold vault also houses a stockpile of fascinating stories.
During a recent trip to Ping’s headquarters, I entered the vault with tour guide and longtime Director of Marketing at Ping, Pete Samuels, to uncover some of those stories from inside the vault. Below were my discoveries, with narration from Samuels.
The First of Many
“The first documented putter win (for Ping) was 1962, the Cajun Classic, which was won by John Barnum. I believe it was the (model) 69 series. This tradition of doing gold-plated putters started in the mid-70s, so some of these putters have been added after the fact. The first major was the ’69 Masters with an Anser by George Archer.
It’s been interesting over the years, people have been becoming more and more aware of it… pros who did win, who never got a gold-plated putter, just because the records weren’t as well kept back then. So if a player reaches out to us and says ‘Hey, I won such and such tournament, but never got my gold putter.’ If it’s documented, we can prove it, we’re happy to give it them. We want as many putters in here as we can get, right?”
Westwood vs. Seve: Who has more Gold putters?
“From a wins perspective, Seve has the most wins with 47. And they’re all with the Anser putter… I’m pretty sure it was the same spec. So what we do is we build (the Gold putters) the exact specs of their putter: length, lie, loft, all that. I can’t say all of those wins were with the same Anser, they’re all an Anser model, but he may have had more than one over the years.”
“Then as far as Westwood… so Lee just won (the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge) with a Fetch. I think he’s closing in on Seve, with a couple more wins he’ll overtake him. But Lee has more Gold putters in the vault because as a staff player we also acknowledge some career milestones or achievements, so he would have some Ryder Cup putters in here. We also give staff players a gold putter based on surpassing a career earnings milestone. So he has several of those as well. I’d have to count them up. It’s probably in the mid-50s in terms of how many he has. But wins wise, he’s still a hair short of Seve, but not much. Hopefully he’ll win a few more here.
I think (Westwood has) 13 or 14 different models. Probably 14 now because of the Fetch, that’ll be another new model for him. What’s interesting is everything from mid-mallets to pure mallets to even blades, some Anser-style putters. Quite a variety.”
Ping at THE PLAYERS
“There was a string here, that mid-to-early 90s, we had a pretty good streak of putters winning THE PLAYERS. So from ’91 to ’97, every one except for Nick Price in ’93.”
Steve Elkington won the 1991 and the 1997 PLAYERS Championship, Davis Love III won in 1992, Greg Norman in 1994, Lee Janzen in 1995, and Fred Couples in 1996 — all using Ping putters.
Tiger Woods, the putter that started it all
“It’s an Anser 2, which he used growing up. And these are the ’94 and ’95 U.S. Amateurs, where he used the Ping Anser 2, stainless steel was the material. Those are definitely must-sees when people come in here they want to see the Tiger putter. As you know, he still uses a Ping grip on his current putter. On his current putter he blacks it out, but it’s the same grip design that he had on his Anser 2.”
“He did some experimenting this year for sure. Pretty much since he switched from the Anser 2 to the Cameron he’s had the Ping grip on there, because it’s our understanding, it’s not confirmed, there’s some debate… but we believe either 13 or 14 of his major wins have had the Ping grip on it. Somebody questioned all 14, but we’re pretty sure it was all 14.
“He definitely loves the grip, and we provide them to him obviously, happily. We actually still sell it. We have what we call a black-out version, because he’s made that popular and people ask for it.”
Not only putters
“We’ve got a replica of Bubba’s wedge that he hit out of the trees on the 10th at Augusta in the playoff with Louis to win that Masters. The same year, if you recall, Louis made a double-eagle on No. 2, so we have a replica of his 4-iron in memory of that.
“And then we do have some other wedges like when Bob Tway holed out of the bunker to win the ’86 PGA, that’s a Ping Eye2 wedge. Azinger hold out of the bunker at The Memorial on 18 to win to beat Payne Stewart. Jeff Maggert chipped in on I think the first extra hole at the match play to win ’99 with the Eye2 sand wedge, as well.”
“The other cool story is in 1988, Ping putters were used to win all 4 major championships, which was the only time in history to date that that’s happened. If my memory serves me, Sandy Lyle won The Masters with the Ping Pal, Curtis Strange won the U.S. Open with the Zing 2, Seve won the British with an Anser, and Jeff Sluman won the PGA with the Pal 2. Pretty cool feat when you think about winning the Grand Slam of Golf.”