An old favourite makes a welcome comeback
Those of you old enough to remember crooner Bing Crosby and comedian Bob Hope probably also recall that they were both seriously committed to the game of golf.
While close friends, they were hugely competitive on the golf course and were always trying to get one over on the other.
Well, in the early 1960s a fellow named Ray Cook developed a daringly different type of putter that he marketed from a small shop in San Antonio, Texas.
Cook had become inspired through the physics and aerodynamics classes he took while attending college through the Air Force.
He realised that the slight vibrations in metal tuning forks provided more feel and as a consequence he crafted the first aluminium putter with grooves, in the process revolutionising the way putters are manufactured to this day.
Throughout the 1960s till the late 1980s, Ray Cook putters would come to dominate the PGA and LPGA Tours.
As a 14-year-old caddy at the Willow Brook Country Club, Texas, Cook had not been allowed to play on the course’s greens. He had to practise on the sand behind the pro shop, which is where he crafted his first putter, the M1 Mallet.
Once he began manufacturing clubs, he realised he needed someone of high profile to play with them.
So when he read that Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Babe Zaharias were to play a charity game for servicemen at Bakersfield, he sensed this was his opportunity. These were the types of celebrities he needed to use his clubs.
After hitchhiking there and watching them play, he approached Bob Hope after he’d putted out at 18, shook his hand and presented him with one of his patented putters.
The rest, as they say, is history. Not long after, Cook famously received a call one evening from Bing requesting a putter of the type Bob was using, because Bob had beaten him.
Cook obliged and later received a note saying, “Thanks, Ray — I beat him!”
Not only did Hope and Crosby continue to use the M1 Mallet putters for the next couple of decades, so did countless professional players.
Ray Cook putters were the putters to use and racked up more than 200 tour victories.
Unfortunately, Ray Cook products rather lost their appeal after the company was bought out and as rival companies began producing top-quality putters.
But the good news is that in recent times New Zealand company Linkz Marketing, based in Kelston, Auckland, has resuscitated the brand after successful negotiations at the Orlando Trade Fair. Zane Miller, the managing director of Linkz Marketing, which has been a competitor in the New Zealand golf industry since 1988, says his company is proud to be associated with Ray Cook putters.
“We’re excited about marketing putters that revolutionised the game and dominated the game from the sixties to the eighties.
“What is exciting is that the clubs, and we’re talking wedges as well as putters, will retail at really competitive prices. When they first tried to re-launch the Ray Cook brand a few years back, they were too expensive.”
The clubs are being manufactured in China for a New York company and New Zealand is the first country the clubs are being exported to.
Linkz is offering the Blue Goose and Silver Ray putters along with the original M1 Mallet for both men and women as well as an appealing range of junior sets.