The Ro­bot Named Af­ter Tiger

This could be the most in­flu­en­tial golfer of the next 25 years.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life - By jerry tarde

The best de­scrip­tion of the ro­botic swing of Ben Ho­gan was au­thored by the late writer Charles Price, who said Ho­gan hit the ball “like a ma­chine stamp­ing out bot­tle caps.” So it came as a bit of a sur­prise that the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion’s golf ro­bot was named “Iron By­ron” af­ter the more artis­tic swinger, By­ron Nel­son.

Nel­son be­came known as “the Me­chan­i­cal Man” when he won 11 con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ments and 18 to­tal in 1945. The True Tem­per shaft com­pany built the first swing ro­bot in 1967, mod­elled on Nel­son’s “per­fect swing,” and for decades the USGA used it to test balls for com­pli­ance with the rules.

Most of the USGA’s test­ing is now done in­doors, but mod­ern ver­sions of Iron By­ron can be cranked up to 130 miles per hour (208 kilo­me­tres per hour), match­ing the fastest swings on the PGA Tour to­day.The USGA’s ro­bot is sta­tion­ary, so it’s kind of a one-trick pony, hit­ting per­fect driv­ers.

Now along comes Gene Par­ente, who runs a com­pany called Golf Lab­o­ra­to­ries Inc. Par­ente is the in­ven­tor of a ro­bot on wheels with an ad­justable swing that can hit balls out of bunkers and putts on the green as well as every imag­in­able tee shot. His part­ner Gary McCord named it LDRIC af­ter Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, a gib­ber­ish acro­nym for Launch Di­rec­tional Ro­bot In­tel­li­gent Cir­cuitry.

“At his peak,Tiger was able to take emo­tion out of the mo­ment and hit pure shots,” McCord says.“Our LDRIC is a trib­ute to that spirit and re­solve.”

So it was quite a co­in­ci­dence when Par­ente and McCord rolled out LDRIC onto the sta­dium par-3 16th at TPC Scotts­dale in Ari­zona on the Wed­nes­day of last year’s Waste Man­age­ment PGA Tour event and made a hole-in-one (on its fifth try). Beer cans rained down on the green from the sta­dium seats, rem­i­nis­cent of the 1997 ace made by the orig­i­nalTiger on the same hole.

Par­ente has been a long­time tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to Golf Di­gest and per­forms the ro­botic tests for our an­nual Hot List eval­u­a­tion of equip­ment. His overnight suc­cess be­gan when he grad­u­ated in 1989 from UCLA with a ma­jor in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and a plan to work in the for­eign ser­vice. His father is Richard Par­ente, the for­mer Palm Springs golf pro who started the wedge com­pany, Hickory Stick USA, later pur­chased by Ely Call­away and re­named Call­away Golf.

Richard had an­other idea for an in­de­pen­dent test­ing com­pany and knew of a swing ro­bot for sale by Titleist. Gene agreed to give his dad’s plan a try as a tem­po­rary job be­fore grad­u­ate school, and 27 years later his evolv­ing ro­bot, built jointly with Sean Dynes of Dynes Un­lim­ited Prod­ucts, has be­come the go-to de­vice in the in­dus­try for test­ing clubs and balls. It can also repli­cate hooks, slices and other flaws in­her­ent in the hu­man swing, which is the ba­sis for a new ven­ture by Gene and Gary and an­other part­ner, Mike Abram, to use LDRIC as a teach­ing tool.

You might have seen the Euro­pean Tour pro­mo­tion show­ing Gene’s ro­bot com­pet­ing in a skills chal­lenge against Rory McIl­roy hit­ting balls into wash­ing ma­chines on a prac­tice range. Or in a match in Ja­pan against Shingo Katayama.

There is more to come as LDRIC com­bines robotics, in­for­ma­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and en­ter­tain­ment with golf learn­ing. “You only have to see how kids re­act to a seven-foot talk­ing ro­bot in ju­nior clin­ics to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­pact on teach­ing sci­ence and pro­mot­ing the game,” Par­ente says.

At the end of the day, LDRIC’s per­for­mances are eerily sim­i­lar to that of an­other golfer goof­ing his way through a clinic and amaz­ing at­ten­dees with power, speed and ac­cu­racy.That guy was a young Tiger Woods. A quar­ter-cen­tury later, it’s his ro­botic name­sake that might be chang­ing the game.The most in­flu­en­tial golfer of the next 25 years might not be hu­man.

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