I turned pro many moons age – in 1986, to be precise, and for almost all of my tournament playing days I was a Ping player. Back then, Ping were already huge supporters of the women’s game. They were one of the very few companies who not only provided their players with equipment but they were first to instigate a bonus pool which was shared out according to results. As women professional golfers we were taken seriously and so many of us have so much to thank Karsten Solheim, the founder of the company, for. Karsten was a trailblazer in multiple ways and had a proven track record in the women’s game long before the advent of the now world-famous biennial contest between Europe and the United States which is played for the Solheim Cup, a tribute to him and his wife Louise.
So, at one time in my life the road to Gainsborough and the headquarters of Ping was one that was well travelled by me. Patricia and I took that self-same road last Wednesday for me to go and have a club fitting. I had decided it was time to invest in some new clubs and when a couple of my colleagues (Ken Brown being one) suggested I look no further than Ping it was Gainsborough I was pulling up on GoogleMaps. I realised with a jolt that it was probably the thick end of 20 years since I’d last been there and I was curious to see their latest clubs and club-fitting gizmos.
We presented ourselves at the appointed hour at Ping’s European Fitting Centre at Thonock Park where everything is state of the art. Awaiting us was Adam Wainwright, a plus 3 Linclonshire county player and expert club fitter. I put myself in his hands as Patricia roamed around snapping pictures and keeping us supplied with hot drinks on a dank, dismal November afternoon. Adam’s patience was second-to-none, only surpassed by his knowledge and ability to explain his thinking as he guided me through rigorous testing of various combinations of heads and shafts.
I realise that many of you reading this may well be of the mind that you’re “not good enough” to go and have a club fitting. Banish all those thoughts at once! There was a time I would have thought that a couple of good lessons would help a player much more than any club fitting, but no longer! If anything, the lesson and the fitting are natural bedfellows and your golf is bound to improve with clubs that not only fit you but are fit for purpose.
Ever since I can remember Ping have always presented the winner of any professional tournament using one of their putters with a gold-plated replica of said putter. This is a tradition still carried on today and the company keeps their own gold-plated copy of the winning model in their vaults. Must be getting pretty crowded in there now!
I wasn’t the only one taking a trip down memory lane on Wednesday. It was also quite a considerable time since Patricia had visited Gainsborough, having been in the past a much more frequent guest at the US HQ out in Phoenix, Arizona, along with Dai, her late husband. With Patricia writing for The Times and Dai being the golf correspondent for The Guardian their globe trotting days frequently took them Stateside and they always did enjoy a close friendship with the Solheim family and Bob Cantin, for many years Ping’s head of communications (or some such all-encompassing title; Patricia, typically, has forgotten his official title). They hosted the Solheims frequently as their guests at the AGW (Association of Golf Writers) dinner during the Open each year and played in numerous Ping Pro-Ams round the lovely Moon Valley golf course, scene of Annika Sorenstam’s 59, which Patricia was there to report on. Relationships in golf tend to be deep and enduring,
So, the result of our trip is now that a set is on order – driver through to four wedges. Hmmm, may have to revisit and look at the putters next time! And it’s definitely high time to get Patricia fitted properly and prise her away from Dai’s cast-offs that she’s currently got in her bag. That may well be a jaunt for the New Year! So, if any of you are considering investing in your golf games for 2020 I thoroughly recommend you start with a club-fitting session. It makes perfect sense.