Lacrosse-oriented golf spectators may have been surprised to see two executives of the STX company, one carrying a putter, roaming the grounds of the Du Pont Country Club in suburban Wilmington, Del., one day last week.
The fans would have recognized STX as the originator of the synthetic lacrosse stick, and a current leader in lacrosse equipment and clothing sales.
Now, the Baltimore-based company is trying to make a dent in the golf equipment business, a much tougher sell, considering there is certainly no short supply of anything in this field.
Interestingly, there are some common threads to the two stories.
In the early 1960s, Dick Tucker, a former lacrosse All-American at Johns Hopkins, and chief executive of William T. Burnett & Co., a plastics manufacturer in South Baltimore, talked with executives the Du Pont Co., with whom it had done business in the past, about coming up with a suitable plastic for this experiment.
The result was the use of a synthetic called Adiprene, a stiff, impact-resistant material with durable, lightweight properties. So Tucker and a staff that included another former lacrosse hero, goalkeeper Bill Crawford of Virginia, formed STX as a subsidiary of Burnett & Co.
It wasn't long after that Tucker, looking for a way to an improve his golf game, thought about using this synthetic material on the face of a putter.
"Their first putter had a good feel, but it was a wild-looking thing with a barrel head, the weight behind the center, and wings at either end," remembers Bob LeComte, in his 35th year at Du Pont, with a background in synthetics, advertising, and now programs director.
Over the last 15 years, through trial and error, a series of STX putters with a plastic facing evolved. New putter models, with heel-toe weighting and using a better synthetic called Hytrel, were part of the process. What started as a SYNC 1 is now up to SYNC 4-5-6, more advanced technological weapons.
The latest models have a hard plastic insert fitted on the face of a stainless-steel head. The putter itself is similar to other nationally recognized models, but the insert provides an innovative feature.
"We started out with a flat plastic covering, but found it cushioned the blow too much," Crawford, director of the company's golf operations, said last week. "We now have the insert with a grid pattern that holds the ball on its surface a thousandth of a second longer.
"The Hytrel insert is hard and rigid enough to conform with United States Golf Association requirements, yet soft enough to make a Surlyn-covered ball feel like a balata ball.
"Conventional putters force the ball to skid off a metal surface. Our non-skid surface holds the ball a split-second longer, providing better control over the speed and direction of putts," Crawford added.
STX ties with Du Pont will extend a bit farther this summer, as the SYNC has been declared the official putter of the DuPont-sponsored World Amateur Handicap Championship, an annual event which attracts thousands of golfers to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"We'll do some promotion for them," LeComte said. "We had it athe tournament last year and the players liked it a lot."
In addition to Tucker, president of STX, and Crawford, others who have been active in bringing the new product to the public are Fielding Lewis, vice-president; Jack Davis, product engineer, and Ben Benedict, sales manager.
A year ago, there were no sales representatives for the golf parof STX; today, there are 24, and the company has produced its first national advertising campaign. The putters are available through area professional shops.
And, as the company slogan puts it, "We've revolutionized one game. Now we're trying to change the face of another."
Local qualifying for the National Long Driving Contest continues today at Queenstown Harbor Golf Links in Queenstown; June 28, Northwest Park GC, Wheaton; and June 30, Poolesville GC,
Poolesville. All starting times will be 3 p.m.
The field for the annual Maryland Amateur Stroke Play championship, July 5-6-7 at Mount Pleasant GC, has been filled with 192 entries.
The entry deadline for the women's two-ball team championship July 8. The tournament, sponsored and conducted by the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation and the Baltimore Golf Association, will be held July 15 at Mount Pleasant GC.
Entry deadline for the Maryland State Golf Association are Wednesday for the Maryland Open (Prospect Bay CC, July 8-9-10).
Sarah Lebrun Ingram, a former Owings Mills resident now living Nashville, Tenn., had to go 41 holes, but she defeated Vicki Goetze for the championship of the 91st Women's Western Golf Association tournament in Lincoln, Neb.
Ingram won the 36th hole with a 10-foot birdie putt to force the overtime, and each missed a short putt that would have ended it, Goetze on the 37th, and Ingram on the 38th. Both were within a couple of strokes of par for the match.
This week's schedule: Tomorrow--Middle Atlantic PGA Northern Chapte Assistants' championship, Suburban Club, 8 a.m.; Junior Publinx championship, Pine Ridge GC, 1 p.m. Tuesday--Women's Golf Association, Sparrows Point CC and Hobbit's Glen GC, 9 a.m. Wednesday--USGA Public Links qualifying, Redgate GC, 8 a.m. Thursday-Sunday--LPGA Championship, Bethesda CC, 7:30 a.m. Friday--Middle Atlantic PGA pro-am, Redgate GC, 8 a.m.