Tuesday, January 19, 2016

PowerBilt Golf Brand Disappears from Market

(Note: See update at bottom.)

Golf brands change owners with regularity. Golf brands come and go. And it appears that one of the oldest golf brands in the United States - PowerBilt - is, for now anyway, dead and gone from the market. That doesn't mean we'll never hear from PowerBilt again. The "PowerBilt" brand is a licensee of Hillerich & Bradsby, and H&B might want to revive the brand some day. Or sell it to another owner that will.

But for now, PowerBilt's most-recent line of golf clubs has been taken out on its own, as a wholly owned entity doing business under the brand name Air Force One. "Air Force One" was the name of a line of golf clubs, drivers in particular, that made up the last few years of product from PowerBilt. The Air Force One driver has a "nitrogen-injected" clubhead. The pressurized gas inside the clubhead stiffens the clubhead walls, removing the need for as much internal bracing. That saves weight, yada yada yada.

The news came in a press release titled, "Air Force One Brand and Patented Nitrogen Charged Technology Form Stand-Alone Company for U.S. Market." Included in the press release was this info:

The new Air Force One, a U.S. company based in Palm Desert, CA, will continue to work with Hillerich & Bradsby entering into a licensee agreement with H&B to distribute nitrogen charged technology golf equipment for international markets. The PowerBilt name will not move forward with the new company in the U.S. "Our goal is to focus on getting the word out and to improve our distribution so we can reach our customers interested in trying our patented technology. We have proven technology that all levels of golfers have shown an interest in and we just need to improve on reaching them," said Air Force One President, Ross Kvinge.

... Air Force One will continue to develop and expand their golf product categories, including drivers, fairway woods and premium irons under the new company. These products will include the re-launch of the DFX MOI and DFX Tour driver. New fairway woods, the AIR FOIL will be introduced along with two new irons - AFX Game Improvement and AFX Pro Series. In addition to the extension in equipment, the company will introduce a deluxe cart and stand bag along with a new soft cabretta leaver glove all under the AIR FORCE ONE brand.

What really appears to have happened here is that someone decided, "Hey, why don't we just use 'Air Force One' as the brand name instead of PowerBilt'?"

Golfers of a younger age might not realize all the history that PowerBilt name carried. It was one of the oldest golf brands in the United States - clubs bearing the PowerBilt name were first on the market in 1916. Olin Dutra won the 1934 U.S. Open with a PowerBilt driver, and the company's persimmon drivers were considered the standard for many in the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s. Fuzzy Zoeller began his career playing PowerBilt, and returned to PowerBilt in 2007 - likely the most-recent tour player to use PowerBilt clubs.

But now the PowerBilt brand is gone. And Air Force One is here.

Update: That didn't take long. On March 31, 2016, Hillerich & Bradsby announced the PowerBilt brand will live on through licensee Hireko:

"PowerBilt®, one of golf’s oldest and most respected club brands, has named Hireko Golf as its new licensee for the United States. Hireko, based in City of Industry, California is one of the leading component companies in the golf industry. The company looks to leverage its robust and expanding customer base to grow the PowerBilt brand and re-position it for mass appeal."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Chi Chi Rodriguez Wound Up on a Devo Album Cover

I'm old enough to remember the band Devo, one of the new wave innovators of the 1970s. Crazy outfits, silly hats, weird and sometimes wonderful music. You know I'm familiar with them because one of their songs is quoted in this blog's title ("whip it good").

But I had no idea that the cover of Devo's first album consisted of a rendering of Chi Chi Rodriguez. Until I saw this tweet, that is:

The title of that album is Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (buy it or stream it on Amazon). It came out in 1978 and, while now considered a classic and very influential, it got mixed reviews at the time. It includes Devo's famous (or is that infamous?) cover of the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction.

But, again, we're not really concerned with the music or even the band here so much as with that album cover art: Why Chi Chi Rodriguez, of all people? No, he didn't have any connection to the band. So what's he doing there?

It's really as simple as this: The band happened to see that image of Chi Chi on a golf product, thought it was eye-catching, and used it. But what was the golf product? Turns out it was a headcover for a Cobra wood. Here is that original Chi Chi image, on the original product, that caught Devo's eye:

(Image source: Club Devo)

The band plopped the Chi Chi image onto the cover at first without actually having permission from Rodriguez or any representative. That explains why the image on the album cover is a slightly tweaked version to the one appears on the Cobra headcover packaging (although you might have to look closely a couple times before you'll see the differences).

But according to Gerald Casale's The Complete Truth About De-Evolution, Devo did eventually get Rodriguez's permission to use the image. After that, Devo used the original, unaltered image of Rodriguez from the Cobra headcover on the sleeve of its single Be Stiff:

Here, you can listen to Be Stiff, which is actually one of the more approachable Devo songs for people who are not familiar with their unusual oeuvre:

Now, remember, Chi Chi didn't actually have anything to do with the band, it was all just happenstance that Rodriguez wound up on the album cover. But if you want to dive deeper into Devo, here is the full Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! album:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fascinating 1971 Behind-the-Scenes Look at LPGA: 'Their Game Is Golf'

Their Game Is Golf is the name of an early 1970s promotional film - it runs around 30 minutes long - produced by Sears to market their golf clubs and apparel. But it's so much more than that: It's a behind-the-scenes look at the LPGA Tour of that era, which is a pretty rare thing. There's just not that much video in existence of LPGA play from those days.

Their Game Is Golf even includes extremely rare footage of tennis legend Althea Gibson from her LPGA Tour days.

The short film is narrated by Shirley Englehorn, who was sponsored by Sears and who was an LPGA major winner. Among the things we learn about the LPGA of that era is that a year on tour cost $10,000 to $12,000 in expense money, and with the prize money available at the time only 17 golfers won enough the year before to avoid losing money.

We see a golf tournament's hole-in-one prize: A full-length mink coat. We see Englehorn describe her nutritional approach: Every morning before a tournament round, she ate a hamburger and a bowl of chocolate ice cream. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

There are wild 1970-ish fashions and hair-dos - one LPGA golfer talks about how many wigs she packs for the road.

As I said, this kind of historical stuff on the LPGA Tour is very rarely seen today. So if you have any interest at all in LPGA history, Their Game Is Golf is well worth the time it takes to watch. You'll be alternately amused and amazed.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Big Break Nikki's New Girlfriend Is Surfing Hall of Famer Keala Kennelly

Remember Nikki DiSanto? The beautiful cast member of two different seasons of the Golf Channel's Big Break series - Big Break V and Big Break VII - has been (or is still) a golf pro, an athletic trainer, a model and actress.

You might remember that in one of those seasons there either was a flirtation between Nikki and fellow cast mate (and future PGA Tour caddie) Edoardo Gardino, or at least that Golf Channel tried to make it look that way. But if you followed Nikki on social media over the years, as we have, you would probably have realized that she is bi or gay.

We occassionally write about couples around here - which golfer has a new girlfriend or boyfriend. But we don't believe in outing anybody who isn't already out (not that Nikki wasn't, we just weren't sure).

But when photos (and captions) like this are being posted and shared by you and your squeeze, well, you are out!

#NikkiKK #LivingTheVidaAloha #PipeMasters #Oahu #Hawaii #SexyGayCouple #ILoveMyWoman #GirlsWhoLikeGirls @nikkidisanto

A photo posted by Keala Kennelly (@kealakennelly) on

And good for Nikki! Nobody should have to hide who they are or who they love. And good for Keala Kennelly - you go, girl! - because Nikki is hot! It's all about the L-word: L-O-V-E (awwwwwww, we're just big ol' teddy bears around here).

Who is Keala Kennelly? I'm not a surfer and not knowledgeable of the surfing scene, so I wasn't familiar with Keala until "meeting" her via Nikki's social sites. But she is something of a bigshot in the world of surfing. According to Wikipedia:

Keala Kennelly (born August 13, 1978) is a professional surfer, surfer DJ, and actress from Kauai, Hawaii. After spending a decade ranked in the top 10 on the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), Kennelly took a break from the tour in 2007 to explore her passions for acting and music. She is now pursuing careers as a DJ and actress while continuing her surfing career as a Big Wave surfer for Billabong.

Wikipedia further tells me that Keala is a 2-time winner of Billabong Pro in Teahupoo; a 2003 Triple Crown winner; a 2-time winner of Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award; and a 2013 inductee into the Surfing Walk of Fame & Actions Sports Hall of Fame. Impressive!

Nikki and Keala haven't been shy about red-carpet PDAs:

Congrats to Nikki and Keala for finding each other. Best wishes for future happiness, and don't forget to invite us to the wedding (but no pressure!).

"Naughty can be so nice." I think we can all agree on that.