NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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When Titleist hired clubmaker Bob Vokey 23 years ago, it came at a time when Cleveland and Ping dominated wedge counts on the PGA Tour. Those two brands enjoyed a sizable chasm between them and everyone else.
However, that changed slowly over time. In 1998, Vokey accounted for 16 percent of all wedges used, which ranked third overall. And then from 1999 to 2003, Vokey’s market share grew to 27 percent and slid its way into second place.
In the 17 years since, Vokey wedges have been the No. 1 choice on the PGA Tour without any question. During the 2019-20 season more than half the players on tour used Vokey wedges, the highest percentage throughout the past two decades.
The look, feel and performance of the wedges are paramount, but the trust between players and clubmakers is what has made the true difference. Having consistent communication is the centerpiece of that trust, especially when it comes to understanding how wedges fit into a player’s setup.
One great example came at the U.S. Open when Rafa Cabrera-Bello turned heads by changing every club in his bag except his putter. While a wholesale change the week of a major is rare, it wasn’t quite as odd as it sounded.
It started with a Monday range session at which Cabrera-Bello, his swing coach Sean Hogan and Titleist tour rep Jim Curran agreed he should try iron shafts with slightly more flexibility. When Cabrera-Bello tested those irons Tuesday and found better consistency, he asked to try the same shafts – the Project X LZ 6.5 model from True Temper – for his Titleist Vokey SM8 wedges.
The wedges were just as successful as the irons, and Cabrera-Bello found himself on the first page of the leaderboard through 36 holes.
Vokey representative Aaron Dill is a leading wedge builder who communicates with many of the top players. The respect and trust the players have for Dill is apparent at each tour stop and even transfers to him receiving phone calls on players’ off weeks.
“A great example of that was when Jordan (Spieth) was using a 60-04L – this wedge was in the bag for a while and the biggest adjustments we made to the wedge was in the profile reducing the par height to look slightly smaller and increase topline curvature,” Dill told PGATour.com. “This profile was precisely the look Jordan needed to see to feel comfortable and it was my focus with every wedge I made.
“One day at Trinity Forest, Jordan was working with coach Cameron McCormick and saw an old rusty wedge resting against the wall. When Jordan picked it up, he realized it was an old 60T that he had used ages ago. The moment this wedge was put in the playing position that old feeling came back. Jordan called me and said, ‘I have this old 60T in my hands. I just love this thing. Do you still make this wedge?’ ”
Titleist does make the wedge, coming in the form of the new T-grind which is now in Spieth’s bag.