Was it the aid of some Dave Pelz scientific putting theory that enabled Jim Simons to break through for his biggest PGA Tour victory in The Memorial tournament?
More than a month ago, Simons came to Washington and worked extensively with two teachers, Pelz and his pet project, "The Teacher" putter.
The night prior to the start of The Memorial, the two spoke at length by telephone. Then Simons putted superbly to win the tournament at Jack Nicklaus's Muirfield course in Ohio.
Pelz is a former NASA physicist who is president of Preceptor Golf Limited, a golf club manufacturing plant in Laurel.
Pelz produces custom-made woods and putters, but it is "The Teacher," a USGA approved putter, that is Pelz's patented baby.
Pelz scientifically locates the "sweet spot" (the strongest, most solid point) on the putter blade and then attaches a clip about the diameter of a golf ball to that area. In practice, the metal clip interferes with any putt not struck exactly on the sweet spot. During competition, the fitting is screwed onto the back of the club. Simons used his putter with Pelz's markings on it.
It can safely be said that Pelz is the only student to graduate from Indiana University's physics department on a golf scholarship. He had an unblemished record against Nicklaus in junior and Big 10 matches. In "at least 10" confrontations, Pelz never won. "He beat me like a drum," Pelz said.
After graduating in 1961, Pelz toyed with turning pro but continued in physics and became a senior scientist in upper atmosphere research of earth and planets at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
"I wondered if I should be a physicist who loved golf or a golfer who loved physic's" Pelz said. "The decision to go into golf club (manufacturing) came down to this: if I didn't try it, I'd always wonder if I should have. After the first year it was clear that I was a golfer who enjoys physics. I'm hooked."
Pelz insists that great putters are made, not born. Most putts are missed, he claims, because the ball is not struck on the putter's sweet spot. Fauly blade alignment and stroke path are secondary reasons.
"The harder I practiced, the worse I got, before I learned what was going on," Pelz said.
Pelz said 55 touring pros have purchased Teacher putters. Personally he has worked with Simons, Andy North, Joe Inman and Allen Miller.
On television, it will be possible to see a husky 6-foot-6 blond caddying for Miller during July's Philadelphia IVB Classic or August's PGA at Oakmont. That would be Pelz, doing some "in depth research" ot help Miller and to study golf up close.
"I'm studying the human side and the equipment side," said Pelz. "I love golf and I want to advance it."
Lee Elder, 1977 Middle Atlantic PGA Player-of-the-Year, Tom Smack and amateurs Rob Viner and Marty West head a field of 32 golfers shooting for four spots in sectional U.S. Open qualifying tomorrow at Bethesda Country Club.
Free spectator parking will be available at St. George Church, 100 yards from the club entrance. There will be no spectators carts.
Steve Lejko of Bethesda, Jim Thorpe of Falls Church, Pete Chapin of Cockeysville, Md., and former area player Mark Walach passed the Northeast Regional test at Grossinger's (N.Y.) and will be among 150 trying for 25 PGA Tour cards June 7-10 at Albuquerque, N.M.
Renouned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones plans to design the first golf course in the Soviet Union.
The 7,000-yard course will be built about six miles from Moscow and completion is scheduled before the 1980 Olympics. Jones also hopes to build a triple-decker driving range.
"Once they get on to the game, we think they'll go at it in a big way," Jones was quoted by the Associated Press.
Twenty-three area women will be competing for four spots in the second annual Women's Amateur Public Links championship qualifying tomorrow at Needwood.