Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Align Golf: Taking Dead Aim at the Cup
By Kelly Hill

Getting the ball from your tee to the cup takes a lot of concentration. Getting it from one to the other at or below par, often involves a lot of anxiety.

Align Golf, a new company based in Grand Rapids, is attempting to relieve some of that anxiety by eliminating one of its causes. Stance, grip, stroke mechanics and alignment all must be considered prior to every stroke on the golf course. If golfers were able to eliminate at least one of those elements, their concentration might be better focused on the remaining elements.

By developing a golf ball with an alignment system, simply states, an arrow imprinted on the ball, Align Golf hopes to eliminate any anxiety concerning proper alignment of one's shots. Align Golf partners Brad VanBellinger, Bruce Stodola and Pat Martine, expect this system to aid golfers on every shot, from the tee to the green and on the green.

"You can have a great golf swing, but if you are not aimed right, you are not going to hit the fairways," said Martine, who is handling Align Golf's marketing. "The idea is to take the ball and aim it where you want it to go. Hopefully, this will take some of the thought out of the process.

"Alignment, grip and the swing are three big things that pros teach on the practice range," Martine continued, "so if we can eliminate alignment problems, you can concentrate more on your swing."

While VanBellinger is a former employee of Taylor Made, Stodola and Martine are new to the golf industry. Martine owns a company that produces promotional items for those looking to enhance their corporate image, and Stodola is in real estate. All three however, have been avid golfers their whole lives. After VanBellinger and Stodola attempted, but failed, to purchase a small ball manufacturing company in the Chicago area, Align Golf was born.

The company plans to market its product strictly to women and junior golfers. "Those are two of the fastest growing markets in golf," Martine said. "To be successful in this industry, which is full of a lot of players, you need to find a niche. There really is no one going after the junior market, and, No. 2, all balls that are manufactured specifically for women, tend to pander to women," Martine said. "They either are pink or they're 80-compression, or something else that most women don't want." Align Golf's balls, which became available March 1, are not available at retail outlets. "We want to set up a relationship with pros," Martine said, "and I believe that one of the keys to our business will be our relationship with pros. Align Golf balls will be available only on Green Grass Pro Shops.

Align Golf's marketing also involves the sponsoring of selected PGA sectional events. "We are going to sponsor PGA sectional tournaments and we also want to be involved in women's clinics and clinics for juniors," Martine commented. "Slazenger did this for years and it is really good business."

According to Martine, Align Golf plans to sponsor Michigan's Pro-Junior event, as well as a couple of Illinois sectional events.

"This is an alignment system that is available in a partnership with golf pros," Martine concluded, "and it has been developed for women and for juniors."

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