Wow, My Very Own Gold-Plated Putter!

The author's gold-plated Ping putter (Photo courtesy Jim Achenbach)

The first commandment of sports journalism is never to cheer or root for one team or one individual. Journalists must maintain their neutrality and objectivity.

No hooping and hollering, no matter how great the temptation. No overblown praise.

So, however difficult it may be, I will try to contain myself when it comes to Ping.

Karsten Solheim, who founded Ping in 1959, started a unique tradition a few years later. He made two gold-plated versions of each winning Ping putter on the various worldwide professional tours. One went to the player, the other to what would become known as Ping’s Gold Putter Vault.

Today some 3,000 gold-plated putters from various worldwide professional tours reside in the vault at Ping’s Phoenix headquarters (this includes all Ping models, although Anser remains the king).

So far, 19 major championships for men have been won with Ping putters, and those men earned an extra treat — solid gold putters (worth approximately $30,000 each) rather than the gold-plated variety.

In 1988, all four majors were won by players using Ping putters. That would be (in order) Sandy Lyle, Curtis Strange, Seve Ballestero and Jeff Sluman.

I suppose I am bragging, but I even have my own gold-plated Ping putter. After I covered my 40th consecutive Masters in 2010, Ping Chairman and CEO John Solheim presented me with a gold-plated Ping GoWin 5 putter.

I have long been the world’s biggest fan of the elongated GoWin 5, which is nearly six inches from heel to toe. It also has a long, thin neck that makes it a beautiful work of art. The putter is no longer manufactured, but it remains the one golf club that I actively collect.

During U.S. Open week in 2012 — the year of Webb Simpson — I experienced another unforgettable Ping moment.

Ping was started by Karsten Solheim in his garage in Redwood City, Calif. An engineer for General Electric, he and his family would later move to Phoenix and devote themselves entirely to the design and production of golf clubs.

From the beginning, Ping was a family affair.

So, in 2012, I accompanied brothers John and Allan Solheim to the Redwood City house that had been owned by the Solheims. This was the birthplace of Ping, holy ground for golf club historians.

Several dozen people attended the informal gathering. Some were current neighbors who simply wanted to meet the Solheims. Even the mail man showed up for exposure to Ping lore — because this was where the earliest Ping clubs were made by hand.

Stories of the three Solheim brothers (Louis, Allan and John) were told with enthusiasm. They were consumed with golf clubs and cars, something that has not changed over the years.

Looking back, that day in 2012 probably was the best day of my golf life.

Well, there I go again, violating the first rule of sports journalism. But, in this case, it’s worth it.

—Jim Achenbach, Senior Golf Insider