People you should know in golf: Scotty Cameron
Every year when we attend the PGA Show in Orlando there’s always one queue which is bigger than the rest.
Surprisingly, it’s not the one to get a selfie with Holly Sonders on the Cobra Puma stand.
It’s always on the Titleist stand and it’s always to get an autograph, picture or some soothing words from one of the coolest people in the industry.
We know Scotty Cameron crafts the most beautiful putters around but how did he get from sketching putters in his garage to being the hottest ticket in town at the PGA Show.
We met him to find out…
Where did you grow up?
Huntington Beach, California. A little surfing town with a lot of muscle cars, a lot of Hot Rods.
I grew up with cars. My father was a golfer and loved cars so a lot of design stuff came from cars.
When did you first get into golf?
My father had a workshop in the garage and loved finishing persimmon woods.
When I was nine I started tinkering with putters the Ram Zebra putter came out it had the stripes and the adjustable weights, the head and the grip matched with the head cover and it just hit me over the head like ‘that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’.
That feeling and awe of ‘I love that putter’ is what I try and stick in my putters because when you love the putter, you gain confidence. It’s like a relationship with your putter.
The first putter I made was at age 11. My father bought me a table-top mill and I made aluminium mallets then went on my bike to the service station to buy lead weights from the balancing of the tyres.
I’d melt them down in a coffee can, pinch the nose of the can and pour the lead into the aluminium and then mill, grind and polish the shape.
What was your first job in golf?
When I was 13 I worked at a golf shop, picking up at the range. I learned how to drive a stick shift in a tractor picking up range balls.
So I started as a range rat which is what we were called. I got paid with range balls. I didn’t make money but I could hit free range balls.
But really, I have been making putters forever. In my shop and for other companies since from when I was in late high school.
I ate, lived and breathed putters. I learned how to machine them and I was great and polishing and grinding.
What was the best decision you ever made?
Marrying my wife? Is that a good answer?
Titleist wanted me to become their putter maker. I had my little company going and was doing great – Bernhard Langer won the (1993) Masters with one, we were on cloud nine.
Wally (Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet) said he wanted me to join the team.
Me and my wife had started this little company and we had just got a fax machine and new furniture.
He came back six months later and where he wanted to go was where I wanted to go.
He said ‘let us do everything you don’t want to do so you can go and do what you want’.
So my best business decision ever was to join forces with Wally Uihlein and Titleist worldwide. They have been an incredible company to be with and to work for.
So that’s the wife and the boss happy.
If they’re both happy, I have a good life.
If you weren’t working in golf what might you have been doing?
I’d be designing furniture.
In my galleries, one in Tokyo and one in southern California, all of the displays, all of the racks are industrial and mechanical with elegance.
I love metal. I’m not a wood guy. People say wood is so beautiful and that’s great but it does nothing for me. Metal gets me going.
So I design furniture, I design chairs. I’m intrigued with great design of chairs.
I love great design and get inspired by other designers and works of art.
A few quick ones… What’s your current handicap?
Do I have to be honest? I’m a 1.3 but I want to be a 5.
Have you ever had a hole-in-one?
I’ve had five. The best one I had was when my daughter was a little girl. She was about four years old.
We were riding in the cart together and I made this swing.
I knew I had flagged it but it was uphill. So we were in the cart, driving up and I said ‘Summer, go and see if there’s a ball in that hole’.
I stayed in the cart, she ran down to the green, looked in the hole, reached in picked it up and looked back and goes ‘dad, it’s a Titleist’.
So that was a special hole-in-one.
Tiger or Jack?
Along with Arnold Palmer, those three paved the way for me to do what I do. And all three of those guys loved great equipment, especially Arnold.
I spent a lot of time with Arnold, he was a friend and he loved great equipment.
I’d say Jack for his determination and his gut.
After spending time with Tiger and knowing what he liked inspired me to become better.
I can’t picked one. Those three are magical. They are golf.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
Should I say my wife again?
No, you’ve already said that.
I have a secretary, her name is Margaret. She knows where I am every second, she finished my sentences. She inspires me, I never want to let her down.
My wife is great but I couldn’t live without Margaret.
Last one…What has been the single most significant innovation in golf equipment?
Here’s one I chuckle at.
I do a pivot tool (divot tool) because in order to putt well you have to pick ball marks or spike marks.
I don’t like to use a tee because you can’t do a good job. So I thought let’s design a tool to fix them better.
I’m not a tool maker, I’m a putter maker but when I putt I have to go over that mark so let’s fix it well.
So I designed this little tool called the pivot tool. I don’t even have to try and sell them.
We have made four million pieces. It’s a little hidden secret that it does the job better so people can putt better and make more putts.
It’s not the biggest innovation, you have to look at golf balls and golf clubs for that.
But when Bob Vokey and his wedges mess up the greens, I’ve got to go and fix them.
More information about Scotty Cameron putters (and divot tools) can be found on his website.