08/26/2016

The Golf Channel has partnered with Wilson Golf to create the ultimate driving machine, and it could be you!

With apologies to BMW, this isn’t about cars, but it is about drivers. 

Wilson Golf is eager to find the next great driver design to manufacture and they’re teaming with the Golf Channel to do it.  The Golf Channel’s new reality TV show Driver vs. Driver premieres Tuesday, October 4 at 10 p.m. ET with 11 finalists pitching their concepts to Wilson Golf. 

The finalists, a diverse group of college students, former golf pros and actual engineers among them, have come from all over the U.S. and Canada to make their best pitch to Wilson Golf.

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The stakes are high. 

The grand prize winner will walk away with $500,000 and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name.  The finalists were all selected through an open call application process and will pitch their ideas to a panel of celebrity judges during the first two episodes. 

Former NFL star and avid golfer Brian Urlacher, two-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Streelman, former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas and the President of Wilson Golf Tim Clarke will be the team of judges and decide who advances on during the seven-episode, elimination style series and who’s idea ends up in the recycling bin.

Some of the finalists have extensive backgrounds in golf, and some have never played a single round in their life but they all believe their idea is the next great thing in golf club design.  Viewers of Driver vs. Driver are in for a treat as they’ll be getting an inside look of one of the most recognized and respected equipment brands in golf. 

Major winners Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington are just some of the pros playing Wilson clubs today.


FINALISTS:

Jonathan Dineen (26, Wilmington, N.C.) – An industrial engineer with a determined work ethic, Dineen’s driver design concept is called “The Wasp,” the concept for his senior thesis at Appalachian State University.

Richard Gischer (37, Crowley Texas) and Kimberly Leonard (35, Pinckneyville, Ill.) – A brother-sister team, Gischer is the golf expert and Leonard is the sales and communications expert. A graduate from the Professional Golf Management program at Campbell University, Gischer formerly worked at Nike, building custom golf clubs for some of the best players in the world before leaving the company to pursue another passion of his – mission work. Their driver concept is a green design, with the hopes of creating a driver using renewably sourced bio-product.

Kyle Hanquist (26), Kevin Neitzel (30), Ann Arbor, Michigan – Colleagues and friends at the University of Michigan, Hanquist and Neitzel are both PhD students in aerospace engineering, studying aerothermodynamics of high speed flight. When they aren’t in school together, they play golf and travel the world – their idea for Driver vs. Driver was submitted while traveling through Europe.

Jimmy Huynh (26), Brian Mar (21), Patrick Soriano (25), Sheila Pancani (45), Patrick Soriano (25) and Matt Ulery (30), Long Beach, Calif. – Seniors in the industrial design program at California State University, Long Beach, this diverse is determined to create a driver that is, in their words, “Sick.” The group – who has no golf experience – underwent a three-week driver cram session to learn everything they could before submitting their driver design. Their micro-honeycomb design was modelled after Formula 1 cars and the grill from Ulery’s motorcycle.

Branndon Jones (21) and Ryan Nelson (21), Knoxville, Tenn. – Students at the University of Tennessee, Jones and Nelson have known each other since their freshman year of high school. Nelson is more outgoing and creative, where Jones is more analytical. They plan on having a balanced approach to try to create the most unique and technologically advanced driver on the golf market today. Their design idea came about after Jones watched Serena Williams, a long-time Wilson Advisory Staff Member, on television competing in a tennis match.

Steve Kirouac (59, Welland, Ontario, Canada) – A retired art teacher, Kirouac had a “eureka” moment one afternoon grilling sausages in his backyard that led to his driver concept. The sound of the fly swatter hitting the wood while he “shooed” away bees reminded him of a driver hitting a golf ball and thus, an idea was born. The result is a honeycomb golf club, an aerodynamic club designed to increase club speed.

Weston Maughan (35, Draper, Utah) – A former golf professional who is now working in the business sector, Maughan has been hooked on the game ever since Hall-of-Famer Johnny Miller gave him instruction tips that yielded instant results as a young child. Maughan is utilizing his golf expertise in developing his driver design, which allows the driver to dial in the weight of the club, making it customizable.

Matt Purtell (37, Sonoma, Calif.) – An avid golfer and building contractor who has lived his entire life in Sonoma, Calif., Purtell’s driver design idea stemmed from often mis-hitting his driver, but never his 3-wood. His concept focuses on overlaying the crown of a 3-wood on top of the driver to help make a more controlled golf swing.

Eric Sillies (26, Cincinnati, Ohio) – A product designer who believes in the power of making better products to make life better for people, his driver design is called “Manta,” a multi-piece construction with a unique alignment feature. Sillies formerly interned with Dick’s Sporting Goods while in college, where he had the opportunity to help design the aesthetic direction for the 2012 Nickent golf club line.

Gavin Wallin (40, Eagle Mountain, Utah) – A product designer who has extensive experience in golf club design with multiple manufacturers, Wallin is combining his real-world experience and his industrial design college degree to develop an adjustable driver concept that has benefits for both the low handicap and high handicap player.

Karl West (43, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) – Originally born in New Zealand and now residing in Victoria, British Columbia, West is a long time golf instructor at Royal Colwood. A self-professed “tinkerer,” West enjoys conceptualizing and designing putters and drivers in his basement lab. West is self-taught in developing concepts for drivers and putters, and his ultimate goal is to bring his driver idea to life through the series.


The finalists will be working with Wilson LABS engineers to evaluate and test their concepts while the judges evaluate which idea is ultimately the best for Wilson to manufacture and promote.

The series is hosted by CBS college football reporter and former co-host of Golf Channel’s Big Break Melanie Collins and debuts October 4.  It will air weekly before concluding with the grand prize winner announcement on November 22.

While you’re watching the show maybe you’ll think, “Not bad, but I have a better idea than that.” 

If so, get working on the design and you could be a finalist on next season’s Driver vs. Driver.   If not, that’s OK too.  The show is a win-win for all of us as we get an entertaining and innovative series, plus the next great driver to help us hit longer and straighter drives for years to come.