Golf Channel announced today the 11 finalists who will present their innovative driver concepts and ideas with the hopes of ultimately becoming Wilson Golf’s newest driver for 2017 on a new, first-of-its-kind television series, Driver vs. Driver presented by Wilson. The series premieres Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 10 p.m. ET.
Wilson Golf taking unique approach to find next great golf driver, shining spotlight on aspiring equipment in all-new elimination-style reality television series; Finalists range from college students to former golf professionals to engineers and product designers; Panel of celebrity judges includes former NFL linebacker and avid golfer Brian Urlacher; two-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Streelman, former USGA technical director Frank Thomas and Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke
Driver vs. Driver will follow the trials and tribulations of aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the chance to win $500,000, and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name. The finalists, selected through an open call application process, will present to a panel of celebrity judges – former Chicago Bears linebacker and avid golfer Brian Urlacher, former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas and President of Wilson Golf Tim Clarke – during the series’ first two episodes. Two-time PGA TOUR winner and Wilson Advisory Staff member Kevin Streelman joins the series as a judge beginning with the third episode.
Following the presentations, the judges will debate on which finalists’ concepts will advance in the competition. The seven-episode series will then take viewers behind the scenes as the advancing teams work with Wilson LABS – the innovation hub at Wilson – engineers to evaluate, critique, refine and test their concepts, all while the panel of expert judges evaluates the best concept that will help golfers perform off the tee.
Viewers also will get a look behind the curtain at one of the most iconic sports brands in history, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. Golf Channel cameras will give viewers a glimpse inside the company’s Wilson LABS facility, an expansive innovation center that serves as a primary design and testing hub for its sporting goods concepts and products, including tennis, basketball, baseball, football and golf, among others.
The series’ finalists are a diverse cast that includes professional golfers and former club manufacturers, college students, engineers and product designers. Some of the finalists are well versed in the sport of golf, where others have never taken up the game but have extensive engineering and design background.
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.
MELANIE COLLINS TO HOST: Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins will serve as the host of Driver vs. Driver. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins also was co-host for Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.
GRAND PRIZE: The finalists are competing for $500,000 and the opportunity to have their driver design sold at retail under the Wilson Staff name.
SERIES PRODUCTION: Following a call-for-entries in the summer of 2015, production for Driver vs. Driver began in the fall of ’15 and continued through July 2016. Driver vs. Driver will air weekly for seven episodes, concluding Tuesday, Nov. 22.
ABOUT WILSON SPORTING GOODS:
Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a subsidiary of Amer Sports, is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of sports equipment, apparel and accessories. Wilson Golf is a global leader in high performance golf equipment and uses player insights to design products that push golf innovation into new territories. Through its dedication to creating products that enable athletes at every level to perform at their best, Wilson has earned its place as a leader in sporting goods for over a century.
ABOUT GOLF CHANNEL
Golf Channel is a multimedia, golf entertainment and services company based in Orlando, Fla. Serving the most-affluent audience in all of television, Golf Channel – co-founded by Arnold Palmer in 1995 and now part of NBC Sports Group – is available in more than 200 million homes in 84 countries and 11 languages around the world. Golf Channel features more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, including tournament action from the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour, The Open Championship, Olympics, and Ryder Cup, as well as high-quality news, instruction and original programming. Golf Channel’s digital platforms, headed by GolfChannel.com, are leading golf digital destinations, delivering unmatched coverage of the world of golf. Fans are able to enjoy 24/7 live streaming of Golf Channel content through Golf Live Extra and NBC Sports Live Extra and select programming is simulcast via SiriusXM’s PGA TOUR Radio. In addition, Golf Channel connects the world to golf through a wide array of digital and lifestyle services including Golf Channel Mobile, a comprehensive app covering golf’s latest headlines, scores and analysis; GolfNow, the world’s largest online tee time booking platform and golf course technology partner, which includes the GolfNow Mobile App, featuring on-course GPS tracking, in-round scoring and game tracking; GolfAdvisor.com, the world’s largest golf course ratings and review resource for golfers, by golfers; a North American network of Golf Channel Academy instructional facilities; and Golf Channel Am Tour, the world’s largest amateur golf tour.
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