WARREN (WJRT) -
(05/21/14) - The weather is finally beginning to warm up, and with that in mind, many across Mid-Michigan will hit the golf course over Memorial Day Weekend.
Their bags will be filled with names like Callaway and Taylor Made - but there's a Michigan-based company that hopes you'll give their clubs a try. In fact, many pros on the PGA Tour are already using them.
It's a growing company, known simply as Scratch Golf, and it's grinding out eight to 10 custom-made wedges and irons a day.
"It's about a 6 to 8 week process," said Ari Techner, Scratch Golf President & CEO. "It is a long time, but there's a lot of hand work that goes into it. The finishing can take a couple of weeks depending on what the customer wants, but every aspect of the club is made by hand."
Scratch Golf's owners have a pretty unique claim to fame.
"We are the only American-made golf club outside of a few putters in the entire world. There's nobody else making golf clubs here in America, and certainly not here in Michigan," Techner said.
Those clubs are traveling from this small factory in Warren, Michigan - right into the hands of some heavy hitters across the world - on just about every major professional golf tour.
"David Duvall, Ryan Moore, Christy Kerr. We had the youngest player to ever make the cut at the Masters a few years ago to make the cut playing with our clubs," Techner said.
Many of those professional players swinging Scratch clubs have to remain anonymous, though. They're under contract with some of the big name manufacturers.
"The club is actually for a guy who just won a PGA Tour event a few weeks before the Masters. It was his first win on the tour and we're hoping that by the end of this year, he'll have his second win using our stuff," Techner said.
Endorsement deals aside - when the time calls, for dozens of pros, Scratch has become the secret club of choice.
"Because it works. They can hit the shots they need to hit. Especially when it comes down to crunch time, the last few holes of a big tournament. You're down to the seventeenth, eighteenth hole on Sunday. They know they need to hit the shot to get up and down out of the bunker from the short side of the green, they know they can do it when they pull out one of the clubs that I made," said Jeff McCoy, Scratch Golf Chief Design Engineer.
Scratch was founded by Detroit area natives Ari Techner and Jeff McCoy in Oregon back in 2003. After a few years in Tennessee, the guys decided to bring their company back home to Michigan.
"We really felt like Detroit was coming back in a big way and we wanted to be a part of it. There's a lot more opportunity here for us to have partnerships with people who work on metal and finishing work, and machine shops and all the things that we need to do our business," Techner said.
Scratch Golf employs around 10 people, many of whom had experience working within the auto industry.
"Now that that's slowed down a little around here, they're available to work on our stuff. I think 10 or 15 years ago, if we would have called these people, they would've said, 'Love golf, but I'm busy with Ford over here. Sorry,'" Techner said.
Currently, Scratch is importing its raw steel from Japan - but that could change.
"We have a foundry here in Michigan that we're talking to and have some prototypes made, and hopefully by next year we'll have some forgings that are made here rather than Japan and we can be 100 percent made in America, that's always been the goal," Techner said.
Scratch's "on the course" success has resulted in a big boost in sales. Custom clubs have been made and shipped to every continent around the world, except Antarctica.
"I was on a range in Shanghai, China a few weeks ago. I had four people come up to me. They didn't speak English, but I understood from the pointing and smiling and the thumbs up that they knew of our brand," Techner said.
Each club sells for anywhere between $175 - $300, and let's just say - things are going better than anticipated.
"We did one and a quarter to one and a half million last year in sales, and we expect to do closer to two this year. We have some new stuff we're doing here in town, with a fitting center in Berkley that we just opened, and we have another one opening in Boyne Highlands," Techner said.
As far Scratch Golf's future is concerned, "Really, what I would like to be in 10 years is be considered the best. Not the biggest, but the best. We make the best clubs. If you want something great, call Scratch Golf. If you want something normal, call somebody else," Techner said.