From Scotty Cameron to Billy Madison
And Jerome Grady and Bill Vogeney have hundreds of them to share.
The two men have never met. One lives in the Denver Metro area; the other, an hour south. One plays off a six handicap at a private club; the other has a home on a golf course he’s never played. One is a retired risk-taking entrepreneur; the other weighs risk for a credit union.
Superficially, Jerome Grady and Bill Vogeney seem to have little in common. That is, except for collecting different models of the one club in the history of golf clubs that has retained its name. The driver started as the “play club”; the brassie more or less became a 2-wood; the mashie, a 5-iron; the niblick, a 9-iron and so forth. But the putter, which etymologically derives from an old Scottish word “to, push or to shove” has enjoyed its appellation since 1743.
And with good reason. Of all the clubs, this one has always been the moneymaker, the one players hold onto forever— Calamity Jane, Billy Baroo—or the one they toss faster than yesterday’s fish when it stops getting the ball in the hole. You don’t putt for show and drive for dough, after all. But Grady and Vogeney like to show their putters and assessing a monetary value on their collections isn’t something in which either man has much interest. While some items in their possession could fetch tens of thousands of dollars, neither man collects these objects for pecuniary reasons.
So what drives—or putts—them? A visit with each collector explores his motivations. It also demonstrates their appreciation for the game, its artistry and history.
THE GRADY BUNCH: Shafts lead to the home office.
JEROME GRADY’s putter collection spills from his home office into the double-railed hallway outside it, the club shafts forming balusters of steel, hickory and bamboo. At the opposite end of the hall hangs a complete Scotty Cameron wood-framed seven-putter Black Rack from 1995 and an eight-putter Copper Rack from 1996. All 15 models are there—along with their head covers.
The 63-year-old retired founder and president of Colorado Ski & Golf—which he started in 1983 with $2,000 and used equipment and sold for $12 million 11 years later—has in his possession approximately 1,200 putters, “but I haven’t bought one in at least 10 years,” he says. “I have no room.”
What he does have is a love for flatsticks of every variety.
PUTTER SPREAD: Grady displays some gems, including an Arnold Palmer 8802 and “orgasmic” Cleveland and (right) Scotty Cameron pro prototypes for, among others, Tiger Woods.
Grady’s putter passion doesn’t stem from playing golf; he doesn’t. The one-time Marquette University basketball player “won’t do things I’m not good at, and that includes golfing and skiing.” Rather, his passion owes to his early days selling used golf and ski equipment at Colorado Ski & Golf.
“People were buying a lot of Wilson 8002s and George Low Sportsmans, and I’d keep seeing this Japanese man, a pilot, come into the store,” Grady recalls. “He was stationed in Hawaii, and we became friends and he explained to me the value of the clubs I was selling for a couple of dollars. I hate to think of how many got away.”
But there were many more that didn’t. Using knowledge gleaned from his pilot friend, reading books on the history of golf and putters, and leveraging his relationships with local PGA Professionals and vendors, Grady bought and bartered his way to a staggering collection. Plus, after the store started selling new merchandise, his contacts in the golf and sporting goods worlds grew exponentially, connecting him to people who, knowing his passion, would add to his cache either because they liked him or, on occasion, needed the money.
Some of them needed the mojo. During the 1990s, a number of players in The International sought him out, having heard he owned a bunch of Designed by Cleveland Classics with the original leather grip. “Those guys had an orgasm when they saw it,” Grady jokes. At least one winner of the event convinced Grady to make a trade.
The Designed By is one of the models featured in Dalton R. Daves’ 1996 Putters of Distinction: A Guide to Classic Putters. “I have 90 percent of the putters in this book,” Grady says, thumbing through his dog-eared edition.
The innumerable treasures in his trove include an original Wilson putter designed by Arnold Palmer; a number of 8802s from 1965; a low-number, limited edition Ray Cook Blue Goose; pre-Acushnet John Reuter Bulls Eyes; early Bobby Grace Classics; dozens of MacGregor pro models—“not the crappy retail ones”—from the days of Tommy Armour and Jack Nicklaus; and numerous Scotty Cameron editions, like those he made for Mizuno and the prototypes for Tiger Woods. “I respect and appreciate Scotty but feel like Scotty designs for his cult of collectors now,” Grady says. “Both he and I have moved on.”
Moving through the collection, he points out curios like the Coors ceramic putters from the 1980s, the limited edition Michael Jordan Golf Wilson 8802, and even the Odyssey hockey-stick putter from Happy Gilmore.
Grady takes particular pride in his PING compilation, which comprises myriad Ansers stamped with different city names (Redwood City, Phoenix, Scottsdale), ZIP codes, and company names (Karsten, Karsten Mfg. Corp., Karsten Co., etc). Grady hints his PING collection might even pre-date even the 1-A Redwood City model Karsten Solheim came out with in 1959.
“Listen to this,” he says as he taps a ball across the carpet with the 1-A. It makes the distinctive ping that would eventually give the company its name.
“Now hear this.” He does the same with another putter that makes an almost identical sound. “This is a prototype of a Spalding putter called the Pong,” Grady says, lifting an eyebrow. “It came out nine months before the 1-A and disappeared.”
Grady, who also happens to collect skis and snowboards, doesn’t assign dollar values to any of his objects. “I have the same passion for my $10 Spalding Cash-In as I do for my 1960 George Low Bristol Wizard 600,” he says. “Anyone can have a Bentley; it just takes money. For me it’s not as much about how much these objects are worth, because I’m not selling them. It’s about their value as pieces of history, their scarcity and craftsmanship. I want people to see my passion.”
And even though he hasn’t added a putter for a decade, the passion to procure one doesn’t go away. “Yes I do want Phil’s putter,” he emails right after the British Open. “He has used that old-time flanged one forever.“
VOG’S MODELS: Sheathed in colorful headcovers, Vogeney’s Cameron cache includes myriad rarieties, including (below) a numbered, personalized “Twisty-Neck.”
BILL VOGENEY looks like a stockier version of Scotty Cameron, the world-famous putter designer whose works of art Vogeney has collected since stumbling upon one at the 1992 PGA Merchandise Show. “I noticed the dancing letters and dots on the flange,” he remembers. “It sat perfectly. When I rolled a few putts, the ball felt like a warm pat of butter coming off the blade.”
Vogeney, who paid $125 for the Cameron Mizuno model, was hooked. And soon, so too were PGA Tour professionals. Bernhard Langer used one to win the 1993 Masters, and since 1997, at least 30 percent of all Tour players have rolled Camerons, more than any other putter. They have accounted for 28 major victories, including 13 by Tiger Woods.
They also account for roughly 160 items in Vogeney’s collection. For this story, the Ent Federal Credit Union executive brings two stand bags brimming with his favorites to Colorado Springs Country Club. Their colorful head covers suggest vibrant floral arrangements that brighten up the golf shop.
Among his prized putters are models made specifically for Langer, Payne Stewart and Nick Price. There’s the 1993 Santa Fe design of which only six exist. “The Clint,” a limited-edition putter made for a tournament at Clint Eastwood’s Tehama Club, boasts sole weights engraved with bullet holes and a six-shooter in the center. Vogeney loves the oil-can-finished editions, and the Twisty-Neck putter with a carbon-steel head that turns brownishpurple while its Twizzler-like stainlesssteel neck grows gray.
CUSTOM SHOP: Cameron has milled for PGA Tour Champions (top) and amateurs like Vog, who specced this “Miss Lena Wayback”(bottom) to the letters.
“Vog” has gotten to know Cameron personally. In 2001, he co-authored with David Levine The Art of Putters: The Scotty Cameron Story, a book of great photographs and details on Scotty’s career and art. During the past 15 years he has received a number of unique items: Vogeney’s own customized “Miss Lena Wayback” model—featuring a neck in a curvaceous, womanly shape and a head stamped “FOR VOG BY SCOTTY.” He also has one of only 12 Cameronized takes on the fabled RAM Zebra putter that were given to attendees at an exclusive Scotty Cameron Appreciation Day staged by an Ohio distributor.
Vogeney has also attended eight Scotty Cameron International Collectors Conventions at Table Rock Golf Club in Centerburg, Ohio In addition to artisan putters, Cameron aficionados can purchase cool Cameron head covers, money clips, divot-repair tools, ball markers and other items. Vogeney possesses some of these as well. “I’m a born collector,” he admits. “It started with baseball cards.”
While some believe Cameron is now primarily designing items purely for their collectability, Vogeney disagrees. “What’s always been collectible is what’s popular on Tour. It’s about quality. Companies fail when they try to force quality to create collectibles.”
With a laugh, Vogeney admits his Cameron obsession “can get a little out of control.” What does his wife think? “I collect for her, too,” he says. “In 2002, Scotty came out with a My Girl putter—for a collector’s girl—and I’ve gotten my wife one in 10 of the 11 years since.”
Vogeney likes putters because players “live and die with them.” Playing to a 5.5 index, he claims a big portion of his collection has found its way into his bag at least once. Ironically, five minutes before this year’s member-member at CSCC, the man who owns more than 150 putters realized he’d somehow he’d forgotten to bring one. He fortunately remembered having recently given a putter to the club’s assistant PGA professional. He borrowed it in time for the tournament.
And? “I made everything I looked at. Remember, I originally bought them because I like playing them.”
Check out a sample of Vogeney's putter collection below:
Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com. Jon Rizzi is the founding editor and co-owner of this regional golf-related media company producing magazines, web content, tournaments, events and the Golf Passport.