In large part to combat the yips, John Whitty designed and built himself a putter about 10 years ago.
He called it the J-Roll Putter. “I couldn’t think of a name, and ‘J’ was John, and that’s how John rolls it,” Whitty explained.
Over the past decade, the touring pro, trick shot artist and golf instructor from Longs has produced hundreds of his putters, getting them into the hands of several Champions Tour members for use in tournaments.
Whitty, 58, is now taking his putter and his dedication to its promotion to another level.
He is producing the seventh version of the J-Roll that has an alignment and green reading system to go with it, and a partnership with fellow Harbour View Golf teaching pro Darren deMaille has Whitty going on the road to tout both his putter and putting alignment system that he is in the process of patenting.
“It’s pretty much foolproof and I could teach it to a third-grader. This is going to improve your putting tremendously,” Whitty said.
The putter is called the J-Roll D’Amelie – Amelie being both the name of one of Whitty’s granddaughters and a play on Broadway that his son is performing in.
deMaille and Whitty are offering two-hour clinics at multiple locations to teach the putting system with the putter, though the putter is not required to learn and incorporate the system.
The first putting clinics are Saturday at Diamondback Golf Club at Woodland Valley near Loris at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m., and future clinics and more information will be posted at www.jrollgolf.com.
Professional club-fitter Al Cloyd, who is based at Possum Trot Golf Club, may join Whitty and deMaille on the road to custom fit putters upon request, including lie, loft, grip, length and weight distribution: “Any putter adjustment you can make to make that ball roll better without changing the individual’s stroke,” Whitty said.
A prototype of the D’Amelie was sent to the USGA for approval for conformity to the Rules of Golf. Prototypes will be used in clinics until Whitty receives finished products around late April or early May.
The putter head has three weight ports in the back that can vary from a half gram to 7 1/2 grams, and three alignment lines in earlier versions have been replaced by six dots spread equidistant across the top front of the putter head.
The alignment system is based on a popular AimPoint style that players including Adam Scott and Lydia Ko use. It incorporates both feet and hands to determine the break on a green – a player straddles the putting line and feels the break with his feet while using an outstretched hand with the fingers up to further determine the break and select an aiming point.
Whitty believes his direct line putting system is more exact because of the dots on the club, which are held up at eye level to choose an aiming point. The accuracy comes from the consistency of the dots rather than fingers, as individual hand sizes differ.
“Darren has motivated me to become more active with it,” Whitty said. “He saw the benefits with this putter and he has a great understanding of what putting is and how to teach putting. Now we’re going to turn it into an alignment system aid as well as a putter.”
deMaille, the owner and operator of the Double-D Golf Academy who moved to Myrtle Beach from New York late last year, will teach putting in combination with Whitty’s putter.
“There’s no doubt this is one of the best putters ever made, but that’s only one part of it because most people don’t know how to putt,” deMaille said. “… That’s where the classes come in, where it comes to reading a green properly, understanding your direct line – and there’s a difference between apex and direct line – and controlling your speed, knowing the amount of energy you need to hit the putt so it is dead weight and it just kind of falls in the cup.”
The putting clinics won’t require the purchase of a putter and Whitty and deMaille say they’ll be valuable on their own. “If you’re having trouble making [desired] contact my putter will be a great option,” Whitty said. He has created vinyl stickers with equidistant dots that can be placed on the top of a clinic participant’s putter for training purposes.
Whitty is a native of the Boston area. He turned pro in 1988 and became a competing long drive specialist, reaching the national finals in 1990 and ’93, then played numerous mini-tours for about 15 years including the Hooters Tour (now SwingThought Tour) while also attempting Monday qualifying for events on the Web.com and PGA Tours. In addition, he became a trick shot artist who still performs, and he still competes occasionally on the Grand Strand-headquartered Sunbelt Senior Tour.
“I had some problems with the yips,” Whitty said. “I had trouble making solid contact with the ball. I looked through all the putters and tested them on the putting green. The ones I seemed to make the best contact with were the deep face ones. When I started to get some ideas I made [the J-Roll] out of a piece of cardboard, then carved it and took it to some engineers and they whittled me out two little aluminum putters. It looked like it was very much garage made, and at that point I was $7,600 into it.
“I put some weights in it and hit some putts and it was absolutely fantastic. I piddled around and found out it really worked for me.”
When I started to get some ideas I made [the J-Roll] out of a piece of cardboard, then carved it and took it to some engineers and they whittled me out two little aluminum putters. It looked like it was very much garage made, and at that point I was $7,600 into it.
The older incarnations of Whitty’s J-Roll have an arrow in the middle prong/weight port and lines on the outside protruding weight ports. “This just sold itself on its putting stability and topspin,” Whitty said.
He made about 400 prototype putters, took them on the Sunbelt Senior Tour for five weeks in 2009 and said he enticed 33 players to start using his putter. Those who Whitty says switched to his putter at some point include five-time PGA Tour winners Danny Edwards and Blaine McCallister, two-time Web.com Tour winner Tim Conley, John Ross, who has played in nearly 200 combined PGA, Web.com and Champions Tour events, and Sunbelt Tour successes Javier Sanchez and Steve Thomas. “I see it on TV once in a while,” Whitty said of his putter.
He has been selling his putters at cost, which is $223, and he’s hoping the D’Amelie and direct line aiming system will give him reason to finally mass produce them for sale with a profit.
Hootie sold out
As expected, spectator tickets for the 23rd Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am sold out quickly.
Online tickets sold out in 54 minutes after going on sale last Monday, and the remaining tickets that could be purchased in person for $20 at Barefoot Resort pro shops and the House of Blues sold out Tuesday morning.
More than 6,000 spectators are expected for the tournament on April 10 at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club. It will feature country music singer Cole Swindell, golfer John Daly, World Golf Hall of Fame member Nancy Lopez, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Bruce Smith and Andre Reed, and a host of other celebrities, athletes and pro golfers.
A golf ball drop for prizes during the tournament is a new component to the event this year.
DJ surprises players
Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson, who took over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings following his win in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 19, surprised players with his appearance prior to the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship.
Four days after his win in Los Angeles, Johnson attended the pre-tournament banquet at Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet with the 2016 U.S. Open championship trophy in tow.
Johnson posed for individual photos with the more than 100 juniors in the tournament and the trophy, then signed photo copies for each player and was at the start of the tournament Friday at the TPC Myrtle Beach.
Johnson was interviewed by Charlie Rymer and Chantel McCabe of the Golf Channel for its Morning Drive program Friday morning.
Rymer and McCabe were present for all three rounds through Sunday and did three segments each day live on Morning Drive. A couple featured Johnson and one featured Tyler Gray of Lugoff, a Coastal Carolina commitment in the class of 2018 who demonstrated bunker shots with McCabe and Rymer in the bunker with him. Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday president Bill Golden and Allen Terrell, director of the Dustin Johnson Golf School at TPC Myrtle Beach, were also interviewed on the Morning Drive show.
Johnson is playing this week in the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City. He is tied with Geoff Ogilvy for the second-most WGC titles ever with three. Both are behind Tiger Woods’ 18 WGC titles.
Grace, Hatton commit
Defending champion Branden Grace of South Africa and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, who are ranked 18th and 17th in the world, respectively, are among the latest players who have committed to the 49th annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
Hatton, who tied for fourth Sunday in the Honda Classic, will be making his tournament debut in the tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island from April 13-16. Others who have committed include past champions Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker.
Tickets are on sale at www.rbcheritage.com or by calling the tournament office at 843-671-2448.
Tournament organizers announced Monday that the bulk of complimentary general parking has been moved to the Hilton Head Public School Complex on the north end of the island at 70 Wilborn Drive because Hurricane Matthew debris removal is ongoing at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. Motor coach service will be offered from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Limited shuttles are also still available from Coligny Plaza.
Open qualifier in area
DeBordieu Club will be one of 114 local qualifying sites for the 117th U.S. Open Championship. The Georgetown course will host the 18-hole qualifier on Monday, May 8.
The U.S. Open will be contested for the first time at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., from June 15-18. Local qualifying, conducted in 44 states and Canada, will take place between May 2-18. Canada will host a local qualifier for the first time.
Players advancing out of local qualifying will compete in sectional qualifying, which will be conducted over 36 holes at 10 U.S. sites on June 5. For the 13th consecutive year, Japan and England will host international sectional qualifying in late May.
In 2016, the USGA accepted 9,877 entries for the championship at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. The record of 10,127 was established for the 2014 championship at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C.
Ace in the hole
According to the Carolinas Golf Association, 191 of its members submitted applications to the CGAcers club for holes in one made in 2016.
The shortest ace was a 60-yard sand wedge by Joan Mason from Sunset Beach, N.C., on April 18 on the fifth hole of the Jones Course at Sea Trail Resort. The longest ace made was 273-yards on Oct. 2 by Jeremy Ray from Pfafftown, N.C., using a driver on the 14th hole at Mill Creek Golf Club in Mebane, N.C.
Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head Island reported the most holes in one with 12, and Ocean Ridge Plantation in Sunset Beach, N.C., and the Country Club of Whispering Pines in Whispering Pines, N.C., tied for second with 10 each.
Among the notables: Robert Gefaell III of Charlotte, N.C., who is 11, reported three aces in a calendar year and all three were more than 100 yards. Patricia West of Townville reported a hole in one for the third consecutive year. Gerald Miller of Lincolnton, N.C., made a hole in one on two straight days on the same hole at his home club of Lincoln Country Club, though the hole was playing 138 yards one day and 158 the other. The CGA will again be awarding prizes for aces in 2017.