Magazine article Insight on the News

'Fore Gone' Conclusions

Magazine article Insight on the News

'Fore Gone' Conclusions

Article excerpt

Ever wonder who checks of golfers use the equipment they endorse? Meet `Mink' and Co.

A small, bespectacled man squeezes his slight frame through the throng of security guards clustered around Tiger Woods on the first tee at Royal Birkdale. With an efficiency of motion that complements his starched white button-down, the diminutive figure known on the PGA Tour as "Big Brother" begins to peruse the golf bag of the game's most prestigious player.

Meet 44-year-old John Minkley, a man who shows up on the first tee of every tour event and all four major championships -- but never takes a swing. For the last 18 years, Minkley and his sister, Susan Nailor, have run the Darrell Survey, an independent company that chronicles the use of equipment among the game's professionals and top amateurs.

"We're basically a small, underground company known only to the players and equipment manufacturers," says Minkley. "We have a representative at the start of every event on the four major U.S. tours" -- PGA, Senior PGA, LPGA and Nike -- "and also most USGA and several Japanese Tour events, recording what irons, woods, putter, shafts, grips, balls, glove, shoes, spikes, shirt, hat and bag each participant uses. We compile all that information on our central computer back in Atlanta and then send it out to about 20 manufacturers on the following Wednesday of every week."

Minkley and his sister began working for the company in 1974 and purchased it in 1980. At that time, golf wasn't the sport du jour it since has Pros become, few players collected endorsement checks and equipment manufacturers weren't salivating to see the latest survey.

"It's still sort of a gypsy existence because you're always moving from one tournament to the next, but it used to be much worse," says Minkley. "Back when my sister and I first started doing this in the mid-seventies, we traveled almost exclusively by car. We were living in California at the time, and at the beginning of the season we'd split up the tournaments and map out our schedule. I'd say, `Bye, Susan, I'll see you in October.' And that was pretty much how it was.

"Back then, it was just an existence, but now it's more of a profession. We've grown with the game and the equipment boom has made our business much more lucrative. Now, we have over 20 employees, travel by plane, have an advanced computer system and spend far more time at home with our families. …

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