As some of you know, Mike (“mdrretired”) is the club man for ABS in North America. I had the immense pleasure of visiting his garage and meeting with him on Sunday.
There are no “don’t touch” signs. There are no guards asking you to not take photographs. There is just Mike and his clubs and his tools and his raw materials in his garage at his house. And it is his garage that you first notice.
I had the address. I made the correct turn into the right street. Finding the correct address became easy when out of the corner of my eye I saw racks of persimmons and blades inside of a home garage with the roll-up door wide open. Yep, I had arrived at the right place.
Mike had my recent Ebay purchases: a set of refinished MacGregor M85T irons; four MacGregor Tommy Armour 945W Super Eye-O-Matic persimmons; and four Spalding Model 28 persimmons. I had left all of them with Lag a couple of weeks ago and he super-shuttled them up the road and across the county border to Mike’s garage where the love and care would resuscitate them back to where they belonged – into the hands of an ABS student who would game them.
[[[[[ NOTE: I had only left two Spalding 28’s with Lag: a 3w and 4w that I had purchased for next to nothing. My desire was to have a complete D-2-3-4 set but I couldn’t find the bigger half of the set. No worries, as Lag in his own garage pulled on a drawer handle to find a few unfinished persimmon heads with the famous “MODEL 28” stamp on the brass plates. I kept the laughter to myself as it is just too good to be true that you go visit your golf professor to tell him about your struggles of finding a particular club only to witness him rummage through his stash of clubheads just waiting to be refinished and affixed to the end of an X100. ]]]]]
I had given some fairly specific instructions to Lag and Mike for the Mac M85T irons and the woods: ABS lie angle and deadweight specs plus requested swingweights and club lengths. I’m on my own journey. I wanted woods based on 43" driver length. I also wanted the M85T irons properly bent flat, ABS deadweighted, and some specific swingweights. So, basically the desire was ABS specs but with some tweaks that I felt would really feel right to me and help me at this point on my road to better ball striking.
It’s not that I know specifically what is best for me, but it is that I’m trying and willing to find out through experience. And all you ABS students already know that this is an experience-based system.
Lag and Mike gave me a clear message: what ever we can do to help you on your journey.
I wouldn’t take my clubs anywhere else because I have no reason to trust anyone else but these two. Their only interest is to help YOU. During this process of club restoration and fitting, I’ve received numerous emails from Mike with progress reports and questions and ideas. It made my recent business trip to Nevada and Los Angeles quite enjoyable.
Mike greeted me like an old friend. We immediately looked at the M85Ts that were ready, and we discussed what had been accomplished regarding the weight distribution and how it was achieved. It was the beginning of an afternoon seminar of club specs, tools, strategy, ideas, and challenges.
Clubs in various stages of restoration were viewed and discussed. Some had already been beautifully restored by Mike and were just waiting to be adopted like a stray dog at the pound (there was an incredible pair of very old Power-Bilt persimmons that felt like I had been born with them, but I resisted). Others were weathered and worn, just waiting to have their inner quality reborn like a lotus flower rising out of the mud. Wedges, putters, odd clubs, full sets of persimmons and forged blades. It was better than anything the J. Peterman Company could have done with a glossy catalogue.
On to the persimmons in preparation. The SEOMs were already refinished, but there was the setup to be checked.
“Just hold it like you were addressing the ball and tell me if the club face looks to you like it is closed, open, or square.”
“Dead square to me.”
“Now I’ll hold the club and go assume the caddie front view and tell me if it still looks square.”
“Same from here.”
We found one of the Spalding 28s that looked a bit closed, but we discussed the optical illusion of trying to do this exercise with a lofted wood club. In the end, we were both in agreement, so Mike went to his bench and just very slightly altered the bore with the drill.
I could have read five books and not learned as much. It was like I was back at my 10-week geology field school where two years of graduate school book-learning were all coming together before my eyes.
And I knew that my clubs were in really good hands.
It all ended with me driving away with a refurbished and fitted set of really fine irons (I hit them later in the afternoon and they are absolutely perfect) and some other odds and ends in the form of a wedge, a mallet-head putter, and my trusty Arnold Palmer 8802-style putter with a new grip added by Mike (which also came with Mike’s approval of my own attempt at lead-tape-weighting on the top of the flange/back of the face!!).
But more than that, I left with a sense of community and quality craftsmanship: two very special aspects of this game that are increasingly hard to come by. Mike is a treasure of knowledge and experience, and he really is good at what he does. But more than that, he really cares about ABS and its students. And we are all really lucky to have him.
If you are ever in Northern California, make it a point to stop by the ABS garage, for you will see some fantastic clubs and meet an even better person who is a notable steward of the game.