Lefty had right idea when it came to golf clubs
Everyone faces challenges, and Todd Anderson was no different.
An avid golfer, he was saddled with a debilitating condition, an obstacle that threatened to chase him from the game he so loves. He could deal with the funny looks, the snarky comments, those who averted their eyes altogether. But he couldn't handle the thought of his affliction keeping him off the golf course.
Anderson, you see, is a left-hander.
I know, tragic.
Anderson has his own company, Oregon Precision Golf. He builds, alters and repairs clubs for people, in turn building, altering and repairing their games. A pharmacist by trade, it makes sense he would moonlight as a mixer of things, even if they are shafts, heads and grips.
He remembers why he got into it.
"Left-handed," he says, simply.
And when. It was the early '90s. He went to Fiddler's Green in Junction City to get a set of Ping Eye 2 irons. Sure, they said, but it would take eight months.
"This is not good," Anderson recalls thinking. "So I have to settle for something less than what a right-handed golfer gets?"
He tells the story and his voice becomes low and monotone. He still seems perturbed, which is out of character because he's a likable sort. You'd think those clubs were heart medicine he needed today.
"At that point, I said, 'You know, I've got to figure out how to make these golf clubs because it's just not right," he says.
Clearly, he takes his left-handedness seriously.
Enough that he started a business, with office space in downtown Medford, and has since moved it to a shop adjoined to his house.
Enough that he has played in, and won, numerous tournaments for southsiders, including the state left-handed championship several times.
Enough that he wants to chop down a tree on a par 3 at Rogue Valley Country Club because it hinders a certain lefty whose go-to shot is a fade.
Anderson didn't know anything about making clubs at the outset. He read a few books and started tinkering, putting various parts together to see how they reacted.
He and a partner, Chris Leffel, began on the ground floor, gradually learning the craft, selling clubs here and there and building a reputation. Leffel, who worked for Medco, eventually took a job out of the area and Anderson bought him out.
While together, they made a club from medium density fiberboard, laminated it and sent it to Louisville Golf, which in turn manufactured its own club from the material.
"And it was beautiful," says Anderson.
Anderson moved the business to his home in 2000 and has had varying degrees of activity. At its peak, he made about $30,000 a year, he says. The economy, the advent of adjustable clubs and his own desire to treat it as part business, part hobby has reduced his workload.
On a recent weekday, he had a couple visitors. Both needed the lies changed on clubs, which means, they needed to be bent.
"Without this machine," says Anderson, nodding to the Mitchell Golf contraption, "I probably would not be in business right now."
The first customer needed two wedges adjusted. There was a confounding gap in their distances. The 50 degree was too strong, so it was bent to 52. The 46 degree was too close to his 9-iron, so it went up a notch.
Anderson took the first club, turned some knobs to lock it in place, adjusted levers, took readings, then grabbed a crowbar with a notch on the end that fit the hosel. He leaned in and, presto.
"There's another 5 yards," he grinned.
The other customer recently bought new irons that were 2 degrees flat and weren't working for him. He took swings on a contact board, and the impact was near the toe of the club, where there are no grooves.
"Without grooves," said Anderson, "you're done in this game."
They were bent, hit again and problem solved.
As he worked, Anderson told a few stories, mostly about the Southern Oregon Golf Championships and some of the people he's helped.
Scott Tuttle's first men's regular title in 2002 came only after he put in an emergency call to Anderson. Tuttle bought new clubs and played two rounds with them, shooting in the high 70s.
"I bent his clubs while the cocktail hour was going on," said Anderson.
Another player broke his 9-iron and saw Anderson, then went on to win his flight.
An out-of-town woman had him bend all her clubs, resulting in first-place crystal.
It went like that for about a half-dozen years, says Anderson.
"It was just a stroke of luck, but it was kind of funny," he says. "I don't know, it's the magic touch I guess."
There's a small price for his services. I'm not talking cash, although there's that. I'm talking, well, talking. Anderson admits his shop is a web of sorts, trapping unsuspecting players who wander in to have their games fixed. Once inside, they're subjected to talk of graphite, grams, lofts, lies, angles, boron, face plates. Conversations at NASA dinner parties might not be as technical.
"I'm sorry," he says at one point. "You've gotta cut me off if you want."
He's collected such vast knowledge of golf swings and equipment, he can't help himself. But he tries when playing with others.
"I almost have to zip my lips because I know what's wrong," he says. "I've got to be careful."
He has no qualms about fixing himself.
He's not tall and not a long hitter, so years ago he made his own woods and hybrids to compensate. The longer clubs replaced irons and also made it easier on his nagging back.
In a Ryder Cup-like left-handed tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., he defeated an opponent by hitting three straight 9-woods, the last to a couple feet.
"He goes, 'What the hell is that club?'" says Anderson. "'(Expletive), you hit that thing closer than I hit my 9-iron.'"
The array of clubs in Anderson's bag don't go unchanged for long. It's a big deal for him, he says, to have something new in his bag whenever he plays.
In the recent RVCC club championships, he put together three rounds in the 70s and was low gross in the senior division first flight.
He did so with typically unorthodox clubs. All had been manipulated in some way. And his irons, usually just a pitching wedge, 9 and 8, had shafts that came from woods. Those shafts are better quality than graphite iron shafts, he reasoned, so why not try them in irons.
Boxes and boxes of discarded shafts line one of the shop walls.
"They were all things I had that maybe broke, but I could still cut them down," he says.
Anderson's dream would be to retire and create his own production facility, with more equipment and resources to make players the best they can be.
No matter which side they swing from.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com