FONT & AUDIO
Dave Grill aims for perfect putting device
Sitting on an embankment yards away from golfing legend Tom Watson, Dave Grill experienced one of the only regretful moments of his life.
Watson, the eventual eight-time major champion was pummeling golf balls on the driving range in preparation for the 1981 PGA Championships at Atlanta Athletic Club in Deluth, Georgia.
Meanwhile, Grill, who competed in the National Long Drive competition at the same location, couldn't believe his eyes. Over and over, he watched Watson's shots hook violently away from his target.
Grill says he immediately identified the problem.
In his view, because Watson was aiming 15 feet away from his target, his body was overcorrecting and thus pulling the ball in the opposite direction.
But Grill, just 20 years old at the time, was hesitant to give one of the best golfers in the world his two cents.
So he kept his mouth shut and Watson, who won the Masters earlier that year, missed the cut.
"I thought 'I can't walk up to Tom Watson and tell him 'Hey, do this,'" Grill said. "I could have fixed him in about two minutes."
But 35 years after failing to help the highest caliber of golfer, he invented a product that he believes can assist golfers of any skill level.
Grill, a Wilsonville resident, invented the Delta Putt — a low-tech and relatively inexpensive device designed to help golfers putt straight and thus improve their golf game.
As Grill's wife Kellie Poulsen-Grill noted, necessity breeds invention. And a disastrous round of golf sparked the idea for the product.
As a kid and young man, Grill played many sports and didn't exactly specialize in golf but recalls playing 72 holes a day at Tualatin Country Club with his friends in the summer. And he became quite good.
Along with boasting one of the furthest drives in the world, Grill was once a scratch golfer.
But as he grew older and his family and work life consumed most of his time, he played less and less. He now plays about seven rounds per year but a part of him still expects to shoot in the low 70s like he once could.
Meanwhile, whether in sports or household products, Grill has always been a tinkerer. And the Watson moment was one of the only times he's resisted the urge to fix a problem.
When one of his daughters was young, he stuck a thermometer inside a toy duck to make sure the temperature of the bathtub was optimal during her baths (Years later he saw a similar product in a store). Later, he developed a Mitt Whomper — which quickly breaks in baseball and softball gloves and keeps glove pockets formed. He has a patent on the Mitt Whomper along with a sheet straightener and a baseball hitting device but hadn't launched any of the products.
Then, in 2016, during his annual trip to Bandon Dunes with 15 of his friends, his frustration with his erratic golf game hit a breaking point. His drives scattered away from the fairway. And his putts repeatedly missed the cup.
Frustrated with the state of his game, he began to ponder ways to improve his putting stroke and, more specifically, how to hit putts completely flush without his club face veering slightly to the left or the right. So he brought out a two-by-six inch piece of wood and tried to strike the flat surface completely square with his putter.
After finding it impossible to hit the flat piece of wood completely on plane, he thought adding a protrusion would allow for more leeway.
His initial iteration involved a half of a golf ball lodged into a piece of wood. Eventually, though, he developed a device that is the weight of a golf ball and includes three sides with varying levels of difficulty based on the size of the protrusion.
The bigger the protrusion, the easier it is to keep the triangular object traveling straight and from spinning.
The amateur side's protrusion is nearly a quarter of an inch wide, the pro side's protrusion is an eighth of an inch and the tour side's protrusion is one-sixteenth of an inch.
And unlike hitting a regular golf ball on the green, the Delta Putt shows you the cause of your mistakes.
For a right-handed putter, if the Delta Putt spins left that means the face of the putter was closed when it contacted the ball; and if it spins right, the face of the putter was open. With this feedback, golfers can correct their swing so that the putting stroke progresses linearly. Also, the target on the putting matt included with the Delta Putt package is within arms reach so golfers can maintain their stance as they retrieve the delta putt with their club.
Grill says individuals can correct their swing on their own but that advise from club professionals can expedite the learning curve.
"I'm not marketing it as such but it literally is a self-teaching training aid. I suggest people go to their local pro, throw it down and say 'Look at this stroke. What do I need to work on.' That helps the pro see what you're doing," Grill said.
Last year, Grill brought the Delta Putt as well as his other invention ideas to a patent lawyer in Lake Oswego. Grill says she did not like the baseball ideas, loved the sheet straightener and was blown away with the Delta Putt because of its simplicity, potentially shorter patent process and market potential.
"We can protect it. Every version we can get a claim for. The cost is low. And we have a huge market," Grill said.
The patent went through exceedingly fast — three months — and the product was officially released in November under the company name GSixProducts — which symbolizes the amount of members in the Grill family including Grill's first wife who died of breast cancer.
They have manufactured 4,000 mats and 3,500 Delta Putts and marketed the product at golf trade shows in Portland and Seattle. Grill says they have sold over 1,500 Delta Putts so far including 61 at the Portland show and about 85 at the Seattle show. Also, Grill says his boss at Metro Metals loves the Delta Putt and practices his putting in his office. Grill has talked to club professionals and high school and college coaches who like it as well.
"At the Portland Golf Show, not one person came to buy a Delta Putt. They didn't know we existed," Grill said. "That was sales from people walking by and saying 'Hey what is that?"
Grill owns a spacious property in Wilsonville and lives a comfortable life. Subsequently, he's reticent to stop everything and go full throttle with the Delta Putt but hopes to do so after retirement.
"We're just starting out. It's not a full time job for anyone. We're just gradually taking baby steps and hoping that it will get to the point where we log into our computer and there are several orders there. And we say 'Boom. We need to get those out,'" Grill said.
But even if the product never sells in mass, the Grill's are satisfied with what they've already accomplished.
"No matter who you are, what stage of your life you're in, you need to follow your dreams," Poulsen-Grill said. "Even if we were to stop today, which we're not, there's hundreds and hundreds of people whose golf game has been changed because of this silly product."
Grill returned to Bandon Dunes for another round of golf this year. Though he uses the Delta Putt regularly, he still doesn't have time to dedicate to the sport.
But while his drives were shaky again, he says he scored much better than the year before. And he credits his straighter putting stroke.
"I didn't make every putt but I rolled the ball so much better and got it close to the hole," Grill said. "I shot in the 80s every day and I swear to God it was because of putting."