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Hansberger Brothers Honored by Clubmakers Society


For 50 years, the Hansberger brothers – Lyle, Al, Jim and Bob – were innovators and leaders in the development of cutting-edge golf equipment. Their brands included Ram, Bristol, Kroydon and Sportsman. PGA Tour professionals won every major playing their golf clubs. One club in particular manufactured under the Bristol and Sportsman brands – the Wizard 600 putter – may be the most valuable collectable golf club in the world. The brothers also introduced the first cut-proof, Surlyn-covered golf ball.

For these accomplishments, the Hansberger Brothers are the 2006 inductees into the Professional Clubmakers’ Society Hall of Fame. Starting with its first inductees in 1994, the Clubmakers Hall of Fame is the Professional Clubmakers’ Society's (PCS) effort to recognize the skilled craftsmen who made lifetime contributions to custom clubmaking. The induction of the Hansberger Brothers brings to 30 the number of legendary clubmakers honored by the golf industry's only independent professional organization of custom clubmakers.

Previous PCS Hall of Fame inductees are William Auchterlonie, Frank Boynton Sr., Mario Cesario, H.A. (Bert) Dargie, Sr., Howard Delaney, Robert Forgan, Hubby Habjan, Bill Hardy, Elmore Just, Ralph Maltby, James McEwan, Peter McEwan, Sr., Robert Mendralla, Tom Morris, John Ofer, Willie Park, Jr., Carl Paul, Toney Penna, Hugh Philp, Bernie Porter, Joe Powell, Irv Schloss, Gene Sheeley, Kenneth Smith, Stan Thompson Ralph G. (Tug) Tyler, Don White, and Jack Wullkotte.

The Hansberger brothers will be inducted into the Clubmakers Hall of Fame at the PCS Awards Dinner on Saturday, March 4, 2006 in Louisville, KY. The Awards Dinner is held in conjunction with the PCS International Symposium and Expo held annually at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. Each year PCS members from around the world attend the PCS Expo which provides them with educational opportunities through seminars, information sessions and hands on workshops. In addition, over 60 Exhibitors representing most or all of the component, equipment and supply companies in the clubmaking industry are on hand to display their products and services to those attending.

About The Hansberger Brothers & Their Products

Born in Worthington, Minn., to Edith and Floyd Hansbergerthe four boys and two sisters were raised as farmers. At the end of World War II, armed with his engineering degree, William Lyle Hansberger (Lyle) started Hansberger Tool & Die in a garage on Chicago's West Side. Allan Payne Hansberger (Al) soon began selling for the new company while completing his business and marketing degree. James Richard Hansberger (Jim) joined the company in 1958. Older brother Robert Vail Hansberger (Bob) served as a consultant, having taken his Harvard degree to Boise, Idaho, to help found Boise Cascade, eventually serving as CEO and Chairman of the Board of that large company.

The four brothers are still alive. Bob, 86, remains in Boise; Lyle, 84, now lives in Mississippi, where Ram Golf once operated a facility; Al, 82, spends summers in Chicago and winters in Southern California where he plays golf every day; Jim, 72, lives outside Orlando, Fla.

The family remains involved in the golf business. Al's son, Gary, is president of Vulcan Golf in Chicago. Gary, who provided information to the PCS on his father's and uncles’ accomplishments, said he still consults with Lyle. In the summer, Al is active in Vulcan Golf helping test equipment. "He loves the business," Gary said.

According to Gary, an early customer of Hansberger Tool & Die was George MacGregor Golf, which had no connection to MacGregor/Canby of Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the more well-known brands of golf equipment. The Hansbergers built nesting and stamping dies as well as clubmaking equipment. The work took over the night shift production, with a few workers grinding, stamping, gripping and shafting golf clubs.

George MacGregor sold his business to the Hansberger Brothers in 1947. By 1948, they changed the name to Sportsman’s Golf. Their customers were golf professionals, practice ranges, retailers and the U.S. military. With growth in the 1950s, the company built a small factory in Melrose Park, Ill., purchasing the Bristol Golf name, which was used for the pro line, and Kroydon Golf, which was used for the dealer line.

During this time the brothers contracted with George Low to manufacture the fine-line Wizard putters under both the Sportsman and Bristol brands. The George Low autograph Wizard 600 is considered the most valuable collector golf club, carrying a $25,000-plus price tag. Jack Nicklaus used this putter during the most productive 20-year period of his career.

The company began using the Ram name in 1967, and shortly brought out the Ram 3D, the first Surlyn-covered golf ball. In 1968, Al became company president, and six additional small companies were acquired. The entire operation was consolidated as Ram Golf. The Melrose Park factory was expanded to more than 100,000 square feet, and a Mississippi facility was added to manufacture balls and golf bags.

In the 1960s, the company made one of the first investment-cast, cavity-back irons, the Ram XS 1000. It developed the Accubar weighting system. In the 1970s it introduced Tour Grind forged blades and manufactured Zebra putters. The Hansbergers sold the company to Colgate-Palmolive in 1975, but they continued managing the golf operations. They also started Hansberger Precision Golf and Phoenix Golf Wood Products.

In 1980, they bought Ram Golf back from Colgate-Palmolive. With Jim as president, the company bought PGA Tour Clothing, and continued golf club innovation with the Frequency Matched Precision Shaft, which pioneered frequency fitting; the Tom Watson three-wedge system; lithium balata and lithium Surlyn golf balls; Laser X2 cast and Laser FX forged irons; and bore-through Laser FX metal woods. It also reintroduced the Bristol club line.

In the 1990s, they added to the Watson series of wedges with the Patty Sheehan, Nick Price and Calvin Peete hand-ground wedge lines. The company was then split into two entities, Ram Tour Balls and Ram Golf Club Co. The club division was sold to Tommy Armour, and the ball division was sold to TaylorMade. Vulcan Golf began in the mid-1990s.

Throughout the history of the company, PGA Tour players were important in both development and promotion. Gary said Tour players were used as consultants, offering contributions to the look of the leading edge and bounce angles. Tommy Bolt was the first PGA Tour player under contract with Ram. Others who played as Ram staffers were Charlie Sifford, Doug Sanders, Tony Lema, Bob Rosburg, Gene Littler, Lee Trevino, Dave Hill, Mike Hill, Kathy Cornelius, Tom Watson, Ray Floyd, Terry Diehl, Bobby Clampet, Sandra Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Calvin Peete, D.A. Weibring, John Mahaffey, Willy Wood, Mark Brooks, Peter Oosterhuis, Patty Sheehan and Nick Price.

In the company’s early days and continuing into the 1970s, Lyle was heavily involved in club design. Clubmakers John Brisk (called an "artist with grinding forgings" by Gary), Chuck Taft, Joe Deprizio and Ed Gorski formed the nucleus of the company’s custom department. Plant manager Bob Lukasiewicz also was instrumental in taking designs to reality.

From vision to innovation to reality, the Hansberger Brothers have left a significant impact on the history of golf equipment.

The Professional Clubmakers’ Society offers a full range of member benefits and educational services, which are described in detail on its website, www.proclubmakers.org. To obtain a list of PCS certified clubmakers, use the Clubmaker Locator Service on the website, or call PCS at 800/548-6094.