Club-fitting pioneer and leader PING announced today that Fred VanSteen and Dale Briggs at Knollwood Fairways in Southern Pines, N.C., have been named the 2010 PING National Fitter of the Year.
First given in 1997, the award recognizes the Authorized PING Fitter that has demonstrated the highest commitment to custom fitting and the promotion of its benefits to golfers of all abilities.
“Fred and Dale have done a remarkable job expanding a teaching and practice facility into a full-service fitting operation that has helped hundreds of golfers benefit from PING fitting technology,” said John A. Solheim, PING Chairman & CEO. “They effectively deliver on the PING promise of technological innovation combined with exceptional customer service. Given the busy Pinehurst market where Knollwood does business, we’re especially proud to recognize their efforts and honor them as PING’s National Fitter of the Year.”
Built in 1969, Knollwood features a nine-hole, semi-private golf course with 300 members and a 10-acre public driving range. Its pro shop offers 1,000 square feet of PING-dedicated retail space along with four PING fitting systems, giving Knollwood a competitive edge in the golf-rich Sandhills/Pinehurst area, home to more than 40 courses.
The effort to become the area’s fitting experts began in earnest in 2007, when Knollwood Fairways became an Authorized PING Fitting Account. Shortly after his first iron-fitting bag arrived, VanSteen said the association with PING spiked sales. As his fitting business grew by word-of-mouth and referrals from nearby courses, VanSteen added fitting tools to meet demand. Customers, he said, respond to PING’s personal approach to fitting. “Golfers know that PING clubs are custom-built just for them. Something as seemingly small as the correct grip size or a heel grind on a wedge make a big difference.”
VanSteen, who’s been fitting since 1997, is a graduate of the Professional Golf Management program at Methodist University. He custom-fits the entire PING product line, including putters, to help ensure tee-to-green performance for his customers. “It’s really gratifying to take someone who’s been slicing the ball all his life and all of a sudden he’s turning it over with a little draw,” he says. “Or maybe we help someone discover more yards off the tee. And when you hit the ball straighter and farther, golf is a lot more fun.”
He relies on PING’s full inventory of fitting technology: a 40-club iron-fitting cart, the Advanced Fitting System inter-changeable driver bag and iron bag, and his newest addition, nFlight Custom Fitting software with a launch monitor. VanSteen estimates that he has personally fit well over 200 customers the past two years.
He said winning PING National Fitter of the Year reaffirms his belief that no matter your facility’s size, if you offer a valuable service and treat your customers well, success will follow. “It means a lot to have this accolade from PING. It gives us added credibility that even here at Knollwood, an everyman’s kind of place, we’re pretty good at what we do.”
In addition to VanSteen and fellow PGM graduate Briggs, the Director of Golf & Instruction, Knollwood’s staff includes PGA teaching professionals Bob Flynt and Kevin Taylor, and Laurie Rider, a teaching professional.
Nearly 2,000 authorized PING Club Fitters were eligible for the award. Among the criteria considered by the selection committee are length of time in the program, commitment to on-going training, sustained sales growth, and support of the entire PING product line.
Nominating VanSteen and Briggs for the honor was Ron Venters, PING Field Representative for Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The company also announced 59 regional Fitters of the Year. See next page for a complete listing.