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Stan Thompson

CLUBMAKER FOR THE COMMON
(AND NOT SO COMMON) MAN

By: Mike Shannon

"What does Ginty mean? It means the Son of a Scottish brood that keeps getting into trouble only to easily find his way out of trouble! Any other questions?"
- Stan Thompson (Stan Thompson Golf)

I am a very average golfer, who happened to find a "Ginty" golf club at a local sports store several years ago. For me, a golfer who is often in trouble, this club soon lived up to it's reputation and became my favorite club. On a bad day I sometimes use it from the tee to the green.

I had the privilege of going to Ireland in 2002 with my son's father-in-law, Michael Waldron, a real "Irishman" and a lover of the game. We played several courses in southwest Ireland, including Old Head, where I got the first and only eagle of my golfing life. Of course my second shot to the green was Ginty.

I have subsequently collected over 150 Stan Thompson woods, thirteen different sets of irons and over 40 different putters. In collecting these clubs I have become interested in Stan and his many inventions, innovations and contributions to golf.

Stanley Charles Thompson was born in Kansas in 1911 to William (a railroad machinist) and Emma (a German immigrant) . His family subsequently moved to Kansas City, Missouri where an errant golf ball hit his bicycle while he was riding one day. In anger, he took the golfer's ball home with him. When he told his mother what had transpired, she said that the honest thing to do was to return the ball. When Stan went to the pro shop at the golf course, the pro was very impressed with his honesty and offered him a job cleaning up the clubhouse and around the course. This was Stan's introduction to golf.

Stan later began working for Kenneth Smith Golf Company. His original job was skiving and preparing leather for grips. He learned every process of golf club making and learned Kenneth Smiths methods of "fitting" clubs to the individual golfer as well. One of his early inventions came during this time when he bought a candy scale and created with it the first "swing-weight" scale.

In 1937 Stan moved to the Los Angeles area where he established his golf company in Beverly Hills. Here he made his original "Tailored" persimmon woods and created "Tailored" irons and an endless array of putters, from adjustable "Mel Smith" models to beautiful persimmon mallets with brass sole plates(similar to Kenneth Smith roll-in putters).

Sometime in the 60's Stan moved his plant to the corner of La Cienega and Fairfax in Culver City This location was probably closer to an apartment complex that he and his wife owned in Playa del Rey. One of Stan's renters, Pat Morris, related the following: I never went to his place of business. I recall that it was open to the public, because he talked about people coming in to have him measure them for clubs. Mrs. Thompson told me she was amused one day when a man came in and asked to be measured for clubs. She told him that she would get Stan to measure him and he replied,"Is he still living?" I guess Stan was already a legend before he came up with the club he is now most famous for…I once asked Stan if he had offers from larger golf club companies to buy him out and he replied that he had offers, but "they were just offering me what I already have".

In 1973 Stan invented and patented the original ginty "trouble" club. As the story goes, he saw Ben Hogan hit a 2 iron out of the deep rough at the U.S. Open onto the green. Stan thought to himself, "The average golfer will never be able to make that shot". Many years later he saw a speed boat passing him and realized the potential of the keel and developed the keel bottom "Ginty" a seven wood head on a four wood shaft). The keel sole plate was made from zinc giving the club a very low center of gravity and the four wood shaft added to club head speed. Three additional patent changes were made in the club to improve and strengthen the head. By the time of Stan's death in 1995, over 2 millions Gintys had been sold.

By the time he celebrated "50 Years in Clubmaking" in 1989, Stan had a nationwide and even international sales force. Through the years he had created persimmon and laminated maple woods, over 13 different types of irons, over 40 different putters, one of the early single-lever swing machines and "stanforizing", a method of curing persimmon which cured the wood faster than oil hardening. He made clubs for anyone who was anyone, including most of the golfing movie stars, governors, even reportedly for Howard Hughes. Those who knew him said he was a gentleman, honest to the penny, stubborn at times, a very "hands on"type of guy (who could always be found in his shop with his work apron on) and a dreamer, but an engineering dreamer. Frank Thomas, of franklygolf.com, says "Stan was a man who did more for golf than many will ever realize."

Learn more at www.stanthompson.com

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