This month marks the anniversary of one of the more important product introductions in the history of golf equipment. In October 2000, the Acushnet Company began seeding a new Titleist ball – called Pro V1 -ball – on the PGA Tour’s Invensys Classic at Las Vegas (now the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open). A total of 47 players switched to the new multi-component, solid technology Pro V1 the first week it was available, which the Acushnet Co., says represents “the single greatest pluralistic shift’’ in equipment usage ever at a PGA Tour event. Las Vegas was the first event in which Tour players could play Pro V1 in competition after it was added to the Fall 2000 Edition of the USGA Conforming Golf Ball List.
The rest, as they say, is history. What was first played in Vegas, didn’t stay in Vegas. Today, Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x are the most-played and best-selling golf ball models around the world. According to the Acushnet Co., Two out of every three players across the worldwide professional tours tee up a Pro V1 or Pro V1x, and the percentages are even higher at major men’s and women’s global amateur events, the NCAA Championships and competitive boys’ and girls’ junior championships.
The Titleist Pro V1 family, I’ll argue (and win) is the last significant product introduction – ball or club – of the past 20 years. Certainly no other club or golf ball has experienced the sustained success – on Tour and among public consumers – as the Pro V1.
“While we expected early adoption, we weren’t certain what the ball count would be, because players only had a day or two of practice rounds,” said Bill Morgan, senior vice president for Titleist Golf Ball R&D. “We heard from players, that for the very first time, they didn’t sacrifice anything in a golf ball. The Pro V1 provided total performance by delivering exceptional distance gains off the tee while providing incredibly soft feel and what we called ‘drop-and-stop’ short game control. It also had a durable cover that wouldn’t cut or shear the way the traditional balata-covered balls did.”
Like Morgan, Mary Lou Bohn, vice president of golf ball marketing and Titleist communications, was also in Las Vegas that week 15 years ago.
“The Pro V1 responded to the changing nature of the game,” Bohn said. “The arrival of the power game on the tour necessitated golf balls that delivered very low spin in the long game, while maintaining the spin, feel and control of the premium liquid center, wound technology golf balls. We walked the fairways with players during their practice rounds, and it was amazing to hear so many great players effusive over Pro V1’s performance. If you look at the early success of players who achieved record-setting performances, the results spoke for themselves.”
For the record, Billy Andrade won the 2000 Invensys Classic the first week the new Pro V1 was available.
“I remember I was not having a very good year entering that event,” Andrade said. “I think I was around 160th on the money list and there were only a few events left. I was desperate. I vividly remember the first time I put it into play during a practice round. The ball was 20 yards longer than the Tour Prestige that I was playing at the time. I chalked some of it up to altitude, but the distance, in addition to the overall performance of the ball, was like nothing I had ever played.”
So now comes the big question. How did the name “Pro V1’’ come about?
“We didn’t know what to call it,” Morgan said. “The leading tour-played ball at the time was the Titleist Professional. We were coming up to the USGA deadline for getting balls on the conforming list, so I just put an interim stamp on for submission and I figured we would work out what to officially call it later. I wrote ‘Pro’ for Professional, ‘V’ for the ‘Veneer Project’ that it was called in R&D, and the number 1. I absolutely thought we would change the name but the players said they loved it – so it stuck.”