Rodelli (left), owner of McHenry Metals, and Marty Broach, the company's marketing coordinator, show off some of the clubs of the company that is now headquartered in Jacksonville

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The Florida Times-Union
May 8, 2005

Old name will get new start
The Times-Union


McHenryMetalsMel Rodelli was hanging around the Hyde Park Golf Club in February of 2003 when Ned Williams, a former club professional and friend, urged him to try a new driver.

"He said it gave him 25 extra yards off the tee," said Rodelli, the owner of Certified Air, one of the area's largest installers of commercial air conditioners. "Anyone will give that a try."

Rodelli not only agreed with Williams -- after banging out a few drives that went longer than his usual -- but loved the club so much that he wondered aloud if he shouldn't buy some stock in the company.

Three months later, Rodelli bought the entire company, lock, stock and pitching wedge, and moved its administrative offices to Jacksonville, near the Westside office of Certified Air.

But this wasn't just another equipment brand. This one had a pedigree to it.

It was McHenry Metals, launched in 1997 by the late Gary V. Adams, generally acknowledged within the equipment industry as the pioneer of metal drivers when he founded Taylor Made Golf in 1979.

The story of how Adams' third equipment company found its way into the hands of a Jacksonville businessman started in a basement in McHenry, Ill., Adams' home town. It continued to California, across the country to Maryland, then south to the First Coast.

Rodelli and an energetic management and marketing team isn't expecting McHenry Metals to push its way into a crowded marketed currently hogged by the likes of Titleist, Nike, Ping and, of course, Adams' first reation, Taylor Made.

But they believe that a combination of "niche" marketing, demo days, green-grass pro shop sales and world
of mouth can make McHenry a viable player on the second tier of the equipment industry, with companies
such as KZG, Kasco, Tour Edge and Sonartec.

"Our goal is top-tier technology with second-tier pricing," said Marty Broach, McHenry's marketing director. "We're not going after Titleist and Taylor Made. But we think the products are good enough that we can do quite well with the marketing plan we have."

Rodelli is shooting for ab out $1.5 million in sales this year. Edwin Watts stores on the Southside and Jacksonville Beach (plus four in Orlando, one in Tallahassee and one in Fort Lauderdale) are stocking the clubs, as are 12 area pro shops, three in Gainesville the PGA Superstore in Atlanta.

In addition, McHenry has marketing agreements with Epic Golf and the Michelob Ultra Tour. Billy Kratzert (Champions Tour) and Kenny Knox (Nationwide Tour) are using McHenry products in competition.

The golf equipment industry is mercurial at best. But at least McHenry has an owner with a clear plan -- as opposed to several years in limbo after Adams' death in 2000.

Adams was in his early 30s and working for a golf-range equipment company when he noticed that new two-piece balata balls were going further hit by long irons than persimmons drivers. He eventually settled on his own design of a metal wood, formed Taylor Made in 1979, and slowly convinced some touring professionals to use the club.

The breakthrough was at the 1982 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Jim Simons won the tournament with a Taylor Made metal driver and, after that, it was only a matter of time before persimmon disappeared completely off the PGA Tour, as well as from the bags of weekend players.

Adams later sold his interest in Taylor Made and launched Founders Club. Fred Funk was among the professionals who won Tour events with Founders Club drivers or fairway woods and Adams appeared headed for another success.

However, he was stricken with pancreatic cancer and left the business. He recovered in 1996 and began working on new designs in the basement of his father's home in McHenry, Ill., -- where his father was the head professional at a municipal course.

Adams' new design was the Tour Pure driver. He decided that the faces of all titanium clubs didn't have to be the same thickness -- better players would want a slightly thicker face, for more control; less accomplished players would want a thinner face, for more distance.

Adams named the new company for his hometown.

Less than two years later, Adams' cancer returned, and he died at the age of 56. His family sold the company to a group of California businessmen, who later sold it to interests in Annapolis, Md.

Neither ownership group grew the company. Rodelli wants to change that.

"They weren't losing a lot of money but they didn't do much to move the company forward," Rodelli said. "We're moving ahead, aggressively."

Rodelli said part of the marketing strategy is the respectful use of Adams' name. The Adams family agreed to that when it sold the company for the first time, and part of the deal has been the transfer of Adams' notes and files.

"You wouldn't believe what is in his notes and on CD-roms," Rodelli said. "We found notes, going back to the early 1990s, about the hybrid clubs that are so popular today. This was a man that was ahead of his time every step of the way. He was brilliant."

Under Rodelli, McHenry has four product lines: the Tour Pure II driver ($299.99 suggested retail price), fairway metals ($169.99), hybrid clubs ($129.99), and its Strike wedges ($99.99).

GolfTest USA, an independent club-testing company, has given each product line its "seal of excellence."

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