Made famous by Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters, the Newport TeI3 remains one of Cameron’s most sought-after creations, due in part to a bronze-colored Teryllium insert situated inside the face. The insert is the putter’s calling card, making it nearly impossible to miss on the course.
Cameron has created updated versions of the putter to celebrate its anniversary — most recently the T22 — but the original Teryllium continues to have a cult following with gearheads.
Aside from the insert, the domino pattern in the cavity is the easiest way to spot a TeI3 putter on the course. While the design has an unmistakable look, it actually serves an important purpose.
When Cameron was in the process of designing the TeI3, he needed a way to fasten the insert to the cavity, so he used five screws during the milling process — a screw in each corner of the cavity and one in the middle — to ensure it was secure. There was just one problem: the center screw caused the putter to produce a harsh feel at impact, which required Cameron to come up with a suitable solution.
“I wanted a rubberized glue you could poke and feel, which wasn’t easy to find,” Cameron told GOLF.com in 2019. “I still remember, I was watching golf on a Sunday — my daughter, I believe, is four years old — and I suddenly remember seeing a silicone at Target. The silicone that’s actually an adhesive, so it could hold in the insert, but also stay rubberized because it had a silicone compound to it.”
After testing nine different types of silicone, Cameron landed on a tube of GE Tub and Tile Silicone that eliminated the harsh feel. To allow the silicone membrane to dry quickly, Cameron drilled 32 holes into the back cavity.
“The goal was to be able to poke it like a sales rep could come and say to the buyer, ‘Hey, feel the rubber. It’s not a white paint,’” Cameron said. “I wanted the rubber to stand out.”
It’s easy to look at the dots in the cavity and assume they were positioned in such a way to serve a technical purpose, but there’s a fun side story to the design that rarely gets discussed.
At the time Cameron created the TeI3 for Woods, he was 32 years old. 32 years, 32 holes. It seems too obvious, but that’s the exact reason why Cameron opted for 32 holes. It was a way for the putter designer to remember his early 30s when he was just starting out at Titleist.
Outside of the TeI3 Buttonback, which features three screws in the cavity, updated versions of the TeI3 continue to sport 32 silicone-filled holes in the cavity. It’s safe to say Cameron will never forget how old he was when he created one of the game’s most iconic designs.
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