How does Ping manage its famed Gold Putter Vault? Its curator explains
Courtesy of Ping
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You don’t have to be a gearhead to appreciate the trove of golf history that Ping has at its Phoenix, Ariz., headquarters.
The company’s Gold Putter Vault boasts a collection of more than 3,200 gold-plated putters, each of which commemorates a win by a player who wielded a Ping flatstick.
Ping founder Karsten Solheim started the tradition in the 1970s, gifting each player a gold-plated putter, while also storing a second replica gold-plated version at Ping HQ. An engraving on the face showcases the player’s name, tournament and year. In 1995, the company began giving major winners a solid-gold keepsake, though all the putters in the vault remain gold-plated.
The collection was initially stored in Karsten’s closet, but over the years it outgrew the space and now is housed in its third location, next to the Ping Wrx operation.
The vault — secured behind a bank-safe-style door — is an impressive sight, and the woman behind it all for the last decade-plus is Lesa Clarke, a Ping employee of nearly 25 years.
Clarke loves her job. Not only is she responsible for the administrative duties that accompany the oversight of what is surely the most valuable collection of putters in existence, but she also leads guests and VIPs — including the likes of Bubba Watson and Charles Barkley — who visit Ping’s headquarters into the vault to have a look for themselves.
“I don’t get too excited, but Smokey Robinson came in one time,” Clarke said of the legendary singer-songwriter. “And he gave us free tickets. That was pretty cool.”
Clarke created a special order form that Ping’s equipment reps use when a player on staff has a win. When she receives the order, Clarke works with Ping staffers to commission the keepsake putters and also serves as quality control when the putters arrive, checking the engraving for spelling and the putterhead for any imperfections. While this process usually takes three to six months, there are occasional rush jobs so the company can present the putter to a player ahead of a certain date, like at a major championship. Clarke also maintains an extensive record book of every putter housed in the vault.
Inside the safe, visitors are treated to a visually stunning representation of golf’s history. Ping’s long-popular Anser model has more 500 replicas in the collection. Two of Tiger Woods’ putters are on display, from a pair of his U.S. Amateur wins, as are nearly 50 of the late Seve Ballesteros.
There are also a few wedges in the mix to commemorate clinching shots, like Bubba Watson’s Ping Tour wedge, which he famously used to bend around the pines in a playoff at the 2012 Masters.
The vault is easily one of the most impressive “office” spaces in the golf business, and the privilege of Clarke’s job isn’t lost on her.
“The people are wonderful, and the Solheims have been so good to us,” she said. “I really love it.”