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Golf notebook: Buffalo company a big hit in ball manufacturing

OnCore Golf continues its steady growth in the ultra-competitive equipment industry.

The Buffalo-based company, which formed in 2009 and later broke ground by manufacturing the first golf ball with a hollow metal core to be included on the United States Golf Association’s conforming list, recently debuted its newest ball, the Avant, at the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

The Avant differs from OnCore’s MA 1.0 ball in that it does not have the distinctive hollow metal core. Rather, it uses a two-piece design featuring the company’s SoftCell technology, which it says produces greater distance and feel. OnCore’s Avant ball has a compression rating of 65, which is scored on a scale of 0 to 100. That’s a measure of how much the ball compresses against the club face at impact.

Generally, the lower a ball’s compression, the softer it feels. According to studies from Wilson, which produces a “Staff Duo” ball with the lowest compression rating on the market of just 29, a majority of golfers, regardless of ability, prefer a softer ball.

Anything with a rating of between 70 and 80 is considered a low compression ball, and the Avant checks in at less than that of similar offerings from industry titans like Titleist, Bridgestone, Nike and TaylorMade.

Low-compression balls are designed to create more distance for players with slower swing speeds, since they spring off the club more. The trade off is less control, which comes with balls with a higher compression.

OnCore believes the Avant provides the best of both worlds.

“It is an innovative core. Very low compression, but it’s got explosive velocity and distance,” OnCore CEO Keith Blakely said. “We’re getting five-star reviews all over the place, so it’s exciting because it’s also an affordable ball.”

The Avant sells for $19.99 a dozen and is available on the company’s website, oncoregolf.com.

Blakely said the price is a part of the company’s broad strategy of appealing to younger players who may not be able to afford the offerings from Titleist, for example, which sells a dozen of its popular Pro V1 balls for $47.99.

“We’re getting guys who play the Pro V1 and the Pro V1x saying they’re switching because it’s cheaper and it’s better,” Blakely said.

At the PGA show in January, OnCore’s ball was chosen as one of the favorite products of Sports Illustrated’s Gary Van Sickle.

“OnCore Golf broke out with hollow-core golf balls, doing for balls what perimeter weighting did for irons and putters,” Van Sickle wrote. “New Avant is a tad softer and a solid (pardon my irony) performer from the company Born in Buffalo.”

The release of the Avant coincides with some off-the-course developments for OnCore.

In February, the company’s MA 1.0 was named the “official golf ball” for the Golfweek Amateur and Senior Amateur tours, which have more than 5,000 playing members in 40 cities nationwide.

“We are delighted to have OnCore’s MA 1.0 ball as the official golf ball of both tours, as it has been played and rapidly become accepted by our Tour members as a great distance and accuracy golf ball,” Tour Commissioner Dennis McCormac said. “OnCore is definitely moving into the mainstream of the golf ball world.”

The MA 1.0 will be rebranded as the “Caliber” and is slated for release next month. That will precede OnCore’s debut of its “Tour Caliber” ball, which is scheduled for release later in the year and will be the company’s top-end product.

Last fall, OnCore also added John Koelmel and Ron Schreiber to its board of directors. Koelmel, the former president of both HarborCenter and First Niagara Financial Group, also became OnCore’s newest investor.

“The upside for the company is significant and I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and help make it happen,” he said in a press release issued at the time of his joining the board of directors.

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The 2016 Porter Cup qualifier will be held at Niagara Falls Country Club on June 27.

Open to players with handicaps of 3 or less, the cost is $175 and includes one practice round at the course. The low eight finishers will earn a spot in the 58th Porter Cup, which will be held July 27-30 at NFCC. For more information, visit portercup.com.

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The New York State Golf Association will host a free seminar on the rules of golf at Transit Valley Country club on May 14. The seminar runs from 9 a.m. to noon and instructors will cover a variety of rules through the use of PowerPoint presentations and the United States Golf Association’s video program. There will also be a question-and-answer session to address any rules-related questions. To register, go to nysga.org/rules-of-golf-seminars.

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The 2016 PGA Professional National Championship will be held from June 26-29 at the Atunyote and Kaluhyat golf courses at Turning Stone Resort in Verona.

Club pros from across the country will compete for one of 20 spots in July’s PGA Championship, which will be held at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey.

The Western New York section of the PGA will be represented by Michael O’Connor and Alex Weir, both of The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., as well as Dwayne Randall of Peek’n Peak, based on their finishes in last year’s WNY Professional Championship at Brookfield.

Turning Stone is accepting volunteer applications for the tournament, which will be held in Central New York for the first time since 2006. There are about 2,100 volunteer shifts to fill.

Those who complete at least four shifts will be eligible for a round of golf at Turning Stone’s Shenendoah or Kaluhyat course. For more information, visit turningtone.com/golf. Deadline for applications is May 2.

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O’Connor was featured recently on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” for a segment on the renovation project he led at the J.C. Martin Golf Course in Erie, Pa.

He was credited for recognizing the need for a community course that provides families a safe and affordable place for children to learn the game. With O’Connor’s leadership and support from both the Western New York PGA section and Erie’s leaders, the needed $500,000 was raised to install new tees, greens and bunkers at the course, along with a practice facility that features both putting and chipping greens, as well as a driving range. An eight-week junior golf program coordinated by Western New York PGA section pros will be held this summer at the facility.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com