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Golf notebook: OnCore's Elixr takes aim at high end of ball market

The next step in Buffalo-based OnCore Golf’s plan to carve out a niche in such a highly competitive industry is the release of a ball it calls its best yet.

The Elixr is OnCore’s answer to the top golf balls on the market today, like Titleist’s ProV1, TaylorMade’s TP5 or Callaway’s Chrome series.

Bret Blakely, one of OnCore’s co-founders, believes his company’s newest offering does just that.

“It’s been above and beyond everything that we hoped for,” Blakely said of reaction to the ball. “We told our engineers ‘This needs to be the best ball on the planet.’ From all the robotic testing, the Trackman testing, and from professional golfers testing it, it seems like we’ve accomplished just that.”

While that might come across as a bold claim, spend any time around Blakely, and the passion he has for his company comes through.

“It’s kind of a long time coming for us,” he said. “It’s a moment where our family of golf balls has finally been rounded out. We have a ball for every demographic.

“We’ve not only survived, but we’ve thrived, whereas almost every other company that’s entered the market since we have has failed. To have the Elixr out now, I think, really positions us to take the next step to the big stage.”

Part of that is a national commercial that debuted last week on the Golf Channel, good timing since it coincided with Masters week.

OnCore also recently signed Ryan Steenberg to an endorsement deal. Steenberg, a Rochester-area resident, finished second last year in the World Long Drive Championships as a rookie.

The 33-year-old had a long drive of 412 yards, just 9 yards short of eventual winner Joe Miller. Last month, Steenberg traveled to Dubai to take part in the Long Drive World Series, an all-star field of sorts in the sport.

Steenberg sported an OnCore polo and hat at the event, as he will at all of his competitions this year.

“We view OnCore as the up-and-coming powerhouse in golf that’s changing the way the industry looks, thinks and feels about golf,” Blakely said. “He’s a perfect fit for that.”

As the top two amateur events in the area, the Porter Cup and International Junior Masters have always had a connection. Starting this year, however, the two tournaments have formalized a relationship.

The winner of the Junior Masters will receive an official invitation to the Porter Cup.

“That’s really huge,” IJM tournament director Jeff Kamien said. “We’re very appreciative of the Porter Cup committee extending that to us.”

The last three winners of the Junior Masters – Rochester’s Will Thomson, Clarence’s Marc Holzhauer and Elma’s David Hanes – have gone on to compete in the Porter Cup, but their local ties made that a natural fit. Now, Kamien hopes, the Junior Masters will be able to attract a stronger field.

“We believe strongly that as the word gets out, that will improve the quality of our field,” he said. “Especially with stronger regional players, those from the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest. Ontario and Quebec, too, it should help us quite a bit there.”

The return of professional golf to Western New York in 2016 was a success. The LECOM Health Challenge was voted ‘Rookie of the Year’ on the Web.com Tour, beating out six other new events from last season.

More than 20,000 spectators attended the tournament, which ended in a four-man playoff won by Monday qualifier Rick Lamb. A total of 33 participants, including Lamb, went on to earn their PGA Tour cards for the 2016-17 season.

In addition, a total of $100,000 was donated to local charities, including $25,000 to the Buffalo-based Mikey’s Way Foundation, which provides free electronic devices to children who are hospitalized while going through long-term cancer treatments.

Other updates from this year’s tournament, which is scheduled for July 6-9 at Peek’n Peak’s Upper Course in Clymer.

* Tickets for this year’s event are now on sale. The cost is $10 for an adult for any one round, or $25 for a four-day tournament pass. Lake Shore Savings VIP passes are available for $75 and include open bar and food. Tickets are free for those 18 and under. More information is available at lecomhealthchallenge.com/tickets.

* There will be a new qualifying venue. Shorewood Country Club in Dunkirk will host the local qualifier July 3. Last year, the qualifying tournament was held at Peek’n Peak’s lower course, but with that closed, a new venue was needed. Lamb gained entry to the tournament through the local qualifier.

The qualifying round is open to both professionals and amateurs with a handicap of 2 or less. Cost ranges from $100 to $450 depending on a player’s status. More information is available at westernnewyork.pga.com under the tournaments tab.

* The tournament is seeking volunteers. About 400 of them, who will assist in duties like caddie services, scoring communications, player transportation, hospitality and Golf Channel operations are needed. There are also volunteer opportunities for juniors between the ages of 13 and 17.

An adult volunteer package costs $45 and includes a shirt, hat, weekly ticket for a guest, parking and food and drinks during the shift. Those who work three or more shifts during the week receive either a round of golf on the Upper Course or an admission pass to Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park in Erie, Pa.

More information for those interested is available at lecomhealthchallenge.com/volunteer.

Orchard Park native Brian Biggane, who had a long career as a sportswriter at the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla., recently published his first book, a biography of Bob Toski.

Toski, 90, led the PGA Tour in earnings in 1954, when he won four times. Shortly thereafter, he turned to a career in teaching, working with players like Judy Rankin, Jane Blalock and Birdie Kim. Toski started working with Ken Duke, at the time a journeyman assistant pro, about 10 years ago, and since then Duke has won nearly $10 million on Tour.

Peter Kostis and Martin Hall – who hosts “School of Golf” on the Golf Channel – are among Toski’s other protégés. The foreword to Biggane’s book was written by Jack Nicklaus.

Those interested in purchasing it can visit bobtoskibooks.com. It is also available on Amazon.

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