By Bernie Fay
It was the end of January in 2016 and there I was sitting in my Honda Pilot on the shoulder of an off ramp somewhere in Indiana. It was 2:00 a.m. and it was over. I finally admitted to myself in a mild panic attack that this MISIG thing wasn’t going to work. I am not going to go to the PGA Merchandise show in Orlando I thought. Enough is enough.
“If I take out an ad in next weeks local paper for my handyman and fence business, I’ll be working in two weeks and I can start to get some of the money back” I told myself. It was Mary Ann and my life savings and a very large chunk of it was gone. – Patents and trademarks, hiring a web development company, marketing brochures and of course supplies to actually make my new golf invention in my garage. “Oh God the money went so fast” I thought. So many years to save and then “Poof.” “Maybe the people at Reed Exhibitions will give me some of my money back?” I would call my son Kevin who would be flying to Orlando just fresh out of college and tell him the truth.
My son Kevin and my other two sons Declan and Brendan were at the essence of this anyway. Up until I started this golf business – MISIG Inc, I had worked very hard for a very long time. Since 1992 I have worked the shifts that nobody else wants. In the Engineering department at a large medical center in Chicago: Yes, in the boiler room. I have worked two midnight shifts and three afternoon shifts for a long time for one reason: so I could work on the side an extra 30-50 hours a week doing handyman and remodeling, fence building – and plunging toilets if I had to. Just to make extra money. I did this for one reason: To give my three sons something I never had, and it stuck in my teeth for a long time. A chance to go away to a four-year University and get a college degree. As of writing this, my youngest son Brendan has one semester left and it will be mission accomplished. Redemption.
I was sitting there in the cold thinking about a man I worshiped, and he was right in his email to me months earlier and I was finally listening to what he said. “Training aids don’t sell” he wrote. It was after I sent him some videos of my new golf invention in use by some golf pros at the local Golf Galaxy. He was my hero. He was the author of the greatest book I had ever read. It was about the struggles of making it in the golf industry. Oh God I couldn’t wait until my patent application was filed months ago so I could tell him about my new golf invention, it was a training aid, the MISIG which stands for the Most Important Stretch In Golf. It’s a device for golf stretching, swing training and exercising. His book was called The “WOW” Factor.
Here is the email that I wrote to him months earlier:
My name is Bernie Fay and last week I got my patent application in for my new golf stretch and training aid. I took my new idea to some golf stores and showed the pros and I got wonderful feedback. I call it the Most Important Stretch in Golf or the MISIG. I hope you have time to look at the videos I have included as attachments.
I am not selling it yet, but I would really appreciate feedback from someone like you.
I have been working out with it for about eight weeks now and I get much more distance with my Irons.
# Great warm up device.
# Adds degrees to your back swing.
# Keeps left elbow straight
# Hinges wrist properly
These are a few of the comments
Here’s what he wrote back to me:
“Like the guy in the video says, great tool. Here’s the issue. Swing training, stretching etc….. Devices don’t sell. Maybe a few hundred and the cost of sales isn’t recovered. Not what you want to hear but it’s the history of that product category.”
It was a kick in the stomach. One of dozens that were yet to come.
The email was from Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf. A company that he built from scratch then sold to Adidas in 2012 for $70 million and he is not the villain here.
I think that golfers know something that other people do not. They have something in them that others might not: The light of hope. They have figured out spiritual art. Something beautiful. It’s pure and I am awestruck when I think about it
The light of hope is always on them.
It is the ability to move from a moment of hope to a moment of hope – then another – and again and again. Golf is hope in its purest form. A golf shot. And then down that lane for a few moments – and the cup of hope is overflowing again. And the anticipation of hope builds again
If you’re reading this and think that the feeling you have before the flip of the next card is hope – or maybe you think hope is the feeling you have in those fleeting moments when you are brushing off the shavings on a scratch lottery ticket with your breath. Maybe it’s the spread. It just came out and you think “this can’t be right?” And you think the emotion you have building inside of you is hope. Think about this – those are fractured and convoluted forms of hope. Anxiety fills the cracks like water. Those things are just allusions of hope. They are diluted and murky in the afterthoughts of those moments and I am sorry to tell you, but you do not understand hope.
I love golf so much. I love watching the Golf Channel and I can see the light of hope on the PGA professionals faces all the time. It’s those beautiful moments after the player impacts the golf ball. The ball is in flight and the camera zooms in on their face -1Hope.
I made hundreds of phone calls to pro shops, major golf chains and mom and pop internet golf web sites about my new product in the months before the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. And I sent five times that in emails. The answer was always the same. No Thanks.
The best luck I had was selling the MISIGS in the parking lot of a local golf dome in the Chicagoland area. The general manager was not interested in letting me set up shop inside. I guess it must have meant golfers having to stop hitting balls and that was revenue. So in November and December before my first PGA Merchandise Show in January I would pack up a dozen MISIGS that I made in my garage and head over to the golf dome, stand in the parking lot in the cold and strike up conversations with guys and ask them if they wanted to give my new invention a try. I sold a decent amount to the guys I could talk into taking off their winter coats but the majority of guys wanted to do what they came there for – hit golf balls.
I said a prayer and a little hope was in the cup again. I was in Orlando.
Demo Day! This was an unbelievably amazing set up to witness for a first timer. I had brochures in my pocket and a whole new attitude. I walked for hours and met and talked to some of the biggest names in the business. I met the folks from Golf Digest and told them about the MISIG and they were interested and eventually had a story about the MISIG and other golf inventors on their web site. The other big names I met said “I’ll check out your web site.” Because it looks interesting and they were sincere.
The featured guest at Demo Day was Bubba Watson. There were tons of people interested and gathered around him. Oh my GOSH! I thought. If I could get an audience with Bubba it would be the break I was looking for. So I kept close to him and looked for my chance to get close enough to show him a brochure and tell him about the MISIG. . I have always loved Bubba. My heart was pounding out of my chest when he headed for the exit of the Demo grounds toward a helicopter that was running. As I approached him and his entourage I raised my voice and said “Hello Bubba!” he stopped and turned around and said me in the kindest voice and a smile on his face and glancing at the brochure in my hand “Oh do you want me to sign that?” I said “I’m hoping you will look at this brochure because it’s my new golf invention.” HE TOOK IT! He said “OH” and that was it. He said “OH” and to this day I don’t know if he saw what was on the brochure or not.
His security detail or whatever they were had me surrounded and one of them snatched the brochure from Bubba’s hand. What I do know today and did learn from that encounter is that Bubba, if he had his way, would show kindness to everybody like he did to me and would most likely be endorsing a lot of products for very little money. You can tell he is just built that way. These people were there to protect Bubba’s name and I get that now. And this is what I came away with: There is a genuine truth and sincerity that you will get from Bubba Watson if you are ever luck enough to meet him, however brief it is. The light of hope is on Bubba Watson.
It was getting late in the day and I had some good luck and a few near misses on the quest for what the MISIG was missing: someone to say this thing works. . I was getting ready to leave the demo day grounds when I heard a voice call out “Hello Lauren!!”
My heart started pounding again. It was Lauren Thompson from the Golf Channel. She talked to her friend for a while and then as luck would have it she started walking toward where I was standing. By herself, no entourage – no security surrounding her. She had the same genuine sincerity that Bubba had. The light of hope was on her and anyone could see it. And she was so beautiful. I told her my name and that I was a big fan, which I am. I showed her my brochure, and I told her I put my money where my mouth is and that I have a lot of my life savings the MISIG. My heart was literally beating out of my chest. She read over the brochure and said “Oh wow I Get it!…I see how this works I like it!”
And then came the words that would change my life in so many ways I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s all kind of a dream now but this is how I remember it…. She said, “You know, once a year and only once a year we at the Golf Channel get to pick our favorite new products at the PGA Merchandise Show.” Lauren chose the MISIG.
The next day live on the Golf Channel Lauren Thompson did a wonderful job showing it and the words that would carry the MISIG forward: “I Love This It’s Something You Can Use Indoors Or Out”” and she said my web site FeelTheStretch.com!. A REAL TESTIMONIAL! The Golf Channel is always live at the PGA Merchandise Show every year and seeing the stage alone is worth going. My head was in the clouds for hours after the MISIG was on the Golf Channel.
I did not check my email on my cell phone until around 2 o’clock that day because of everything that happened. I just forgot. When I did I can only say this: I don’t know if you have ever won big at a slot machine in a casino before. But when I was young I won big at a slot machine one time. It was a coin machine and for a long time the machine just kept spitting out coins and the clink clink clink just kept humming. Anyway, when my web site makes a sale I get an email notification and it makes a noise. I almost passed out. It was the slot machine all over again but this time with email notifications of sales through the web site: Bing Bing Bing and on and on……
Thank you Lauren. Because the same people that said no are now saying yes.