Providence Journal-Bulletin

Hampton Hopes His 'Gem' Sparkles For Clinton

R.I. golf-club maker hopes hand-crafted driver will become a fixture in president's golf bag.


Journal-Bulletin Sports Writer

Nov. 2, 1994

EAST PROVIDENCE --- Bob Hampton hopes to give President Clinton another reason to connect golf and New England. Hampton wants to provide the President with a small break from politics during Clinton's visit to Rhode Island today. He would like to talk about something more relaxing, like golf. Or, more specifically, Hampton hopes to present the President with a hand-made, one-of-a-kind golf club to use when he plays on Martha' s Vineyard, as he did this summer, or anywhere else.

Hampton is one of only a handful of tradesmen left in the United States who hand-crafts persimmon golf clubs. He has spent the last several weeks making a new driver for the President, one that he had on displayin his store on Warren Avenue yesterday. "It's an All-American club," said Hampton, whose family has operated the same business for 43 years. "The persimmon, the club and everything in it. It was made right here in this shop."

The club is a gem in and of itself, the type that was fashionable for many years but now a rarity because of the advent of metal woods. But Hampton has gone beyond his normal work. This club is complete with the presidential seal on the bottom, the President's signature on the top and US1 on the neck. "It's the only one of its kind," Hampton said as he showed off his work.

The club combines the best of the old craftmanship and the newest technology. In addition to the persimmon head, it has a graphite shaft. "I built it with a 10-degree loft with a low lock point so he should have no problem hitting it in the air," Hampton said. "But if he tries it and doesn't like it, I'll be happy to put in another shaft."

The club was commissioned by Arthur A. Coia, president of the Laborers International Union. Coia is a Rhode Islander who was among the state' s top amateur players in the 1980s. He long has gone to Hampton's shop.

Coia, as president of a 600,000-member union, has been a strong Clinton supporter. Several weeks ago, he was at a presidential function at which he was given one of the new "Divine Nine" clubs, a nine-wood that has become one of the hottest selling items in the golf industry. Coia wanted to return the favor, so he went to Hampton and asked him to make a club for the President. "He asked me if I could do something special," Hampton related. Hampton said he would have been thrilled to do so under any circumstances, but more so because of Clinton. "I'm a Democrat," Hampton said. "I voted for him. I like him."

It took Hampton between 40 and 50 hours to make the club, which would sell for several hundred dollars. He did it from scratch, carving out the persimmon wood, which comes from Tennessee, and then doing the special work to insert the presidential seal and President's signature, both of which were given him by Coia, into the club.

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