08 July, 2011
History of PowerBilt Golf
A division of the Hillerich and Bradsby Co., PowerBilt Golf was founded in 1859 as a family-owned sporting goods company. This makes PowerBilt the oldest golf manufacturer in the U.S. still privately owned by its original families. Although the brand is respected by golfers, the clubs are not used by many professional players in the current era, which leaves the Kentucky-headquartered company at a disadvantage against other well-known golf companies.
Parent Company Beginnings
J. Frederic Hillerich started his business in 1859 making wooden casks, wooden barrels, bed posts, handrails, bowling balls and pins. In 1880, J. Frederic’s son, Bud, joined the company. In 1884, Bud made his first baseball bat for a Louisville Eclipse player named Pete Browning. By 1905, the company changed its name to J.F. Hillerich and Son and developed the well-known "Louisville Slugger" line of baseball bats. In 1910, the bat factory caught fire. During the rebuilding in 1911, the company hired Frank Bradsby, an avid golfer, to oversee the sales policies of J.F. Hillerich and Son.
Frank Bradsby quickly made his mark on the expanding company, and J.F. Hillerich and Son became Hillerich and Bradsby in 1916. Bradsby believed that golf would grow in popularity in the U.S. With his urging, Hillerich and Bradsby entered into the golf market. The company first produced a line of clubs branded for the stores that sold them. After a few years, Hillerich and Bradsby marketed clubs under their company name. The company also produced "signature clubs" that carried signatures of the famous golfers of the time. By 1925, the golf club division had increased in popularity and needed to expand. In 1934, the "PowerBilt" brand became the permanent name for Hillerich and Bradsby golf clubs.
Claims to Fame
In 2007, PowerBilt only sponsored one professional player, Fuzzy Zoeller. Fuzzy grew up with PowerBilt and won the U.S. Open and the Masters playing PowerBilt equipment. Over the years, PowerBilt equipment has won 120 PGA Tour tournaments through PowerBilt-sponsored players. Frank Beard, Bobby Nichols, Gary Brewer, Larry Mize, Chip Beck, Steve Lowery and Grant Waite all played PowerBilt clubs while on tour. PowerBilt equipment has helped players win eight major tournaments dating back to the U.S. Open won by Olin Dutra in 1934.
PowerBilt focuses on the average player, designing and developing clubs to help maximize performance without hitting the wallet too hard. The clubs are developed in partnership with shaft companies such as True Temper and Aldila and grip companies including Winn and Golf Pride. PowerBilt’s premium Citation line has continued to develop over the years, and is available with hybrid options. They also offer a junior line of clubs for both boys and girls. The junior line offers an all-in-one club set from the bag to the putter that is designed specifically for the younger player. The company still offers custom clubs.
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