Sam Hahn is a nice fellow, but by his own admission he's a terrible person to hang with in a living room, watching a golf tournament on TV.
When you're the CEO of an independent putter company, getting one of your flatsticks into a tour pro's hands is gold. But doing that early in the week at a tournament site is only half the battle—when Hahn gets home, he needs to see if the player took that L.A.B. Golf putter from the practice green to tournament play.
And the only way to do that is by watching like everyone else.
"It's nerve-wracking, but I've gotten a little better at it," Hahn says.
LIV Golf has helped. The young company has gotten a foothold in the young tour, and in its frenzied four- to five-hour streams of limited-field action, Hahn can see all the players on the greens and verify that his putters made it to the weekends.
And all season, he has liked what he's seen. But more on that later.
L.A.B. Golf's origins date to 2014, when a former mini-tour player named Bill Presse created a putter that simplified his stroke by delivering a square putter face to the ball each time. The invention—Lie Angle Balance—first manifested itself in a putter called Directed Force, whose head shape looks more suited for a cattle ranch than a golf course.
But about one year after L.A.B. Golf company was formed in 2018 (the name plays off the technology), Adam Scott put the unconventional putter to use at the Masters and jumpstarted everything.
The company eventually added a somewhat more conventional-looking mallet (albeit still very distinctive), the Mezz.1, with the same technology that L.A.B. Golf says allows the player to let the the face stay square rather than forcing it to stay square. The Mezz.1 (and its big brother, the Mezz.1 Max) have eight weights on the bottom and two on the sides, allowing the company to build a putter to a player's requested weight, setup and lie angle specs. (The stock price is $449, options such as custom shafts are available at an upcharge.)
Hahn shows off the putter's stability in YouTube videos where a tool he calls "the revealer" shows how his club's putter face stays square compared to competitors.
"My are customers are passionate golfers, people that don't just scroll past the golf ads," Hahn says. "They're people who take the extra beat to consider technology. I would say they're a bit more on the cerebral side—golf nerds."
The challenge is in reaching those players, but there's never been a better time to be a so-called golf nerd with message boards and word-of-mouth.
Which brings us back to LIV Golf, where L.A.B. Golf has made its greatest impact among pros. Charl Schwartzel had been using a Mezz.1 long putter before joining the upstart league, then won its debut event in June with the putter.
The league's second event was in Portland, Oregon, and with L.A.B. Golf based an hour and a half away, it was an easy choice to show up during practice days with a few putters.
"It was awesome, the vibe was great, super-accommodating," Hahn says. "There's so much less chaos out there, everybody's in a better mood."
The mood can be explained via the nature of the Saudi-backed tour, with its enormous purses and guaranteed contracts, but from that can also come a more open mind to equipment, which is a boon for an independent putter company with a product that can take some explaining.
At a PGA Tour event, with three times as many players and all the major equipment companies swirling around the practice green, Hahn says he might get just a few seconds to talk to a player.
L.A.B. Golf staff also attended LIV Golf events in New Jersey, Chicago and Miami, and by year's end the company could boast of having nine LIV players use the putter at some point during the season and six in the season finale at Miami (most notably Pat Perez, who helped the 4 Aces team to the title and a $16 million payday).
Therein lies another unique part of L.A.B. Golf's story in 2022. Major equipment manufacturers have been noticeably mum about LIV players; when someone won on Sunday there was no media blast on Monday about what was in their bag, unlike the standard operating procedure after a PGA Tour win. The circuit has been too much of a lightning rod for controversy, especially in the U.S.
Hahn says he's conflicted too as a golf fan, but that professionally "my interest is entirely about helping people putt better."
Striking a balance, like the company name says.