It was sad, bordering on pathetic. As a technician for Taylor Made, Eric Rogers will spend 40 weeks on the road this year. He will log 35,000 miles hauling his 40,000-pound workshop on wheels from Tour stop to Tour stop. He has a citizens-band radio in his truck, but—can you believe this?—no handle.
Rogers sheepishly admitted as much on a recent Thursday afternoon, 30 or so miles outside Irving, Texas, where the first round of the Byron Nelson Classic was under way. He had spent the previous three days in his trailer adjacent to the driving range at the TPC at Las Colinas, grinding soles, bending hosels and replacing shafts for a cross-section of golfers ranging from Taylor Made staff players such as Lee Janzen and Mark O'Meara to a couple of Tour caddies to Billy the epoxy rep.
Now Rogers was on his way to a trade show in Austin, 200 miles due south. As the strip malls of the Metroplex gave way to pastureland, he joined a caravan of big rigs doing a steady 65, leaving his passenger no choice but to observe, "Looks like we got ourselves a convoy."
Looks like we got ourselves a trucker who prefers his cell phone to a CB. "I don't go for that CB talk much," said Rogers, who is 37. Yes, he is a 1997 graduate of the United States Truck Driving School in San Diego, and, yes, he can parallel park this gleaming, 48-foot Bubbleshaft-bedecked behemoth in a 48½-foot space while singing along to Pearl Jam. (We watched him do it.) But Rogers prefers not to think of himself as a trucker.
It was when he was asked for his CB handle that his namelessness came to light. "I don't really have one," Rogers confessed. The next 20 miles were devoted to finding this man a suitable CB sobriquet. The search came down to two finalists, with Bubbleboy narrowly edging out the White Shaft.
Bubbleboy is a member of the select fraternity of 10 or so trucker-slash-technicians who haunt the Tour. These nomads show up at Tour sites on the Sunday before the event begins. They park together, like the gypsies they are, creating a truck-stop-in-paradise ambience that tends to chagrin club members and tournament organizers. They are gone by Thursday afternoon, en route to the next Tour stop. Removed though they may be from the public view, the technicians are never far from the thoughts of the players, who entrust these safety-goggled club doctors with the tools of their trade.
The pros' gratitude, though, is often understood rather than verbalized. After a surprise visit by a cranky John Daly recently—he had changed his mind, as Daly often does, deciding to go back to graphite shafts on some of his clubs—a member of the Callaway team said, "I guess it was that time of the month."
The next day it was Callaway's notoriously high-maintenance Jesper Parnevik cutting a swath of destruction through the trailer. So often does Parnevik request extensive work on his clubs that Callaway staffers have appropriated his name to describe having a massive reshafting or re-gripping job dropped on them: "We call it getting Jesperized," says one.
It wouldn't be so bad if the technicians worked solely for the Tour pros, but many of the clubs they build are for the players' family and friends. "The best players may not be using our clubs," says one equipment rep, "but most of their kids are." Making clubs for relatives and friends is fine, says the rep, "but you have to draw the line. When a player's gardener is calling me, maybe we've crossed it."
How does one get into this line of work? Rogers happens to have been the Tiger Woods of club repair. "When I was 14, I sent out a three-wood for repair," he says. "It was a classic club, and they just ruined it. Ground the hell out of it. I said, 'I could do a better job than this.' " He transformed his father's two-car garage in the suburbs of San Diego into a club-repair shop—"including a curing booth I built out of plywood," he says. "My dad thought I was psychotic."