GOLF EQUIPMENT DEVELOPER
Patrick O'Grady is a golf equipment sales executive and equipment developer who was responsible for the promotion of several equipment innovations in both North American and international golf, most notably with respect to golf shoe technology.
O'Grady's early employment career had little bearing on his subsequent professional success in the golf industry. He was a soldier in the United States Army until 1955, and upon his discharge into civilian life, O'Grady worked in a variety of businesses until his entry into golf merchandising in 1961.
O'Grady had become a respected member of the golf equipment industry when he joined the Etonic shoe company in 1985. Etonic was a respected manufacturer of golf shoes and related golf equipment. Between 1985 and 1997, O'Grady was a key figure in the development of three distinct technical advances with respect to golf shoe design—the waterproof golf shoe, the first biomechanical golf shoe insole, and the spikeless golf shoe (known as soft spikes).
Golf is both an international sport and one of the world's most popular recreational activities. The nature of the activity is one that attracts both elite professional talents as well as those persons of almost any age who play golf for its own sake. Golf is one of the few sports that can be played by any healthy person to their own ability. The golf handicapping system, where a lesser player can compete with a better player through the provision of a stroke advantage to the lesser player, is one of golf's attractions.
It is the nature of golf that its players will seek any competitive advantage, however slight, through improvements to equipment. Golf club and golf ball technology alone is an international multi-billion dollar sub-industry. It is that light that the developments with respect to golf shoe technology as championed by O'Grady should be examined.
Early golf shoes were constructed from conventional footwear; these shoes were as much a fashion statement as they were intended to assist the player. The early spiked shoes were made from wing tip styled Oxford shoes with small steel spikes inserted through the soles of the shoe. The conventional golf shoe as it was marketed by 1980 had a number of ongoing design problems. As golf is an outdoor activity, the shoes did not always stand up to wet weather; the golfer's feet would be exposed to the wetness of the ground for extended periods of time.
Golf shoes at that time were not manufactured with any particular design attention given with respect to how the golfer's foot was supported by the shoe, particularly at the insole. As a function of biomechanics, the more secure the foot could be positioned with in the golf shoe the greater the prospect of an effective swing. Where the foot is secure, the golfer's body will be more stable as the forces of the golf swing are directed into the ball. Where the foot was subjected to an unequal force, such as those caused by excessive pronation (where the ankle and foot rotate inwards on contact with the ground), or supination (where the foot and ankle rotate outwards), the ability of the golfer to maintain stability throughout their entire swing is affected.
The spikes fitted to golf shoes were viewed as essential to assisting golfers with stability in their swing; the cost to golf course maintenance due to the damage caused by metal spikes to the surfaces of greens was a significant issue at many golf clubs. Further, the fundamental enjoyment of golf was seen as compromised when players were subjected to a playing surface that had been chewed up by the metal spikes of preceding players.
As one with a leadership role in the merchandising of golf equipment, O'Grady received significant feedback from recreational golfers and club professionals regarding the quality of the equipment sold by Etonic. O'Grady worked with Etonic technical personnel in each of these three areas of golf shoe technology to improve the product. To assist golfers in achieving biomechanical efficiency, golf shoes were constructed to accommodate an orthotic if the player required additional stability. Modern waterproofing fabrics such as GORE-TEX were incorporated into the linings of the shoe to repel water. The spikeless shoes were constructed with a series of studs made from various rubber compounds. The studs were often configured into individual and removable cleats. The spikeless design was proven to provide the golfer with stability equal to that of the conventional metal spikes while preserving the surfaces of greens.
It is a testament to O'Grady's understanding of the golf market that each of the developments in which he had a role in 1985 had became the standard in the golf industry by 2000.
In recognition of his contributions to the development golf equipment, O'Grady was recognized for his contributions to American golf by the United States Professional Golfers Association (PGA) in 2004.