The best business story out of this year's U.S. Open is the story of the Sportscope.
It's essentially a metal, hand-held periscope that extends up to provide golf fans with unobstructed views when crowds get to big to see anything.
It's more important here than during most tournaments because of the USGA's idea to pair Tiger and Phil together for the first two rounds. When I checked late yesterday at the merchandise tent here at Torrey Pines, they were almost sold out of the standard variety (costs $65) and the zoom lens ($80).
Great niche product during a relevant time, right? But what makes this story so awesome is that, unbeknownst to many, the item is sold by Phil Mickelson's father, a former Navy and commercial pilot.
Phil Mickelson Sr. told me yesterday how this all came about.
"I bought the patent and trademark in 1997. The guy who owned it was 78 years old and hadn't done anything with it for three and a half years. He had medical problems and had all this inventory in storage. And he told me that he'd make a really good business deal with me if I promised to sell as much of them as I could. That was an easy promise to keep."
"So the first thing to do was to make it more affordable. At the time he had the standard lens selling for $99.95. We took three and a half years to develop and eventually lowered the price to $54.95."
"Our sales are obviously greater when we have large crowds. We do well here, but the Ryder Cup is better. Obviously if you can't see without assistance, we're going to do well."
"Since we invented the zoom lens, people haven't gone for the standard one as much. Now we sell 15 zoom lenses to 1 standard."
"I never wanted Phil to be involved with this because I wanted it to make it on its own and I don't like to mix business with family. It happens that this item is crowd oriented and Tiger and Phil playing together has created that opportunity."
"He wanted to do some endorsement when we got started, but I didn't let him. The one thing that bothers me is when I hear people say, 'A Mickelson makes that? Like they need the money.
"It's not about the money. It's about a way to give back to the game of golf that has been so good to us. All three of our children are in golf and as a parent you appreciate how golf has contributed to all of our lives."
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