On the Road with SuperStroke Tour Rep Arnie Cunningham

On the Road with SuperStroke Tour Rep Arnie Cunningham

The PGA Tour’s Iron Man, the golfer whose playing career spanned across four different decades and a record 803 professional tournaments, is the scrappy, irascible Texas native and 1996 PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks, who made his debut on the Tour back in 1983.

Think, then, of the long and winding road that SuperStroke Tour rep extraordinaire Arnie Cunningham has taken over his 38 years and work as an equipment rep at more than 1,450 PGA Tour events. That’s nearly 600 more weeks on the road than Brooks, who, staggeringly, chased birdies from Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term all the way to Barack Obama’s second.

Even by PGA Tour standards, Cunningham is not your average equipment rep. For 36 weeks a year, Cunningham is the face of SuperStroke grips to the game’s finest players and an ally when they need premium grip technology during a tournament week. And, he has all the stories, successes and milestones you’d expect from someone with nearly 40 years of experience on the road with the world’s greatest golfers.

Cunningham began repping golf equipment companies in 1986, back when Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson and Robert Palmer were all topping the radio charts, Top Gun was the year’s highest grossing movie and Jack Nicklaus astounded the golf world by winning his sixth Masters title at the age of 46. While Top Gun and the mullet hairstyles many young men were sporting back then have weaved their way back into popular culture, Cunningham remains a classic and an indispensable support for PGA Tour players.

Arnie has worked with legendary brands and players through the years, getting his start during the original rise of the metalwood with TaylorMade Golf. The process of converting persimmon-headed driver and fairway wood loyalists made Arnie something of a pioneer and forged relationships he’s kept to this day.

He then spent a good part of the 1990s working with Cobra Golf when the brand unseated PING as the number-one iron in play on the PGA Tour and major winners like Ben Crenshaw and Greg Norman were playing Cobra equipment. A major highlight during Cunningham’s tenure with Cobra was Tiger Woods winning the 1997 Masters with the brand’s equipment in the bag for his monumental victory.

Cunningham repped True Temper’s Tour Gold graphite shafts and when three-time major winner Larry Nelson put it in play, he won the first event out with it. He was also responsible for introducing Payne Stewart to the SeeMore putter he used in his iconic 1999 U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst.

Where legendary golf events have happened over the last three-and-a-half decades, Arnie Cunningham has never been far away. The tall-crowned logo’d visors and straw safari hats are mostly gone from the Tour, but Cunningham still values the relationships he’s maintained in the world of big-time competitive golf.

Arnie has been with SuperStroke since the 2011 Players Championship and it was a charmed relationship from the beginning as K.J. Choi captured that event using a SuperStroke grip.

Teaming with Scott “Scotty G.” Garrison who drives the SuperStroke tour truck, Cunningham will have roughly 300 grips on hand at any given PGA Tour event to service players’ needs that range from predictable to slightly experimental. He keeps players in touch with the latest designs and product developments from SuperStroke and processes player feedback that sometimes informs future grip designs.

We will be catching up with Arnie from time to time with Arnie as he shares his adventures from the road and what he’s doing to give confidence, feel and performance to the game’s top talent. Please enjoy SuperStroke’s first installment of On the Road with Arnie Cunningham:

Q&A With Arnie Cunningham

In February, SuperStroke launched Zenergy, it’s first new line of putter grips in three years. How has the reception been on the PGA TOUR.  

Jordan Spieth and many other top-ranking players have all switched to Zenergy. They love the improved texture and new design. For most players, the key factor in their putter grip is feel and comfort, but the design also plays a part in what they put in their bag.

With the noticeable upgrades to the Spyne technology and improved texture in the gripping zone, SuperStroke Zenergy putter grips succeeds at delivering distinctive comfort and familiarity. Is that some of the feedback you’re getting from guys on Tour?

I think that has definitely been the case with Zenergy. There’s more texture in the gripping zone which has a lot of guys intrigued. In the past, a few players like Patrick Cantlay were in the practice of sanding down parts of their grips to get a desired feel - Zenergy grips have this desired texture by design.

Does the process of getting a player settled into the right grip become easier thanks to the range of styles and sizes SuperStroke has to offer?

With all the different styles putting on the Tour, it’s a huge benefit to have so many putter grip options. We can find a solution for anyone. Guys will come to me and say ‘Hey, I'm now putting claw, or I’m now putting this way or that way. What do you suggest?’ and I try to jump in there and apply what worked the best in the past for other players, or what I think is going to work for them. Giving players a couple of options to test and letting them pick is so helpful.

You mentioned that players gravitate to certain colorways, adding logos and even requesting special edition grips. They must appreciate all the new color options with Zenergy. What’s popular on Tour now in terms of aesthetics with SuperStroke?

When we first came out with a grip with a prominent amount of red on it, we had guys put it on because they were Georgia Bulldogs or Ohio State Buckeyes. You saw Jordan’s Longhorn logo and other players put their team colors on their putters. Everyone’s sort of individualistic when it comes to the look of the grip. Now players like to collect some of our stuff, like the Hawaii putter grips and head covers we produce or special edition U.S. Open or Ryder Cup grips. It’s always fun to see what Dean and the team come up with next.

Your job is highly unique. You’re not just fitting product and making sure that the players have the right grips that they need. You take their feedback, and your knowledge of how to apply it and you’re involved in product development based on the feedback you’re getting from Tour players. What is that like?

I constantly listen to the feedback players give me and relay it back to CEO Dean Dingman and the engineering team. We’re always listening to players when they tell us what they like in terms of grip shape, diameter, texture, and even their favorite colors and college team logos they want on the grips.

Catch Arnie on the road at the following upcoming PGA TOUR events: https://www.pgatour.com/schedule

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