The hardest part of golf is putting. And one of the hardest parts of putting is aligning the putter face square to the target line. Golf pro Rita Schuenemann “had a dream” many years ago to solve this problem and her solution was the Star Putter training aid.
Golf Conversations: Tell me how you came up with the idea for the Star Putter?
Rita Schuenemann: I was working for Gary Wiren – it was the early 90s.
GC: Gary is a great guy.
RS: I’m a big fan of Gary’s. He’s an incredible teacher and can really put a point across through motion. He can explain the golf swing where you feel it.
GC: He showed me a move at the PGA Merchandise Show this past January that Hogan showed Jack Benny. It involved sitting on the edge of a chair and swinging a golf club. And once you got that feel down, you stand up, do the same swing, and hit the ball. It worked.
RS: Yes. He can really put a point across with his words and put you there in that moment. Which is a gift.
GC: One of the things he did with words for me was to suggest that I give up golf for bowling.
How did you start working for Gary?
RS: I was at PGA National working for Mike Adams. I befriended Gary and started doing a few clinics. I was helping him sell golf-training aids. I went to the PGA Show in 1993 and I had a dream.
But let me back track: Gary had given me a book to read – Golf In The Kingdom – because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play or teach golf. He gave me that book to help me figure it out.
So I finished the book and had the dream: I was on the putting green with Shivas Irons. Are you familiar with the book?
GC: Yes, I’ve read the book.
RS: In the dream, I was outside of myself. I could see that I was on the putting green. Then all of a sudden … the Star idea came to me! It was a complete concept: every point has an adjacent edge that’s perpendicular.
When I woke up, I drew a star in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t forget the dream. I asked Gary, “Is it true that all putts are straight?” He said, “Yes.”
That was all I really needed to know to take a star and apply the physical properties of the star to putting.
GC: This was 1993 that you had this dream?
RS: Yes. God works in mysterious ways; he puts people in your path… I was teaching a patent lawyer at PGA National. I asked him if I could share my idea with him. He had worked on some Ping patents so he’d been around golf. I made a star out of cardboard.
He asked me if I’d shown the idea to anybody. I said, “No.” He said, “Don’t.”
I didn’t and we proceeded to work together. I gave golf lessons to him and his family and he helped me with the patents. I paid for the cost of the patent filings.
GC: When did you file the patents?
RS: 1995 and 1996.
GC: When did you actually make a metal prototype?
RS: I think I had somebody cut one out of metal. It was really kind of sharp and kind of crude.
I was teaching with Tom Sutter at a club on Long Island and one of the members had a steel company help me develop the first prototypes.
GC: What year was this?
RS: 1995. Through this member, I was put in touch with a tool and dye company in NY or NJ. Eventually, they closed and I couldn’t get the Star made so it sat on the shelf. I couldn’t afford the tooling – it was like $20,000 for a steel dye cavity.
After 9/11, my husband and I decided to move back to Texas and start a family. So the Star was sitting on the shelf. But now we’re in a position to bring it to life.
Chuck Cook has endorsed it since Day One when I showed it to him in Austin. I never knew this, but Payne Stewart used one of the original ones before the US Open.
GC: The one he won at Pinehurst in ’99?
RS: Yes. When I was coaching at St. Mary’s here in San Antonio, I befriended the president of Yes! Golf.
GC: The putters with the ladies’ names.
GC: I feel like we’re about to start Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine.
The president was very interested in the Star but he had put in millions of dollars in Yes! and was struggling. But he put me in touch with his manufacturer in China and after 2½ years we finally had it made with the packaging.
GC: When was this manufactured in China?
RS: Last year.
GC: It was introduced at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show?
RS: Right. We’d never been to the Show before. Gary had sold a few of them for me. I had networked and sold to golf shops. I would have Demo Days at Mission Hills in Palm Desert and at Indian Wells Country Club. I had several pros using them. I had worked for David Leadbetter and he used it with Nick Faldo. But it just never got off the ground.
GC: Ok, let’s talk about the Star itself. What’s the benefit to using it?
RS: The main benefit is that you can get better by using the Star to help you with alignment. If we can improve your alignment, statistically, that will improve your putting.
And it’s fun. I’ve seen people who don’t like to practice their putting at all … but they have a tendency to spend a little more time on the putting green with the Star because they’re making more putts than they’re missing.
If you have it on line and set up properly, you can stay out there and make 50 putts easily and maybe miss two from 7-8 feet. You get into a rhythm and that brings confidence. The more confidence you have, the better you’re going to play.
GC: I think there’s some truth to that. But putting is just so … impossible. And this has nothing to do with your product. I’ve used the Star for several weeks and I think it’s an excellent aid for making sure the putter face is square to the line. There’s no doubt about that.
The only problem is, when you get on the golf course, all it takes is one missed putt and your confidence goes out the window!
But I do like the immediate feedback. And it doesn’t have a laser beam coming out of it that can blind somebody.
I think it’s a neat idea. But putting is a very difficult thing to do. I see PGA Tour players missing 2-foot putts all the time.
RS: But they shouldn’t.
GC: They shouldn’t, yes. But if they’re missing 2-foot putts, what hope is there for the rest of us?
So where can folks buy the Star? At your web site?
RS: Online, yes. There are a few green-grass outlets that sell them. I’ve been trying to get into Edwin Watts and the PGA Super Stores but it’s difficult to work with distributors.
But we’re trying to create an awareness and a buzz with our new commercial. Last week, Kelvin Day almost won and Kelvin’s in the commercial.
He could not putt. Then he started using the Star and the first tournament he entered he had 26 putts.
GC: Wow. I wish you all the best with the Star. And all you golfers out there remember what Shakespeare said: “The fault is not in the star, but with ourselves.”