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New clubs prove their metal



Published: Thu, June 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

WEATHERSFIELD -- RMI Titanium is making a new type of titanium that's being used in a hot-selling golf club made by TaylorMade Golf.

"It's been our No. 1 seller this year," said Sam Sorice, manager at Special Tee Golf in Boardman.

The TaylorMade 300 Series drivers and fairway woods are the first clubs made by a U.S. manufacturer to use a new titanium alloy, SP-700, which was introduced a few years ago.

The clubs, which cost $400 each, were launched earlier this year.

RMI's Weathersfield Township plant is the exclusive producer of SP-700.

The success of the clubs is significant for RMI because it could create demand from other golf manufacturers, said Richard Leone, an RMI spokesman.

Why this matters: Spurring demand among golf club makers is important because they have been using considerably less titanium in recent years, Leone said.

The titanium clubs that were introduced in 1995 were so revolutionary that many golfers rushed to buy them the first few years, but not as many are buying them now, he said.

Titanium demand from the golf industry peaked at 10 million pounds a year, but it now is less than 2 million pounds a year.

Total use of titanium has fallen right along with demand from the golf industry. Total titanium shipments peaked at 62 million pounds in 1997 during the height of the titanium craze, but have since settled back 50 million pounds.

Titanium makers are trying to create more demand by adding more types of titanium, similar to what the steel industry has done with steel, Leone said.

SP-700 also is being used in wristwatches, race car engines and mountaineering tools.

Improvements: While all titanium is lightweight, SP-700 is better than the traditional alloy used for golf clubs because it has improved shaping, strength and heat-treatment properties, Leone said. That makes it highly durable, flexible and resistant to corrosion.

TaylorMade is boasting that the titanium faceplate on the clubs has a spring effect, giving the ball an extra kick.

SP-700 was developed by NKK, a Japanese company which has a partnership with RTI International Metals, RMI's parent company. RTI employs about 1,200, including about 600 at the local RMI plant.




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