The Powerbilt Story
To most of the world, the sport of golf is older than the sport of baseball. But that was not the case for a firm in Louisville, Kentucky, called Hillerich & Bradsby Co.
The Hillerich family turned the first world-famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat in 1884. It would be over 30 years before a golf club found its way into that small wood turning shop.
John A. “Bud” Hillerich, who was 17 years old when he turned the first Louisville Slugger, knew he had a winner in baseball. From that day in
1884, young Hillerich built the family company into the number-one bat producer in the world.
But as the company expanded, Hillerich realized his own manufacturing expertise would have to be counter-balanced by a strong sales director. Enter Frank Bradsby. Bradsby was a “super salesman” from the St. Louis area who joined with Hillerich in 1911, to form what is now known as Hillerich & Bradsby Company.
Bradsby brought more than the love for selling with him to Louisville. He also brought a love for golf. This love for the game resulted in the first H& B golf club in 1916.
It was a hard struggle during those early days. Golf was still a game for the wealthy, and the wealthy had little interest in baseball. To try and tie the new golf club in with a world-famous baseball bas was not necessarily the successful way to go. It all boiled down to hard work, hard selling, and a quality product.
But very slowly the Hillerich & Bradsby golf club fame began to grow. The clubs were sold to golf professionals and sporting good retailers alike. In 1934, a name was given to the professional line that stands to this day – POWERBILT! The “store line” golf clubs went by various names throughout its history. Louisville H & B, Grand Slam, LoSkore, Louisville Slugger, etc. were all names that graced the Hillerich & Bradsby retail clubs.
The 30’s and ‘40’s were struggling years for H & B golf, and its success was due mainly to the efforts of Bill Kaiser, sometimes known as the “Father of PowerBilt Golf”. An ex-tour player whose career was cut short by a near-tragic accident, Kaiser beat the bushes all over the country to get the PowerBilt name in the door. His fantastic achievements are evident today.
PowerBilt golf clubs were synonymous with quality from the very first. One of their notable features was a brass-back weight that graced every top-grade wood. That famous symbol exists even today, and while other golf club manufacturers have imitated it, it is still recognized as a Powerbilt touch.
The professional market for golf clubs in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s was growing, but not overpowering. At several times, Hillerich & Bradsby considered getting out of the professional golf business and concentrating solely on retail outlets. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and such a step was not taken.
However, during the mid ‘70’s, the shoe was on the other foot, and Hillerich & Bradsby stopped producing golf clubs for the retail business which it had served since 1916. This was a step-well taken, since PowerBilt sales, now sold only to golf professionals, began to climb at a more rapid pace. Through the years, PowerBilt woods were recognized as quality personified. PowerBilt irons have experienced great success over the last 30 years to take their rightful place among the top sellers in the world.
This tremendous surge of success in the early ‘70’s soon necessitated a move that was long overdue. The H & B golf clubs had been manufactured in the same plant in Louisville since 1916. In the early 1970’s, the company committed itself to expanding its manufacturing facilities and moved into world-famous “Slugger Park” in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The company maintained its corporate headquarters in downtown Louisville, only a few minutes drive from the plant. PowerBilt shares seven acres under roof with its Louisville Slugger compatriot, as well as extensive testing and research departments, and administrative assistants. In 1997 H&B returned manufacturing to Louisville and today distributes all PowerBilt products out of California and China.
Today, PowerBilt golf enjoys a reputation and prestige unmatched in the golf world. The company is still privately-held and family-owned, and retains the same philosophy of craftsmanship and friendliness that provided such a firm foundation in 1916. PowerBilt has enjoyed a rich history in professional golf exposure and success includes such outstanding players as Isao Aoki, Miller Barber, Frank Beard, Charles Coody, Bill Kratzert, Bobby Nichols, Fuzzy Zoeller, Larry Mize, Steve Lowery, Kenny Perry, Leonard Thompson, Chip Beck, Jodie Mudd, Ted Schultz, and Grant Waite as contract tour players.Many others who have played individual drivers or iron sets have also won through the years. These players have led to over 140 professional tour wins including 8 Major Championships won by PowerBilt contract Tour Professionals. Below is a list of those Major victories:
1932 PGA Championship – Olin Dutra
1934 US Open – Olin Dutra
1964 PGA Championship – Bobby Nichols
1967 Masters – Gay Brewer
1971 Masters – Charles Coody
1979 Masters – Fuzzy Zoeller
1984 US Open – Fuzzy Zoeller
1987 Masters – Larry Mize
Hireko Trading Co. is proud to be the official U.S. licensee of Powerbilt golf products.