When Reston resident and golf instructor Butch Catone first took a look at the "putter ring," he was skeptical.
"To be brutally honest, I said, 'oh, it's just another putting gadget. Do we really need another one of these?'" Catone said. "Who's going to buy this?"
Apparently, someone was. Earlier this year, the putter ring, a golf training tool invented by Catone's long-time friend and Herndon-area golf instructor Kevin Anderson, was chosen as one of the top inventions to be featured on an upcoming golf inventor reality show on cable's Golf Channel.
The show, "Fore Inventors Only" features the golf inventions of a little more than 100 international inventors — narrowed down from an original sampling of more than 1,000 — who will challenge each other over the next three months for the most effective golf innovation. The series was scheduled to begin this week on Tuesday.
The show tries to bring little-known inventors like Anderson to the mainstream golf marketing world.
"All golfers in some shape or form, they come up with ideas because all golfers are trying to improve their game," said Jeremy Friedman, a public relations representative from the Golf Channel. "But before this, there really was no other outlet for them to see if their invention is the good, the bad or the ugly."
The winner of the event's finale, who has yet to be chosen, will see their invention introduced nationwide with the help of the Golf Channel.
THE PUTTER RING was first dreamed up by Anderson during a trip to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1996. Anderson, a Herndon resident since 1991 and PGA-certified golf instructor at Woody's Golf Range in Herndon was inspired by a simple morning beverage.
"It was the middle of the winter and I was drinking a cup of coffee and I looked down and noticed that the top was a different size than a hole on a golf course," Anderson said. "When I got in, I started drawing and I came up with how it could work and eventually came up with the original version."
The putter ring was initially a simple piece of cardboard with holes decreasing in size that could be used to train someone to putt better. By 1997, Anderson had received a patent for the golf training tool.
After it sat "in the closet" for several years when it took a back seat to family and professional obligations, Anderson brought it back out to see if he could improve on his idea a few years ago and maybe give some golfers an added edge.
It has since been reproduced several times in different styles to be finally set as a solid plastic turning device that can be placed anywhere from in the home to the putting green to train the aim of golfers by changing the size of the putting target.
After training with the putter ring, Catone said that he was sold on its effectiveness.
"It certainly would improve anybody's putting game," he said. "As a golfer or for an instructor trying to help a student learn ... it can definitely improve your ability to focus and block out the other distractions."
PLACING HIS INVENTION in the reality show competition to be featured nationally has not just been fun, but an inspirational experience for Anderson, who said that he has a new drive to see his invention on golf store shelves throughout the country.
"It was an absolute blast," Anderson said, "it looked like American Idol or something with all these people standing there with these crazy contraptions."
"It's been a great opportunity to get out and get inspired and keep the dream going and getting this out on the stores."
Coming up with the invention and seeing it through so many stages is a testament to Anderson's talent as a visionary, according to Catone.
"He's a thinker, he dreams up or he sees things better" than many people, he said. "He's always been able to come up with these ideas and think outside the box. It's a real gift."
Watching the putter ring develop from a simple idea to a segment on a nationally-televised competition over the last 11 years has been the best part of its development, Anderson said.
"It's like anything else in life, you've got to enjoy the journey," he said. "And that's what this experience has taught me."
"Sometimes it's not about the final product as much as it's about getting there."