Written in Ink
Written in Ink

On grantland.com: It's not too long, but it's about so many different things it's impossible to explain it. On the surface, it's about a flinty scientist who designed a new golf club that many believe is the best putter ever made. But in researching the scientist's story and her unusual resume and family lineage, the writer finds threads of her life that don't seem like they're all from the same person. I don't want to spoil it, but trust me, it's an amazing story.

But it wasn’t just the science behind Dr. V’s putter that intrigued McCord. It was the scientist, too. For starters, she was a woman in the male-dominated golf industry. She also cut a striking figure, standing 6-foot-3 with a shock of red hair. What’s more, she was a Vanderbilt, some link in the long line descending from Cornelius, the original Commodore. All of this would have been more than enough to capture McCord’s attention, but what he found most remarkable about Dr. V was where she had been before she started making putters. She told him she had spent most of her career as a private contractor for the Department of Defense, working on projects so secretive — including the stealth bomber — that her name wasn’t listed on government records. “Isn’t that about as clandestine as you can get?” McCord asked me.

He had his own peculiar way of verifying this information. McCord said he was on friendly terms with a few retired four-star generals. He told me that they not only knew of Dr. V, but also that one had even called her “one of us.” Dan Quayle was also an acquaintance. Unable to help himself, McCord once put the former vice-president on the phone with Dr. V and watched as they chatted about old Pentagon projects. McCord clearly enjoyed showing off his discovery, this exotic new addition to the world of golf. But he wouldn’t have stuck his neck out for Dr. V, whom he just called “Doc,” if he didn’t also believe in her product. Yar hadn’t made McCord a paid sponsor, but it didn’t matter — the Oracle [golf club] was so good that he used it anyway. “It’s the only one I’ll have in my bag now,” he told me. It was why he had set up the meeting between Dr. V and the company whose products he was paid to endorse, TaylorMade. “I just wanted to make sure they saw her first,” he said.

McCord also had an explanation for Dr. V’s strange vocabulary: This was just how scientists talked. He told me not to take it personally and not to be intimidated. Dr. V made fun of him and the “primitive information base” in golf all the time, he said. It was all in good fun! He even offered to arrange a phone call between us. “She will talk to you about the science and not the scientist,” he said after confirming with her that it was OK. Then he left me with a lighthearted warning: “Call Doc and hang on.”

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