Today is a guest post from Power Tee Founder and CEO, Martin Wyeth! In 2009, Power Tee won the Queen's Award For Enterprise: Innovation in the UK, and because of this, they got to meet Queen Elizabeth! Read on to find out how Martin struggled to perfect Power Tee, and how their trip to Buckingham Palace was equal parts amazing and terrifying:
When I first thought “re-teeing my ball automatically will help me improve at golf” I had no idea what was coming. It’s such a simple concept and such a low key innovation that I kept ignoring the idea for many months or maybe even years, I can't remember - it was a long time ago.
Eventually I built a prototype and showed it to a variety of golfers. They loved the machine I had built, and I started pushing the ball uphill (pun intended). The 1996 machine was built into a trailer and demonstrated around the UK to golf industry professionals who showed varying degrees of interest.
Re-designed Mark II Power Tee diagram
Funding took years. It turns out that an engineer in his 20’s with a new idea is not a statistically savvy investment. I was unaware of this and when people told me, I didn’t care. "That’s other people's problem, not mine", was my attitude.
To bridge the gap between the available cash and requirements, I just worked. Any young person who wants to do what I did needs to be prepared to do three jobs: one job to pay the bills and live, one job to fund their project, and then one job finding time to work on the project. A remit for the young and foolish. I learned to run a lathe, a mill and a welder as well as a manual injection moldings machine. Through this, the Power Tee machine came slowly to life.
A combo lathe/mill
The concept gained strength during the late 90’s and early 00's until, almost a decade later, we had a full knowledge of what we were doing. The machine was stable (7 years this took), the industry accepted us, and we were installed at some of the best facilities in the UK.
We won a design award from billionaire James Dyson and applied for the country’s number 1 business award, from Queen Elizabeth II herself. We failed on two successive years but kept applying as we were making a huge dent in the UK golf industry and were becoming a much loved part of the UK golf scene.
I was driving back from a new client’s range past a pub called the Air Balloon when my wife called in tears of joy and said, “we won, we’re going to the palace to meet the Queen!"
Later that year, we booked ourselves into the Ritz in London for the big day.
After checking in, we explored the famous old hotel and returned to our room to find a somewhat nervous-looking hotel manager. Our luggage was missing: my suit, my wife’s dress and our laptop, gone without a trace. We had a day in hand so started a plan to replace the items, we did not want to meet the Queen in jeans and t-shirts!
Tea at the Ritz
Thank goodness. Our time freed up for the following day before our rendezvous at Buckingham Palace.
Prior to the event, I never really had a strong opinion on royalty, it was just part of the country. Among the few things I knew about the Queen was that shortly before her coronation, Winston Churchill was granted permission to form a government. London was still rebuilding after the blitz, and Churchill was a seasoned gritty campaigner. The young Queen Elizabeth II inherited that relationship, and what an interesting dynamic that would have been to witness.
(Churchill was a regular of Wentworth Club, host of the first Ryder cup and valued Power Tee client. I have no doubt Churchill would have enjoyed Power Tee had it been around then.)
Winston Churchill preparing to golf
As we entered the palace through the front gates that are nearly constantly locked, we felt truly honored and excited. We entered the palace and ascended the stairs to the huge state rooms with history and gilding in every view. Champagne was served and we mingled with other lucky recipients of the award until we were announced and introduced personally to the Queen, and following on to her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. My wife and I were thrilled at the encounter and the gracious treatment we received from the family, it was a day never to be forgotten.
Martin Wyeth shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth II!
Now as the Power Tee footprint extends across the globe, we think we may apply for another Queens Award: Export this time instead of innovation. That would be fun.
So that's the story of how we went from basement laboratory, to famous palace - all by automated golf tee! And the story goes on...