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Going global with innovation and high technology

RIDGELAND – SkyHawke Technologies, makers of one of the industry`s most innovative rangefinders for golfers, credits innovation and technology for its latest success.

The firm recently unveiled a new product that has garnered international attention from distributors and PGA golfers.

SkyHawke`s newest product, the SkyGolf GPS SG2, integrates GPS, wireless and Internet technology into a next-generation rangefinder that measures the size of a cell phone, weighs about four-and-a-half ounces and is simple to use. The SG2 relies on the same GPS network the military uses to instantly measure and automatically display the distance from the golfer`s ball to any target or hazard. No line of sight is needed to accurately measure distance.

The first SkyGolf GPS product, which retailed for $399, required a PDA (personal digital assistant). The new product retails for $349 and does not require a PDA.

“It`s half the size, half the weight and half the price,” said Richard Edmonson, CEO of SkyHawke Technologies. “It`s a simpler product that answers the fundamental question every golfer asks when they arrive at their ball: how far? Our initial product computed all kinds of information, such as keeping score and tracking statistics. Because our new product doesn`t require a handheld computer, there are no programs to load. Everything`s already inside.”

Edmonson described the SG2 as “the third leg of the stool … and the one big piece needed to help people play golf to the best of their ability.”

“Our product is one whose time has come,” said Edmonson. “This part of the golf game has not had the benefit of technology enhancing it as every other part of the golf game. Technology-enhanced equipment such as golf club heads and shafts and golf balls has had a big impact on the golf game. So has golf instruction, with all types of teaching aids and computer-assisted systems. But golf is still fundamentally about distance. To play your best golf, you really need to know how far to hit it, and how far you actually hit it. When you combine those two things, then you have a chance to hit a good golf shot.”

Golf instructors point out that having the right distance is more important than hitting the golf ball in the right direction, said Edmonson.

“You can be off in direction but have the right distance and still have a chance to have a decent result,” he said.

The PGA of America recently named SkyHawke Technologies a product demonstration partner at the PGA Learning Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

“The PGA`s mission to grow participation in golf is aligned with SkyHawke`s, which has displayed how improved technology may increase participation and enjoyment of the game regardless of skill level,” said PGA of America president M.G. Orender. “We believe PGA professionals and all amateur golfers will be pleased with the presentation and impact of the SkyGolf GPS product family.”

Todd Jones, director of golf schools for PGA of America said, “up until now, we haven`t been able to give the recreational golfer a tool such as this. Now that they have the SG2, they can start to think their way around the golf course.”

PGA of America`s endorsement “gives us an opportunity to align with 28,000 PGA professionals, whose goal is to help people play better and enjoy the game more,” said Edmonson. “It also helps PGA professionals speed up play, which is very important to the business of golf.”

Edmonson referred to the SG2 as “a personal digital caddy.”

“The SG2 delivers the same information to a golfer that (caddy) Steve Williams provides Tiger Woods,” he said. “Some people may think a caddy is needed only to carry a bag, but there are other ways to get a bag carried. A caddy provides valuable information to the player, but most golfers don`t have a chance to experience what a caddy can do for them.”

RankMark, a leading independent golf equipment and consumer marketing firm, rated the SG2 its highest “Best of the Best” award. “Prior to introducing them to the SG2, few realized that distance technology could improve their play so drastically,” wrote RankMark.

Yardage books, which are time-consuming to complete, and laser rangefinders are SkyGolf products’ two closest competitors.

“We have a better mousetrap,” said Edmonson. “It`s going to be fun to be part of golf history and see our product sitting among other great innovations in the game of golf.”

Several thousand SkyGolf products are being assembled primarily through a U.S. partner, with components shipped in from around the world. Even though some production takes place in Mexico, it is primarily a U.S.-made product, said Edmonson.

Distributors from around the world are clamoring to market SkyHawke Technologies’ products.

“We knew this was a worldwide product, but we didn`t anticipate developing international business for another year or two,” said Edmonson. “The international market started approaching us long before we anticipated it. We’re very proud of the fact that we have some exportable technology that fits in with a huge international market. Worldwide, there are over 50 million golfers. Golf speaks a common language. It doesn`t matter where you play, you have the same problem, and our product solves that problem. It also automatically converts to yards or meters.”

Distributors in Australia, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa and Spain hold SkyHawke licenses, and Edmonson is nearing completion of licensing agreements with the remainder of Europe, parts of Asia and the Pacific Rim. The company is also negotiating with distributors in South America, a smaller but important market.

“It`s beyond what we ever expected at this point,” said Edmonson. “Being from Mississippi, it`s great to have a product that the world seems to want.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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