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'Fore Inventors Only' attempts to find newest golf invention

| Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Golf Channel gave players their chance at fame in "The Big Break."

Now, the specialty cable television channel hopes to give inventors their shot at fortune in a new production, "Fore Inventors Only," premiering Tuesday.

"I'm taking a shot, but it's a chance I have to take," local inventor John Yakopcic said.

Yakopcic's invention, Aqua Caddy, is a portable water container that features a slotted opening to clean irons on the golf course.

The owner of Coozak General Contractors in McMurray, Yakopcic has invested $14,000 in his invention so far because he believes he just could have the next big idea in golf.

"It's generated a lot of interest," he said. "Everybody who's seen it has been very supportive."

Yakopcic got the idea for his invention after observing golfers struggle to keep their irons clean.

"I'd see golfers spitting on their clubs, pouring beer on them or using whatever moisture they could find, dragging them through the grass and dipping them in ponds, lakes or creeks," Yakopcic said. "I'd see them using tees to clean the grooves in their irons. I thought it would be pretty cool to have something to clip on the bag so you can use it when you need it."

Hosted by Vince Cellini, the show scoured the country to find more than 1,000 inventors.

"I stared into the eyes of genius and madness," Cellini said. "This show will make you say to yourself, 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

Yakopcic's product, which attaches to the side of a golf bag like a towel, made it through the initial judging. It will be included among the top 103 inventions featured on the show.

PGA Tour player Fulton Allem, "Golf Digest" Top-50 instructor Bill Harmon, and "Golf for Women" senior editor Stina Sternberg will test and critique the inventions until five finalists are selected.

"Many of the inventions that viewers will see are brilliant, while others are flat-out nuts," Allem said. "The inventors' passion to make golf more enjoyable is remarkable."

Sternberg agreed the inventions range from ingenious to strange.

"Some of these inventions are so good, I'd put my money on the table right now," she said. "On the other hand, some of these Willy Wonka Wannabees should just wake up and smell the coffee."

Following the first stage of competition, the judges will oversee field testing and consumer product pitches before narrowing the list of candidates.

Ultimately, Golf Channel viewers will select the winner.

"I'm not allowed to reveal the results," Yakopcic said.

Yakopcic said coming up with the original idea for Aqua Caddy was just the beginning. It took over three years until he received the patent for it in January. He expects to sell it for about $20 and plans to have it on the market this fall.

"You have to make sure you have the right people with you," he said.

Yakopcic said he needed an artist, engineer, attorney and Web site designer to get the invention this far. He also needed a company to help him develop the display for his trade show booth, which he'll personally staff at the PGA's merchandise show in Las Vegas this fall, and Orlando this winter.

"I wouldn't call it luck," Yakopcic said. "It took a lot of hard work."

'Fore Inventors Only'

Premier: 10 p.m. Tuesday, The Golf Channel

Storyline: To uncover the most novel - and ludicrous - golf innovations.

Local connection: John Yakopcic of McMurray will submit his invention, Aqua Caddy.

More information:

Winner receives: Shelf space at golf retailer Golfsmith for one year; a fully-developed infomercial; and $50,000 worth of commercial and promotional air time on The Golf Channel.

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