One morning in early 2003, Linda Penhale was relaxing at home, watching the morning news, and generally enjoying her newfound leisure time that had resulted from selling off her travel agency. Little did the Toronto resident know that an item on that newscast would send her back into the hectic world of entrepreneurship with full force.
The report detailed the efforts of two New Brunswick engineers to develop a pair of special glasses that allowed golfers to easily spot lost golf balls in the woods. Fascinated, Penhale phoned the TV station for contact info. After two weeks of trying, she eventually tracked one of them down.
“I just wanted to order two pairs, one for me and one as a present. He didn’t even have an answering machine….He sent them off to me but didn’t know what to charge.”
Later, when she and a her friend donned the special specs on a golf course and promptly found nine balls in two minutes, Penhale knew she was on to something. By April, 2003, she and colleague Marilyn Costello had bought the Canadian rights to Visiball Golf Ball Finders.
Based on four principles of physics, the glasses filter out all pigments save for white, allowing objects such as white golf balls to appear to “glow” against a blue backdrop. The glasses come in various models, one of which can fit over regular prescription glasses. They are available throughout the country and have been picked up by retailers the likes of Golf Town.
The success has been a complete surprise to Penhale.
“I was looking at it as something to supplement my retirement income. That was a big laugh because it quickly became a 12-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job.”
The main benefit to golfers, Penhale says, is a lowering of their scores, as fewer penalty strokes have to be incurred from drops following fruitless searches. Duffers can also save money on balls.
“With the price of some of these more expensive golf balls, you have to think twice (about taking riskier shots). People will say. ‘Hmmm, should I cut that corner or not?’ They don’t want to lose a nine-dollar ball.”
The glasses, which include built-in UV protection, have also proved useful to course grounds crews, Penhale says. Balls hiding in grass can often damage riding mower blades, but many of them can now be spotted and removed before the cutting begins.
While she has been pleased with the growth so far (she did not want to disclose specific revenue numbers), Penhale is looking to drive further revenue through increased corporate sales, which involves placing company logos on the accompanying cases.
The success of Visiball has also attracted other inventors looking for Penhale to turn their creations into marketable products. One of them is currently under development, but Penhale will not be shedding any light on it until its release next year.