iGen Golf: Forged for Juniors?
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iGen Golf: Forged for Juniors?

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iGen Golf: Forged for Juniors?

iGen Golf is asking you a question you probably thought you’d never thought you’d have to answer. In fact, we’re pretty damned sure it’s a question you never thought you’d even be asked.

Should your junior golfer game a $1,200 set of forged irons and wedges?

Now, before your head explodes and you start pounding the keys with righteous indignation, you should at least hear out Patrick Dempsey, iGen’s owner and founder.

No, iGen’s forged irons and wedges for juniors aren’t for every kid. But if you have a junior who’s serious about the game and has advanced beyond the boxed starter set, there’s a path that says a set of iGen forged irons and wedges might actually be a money-saver in the long run.

There are a few ifs and maybes behind that statement but the math, in theory, does work. And it’s all the work of a guy who can legitimately challenge Miguel Angel Jimenez as The Most Interesting Man in Golf.

A picture of Patrick Dempsey, owner of iGen Golf, forged golf clubs for juniors.

A Real-Life Crash Davis …

The more you learn about Patrick Dempsey, the more fascinating his life’s journey becomes. Dempsey, you see, is (deep breath …) a career minor-league catcher turned long-drive Hall of Famer turned PGA TOUR rep turned custom club builder turned junior golf club OEM.

And he can sing, too.

“I played pro ball for 12 years, all in the minors. I actually made the Oakland A’s in 1981 when Billy Martin was managing but damned if I didn’t hurt my arm between the time they told me I made the club and the time we left spring training.”

A baseball card with Patrick Dempsey, owner of iGen Golf, forged golf clubs for junior golfers.

That injury turned out to be a chronic rotator cuff problem.

“I never did go get surgery and went from prospect to suspect. I was a good catcher but had more value in Triple A, teaching prospect pitchers how to pitch. So I never did get to the party.”

If “Dempsey” and “catcher” sound familiar, you might be remembering Pat’s older brother Rick, a longtime catcher with the Baltimore Orioles and a 1983 World Series champion.

“I wanted to be in the big leagues like my brother Rick but it just didn’t work out.”

Turned Accidental Long Driver …

Several years later, Dempsey was hitting golf balls at a driving range for fun when some random guy told him he was hitting the ball pretty far and should try long-drive competitions.

“I didn’t know what ‘far’ was. I’d just go to the driving range and pound some balls. I didn’t know anything about golf but worked hard at it.”

Dempsey was ranked in the top 10 in the world by 1998 and wound up winning four world titles in the Senior Division. He was inducted into the Long Drive Hall of Fame in 2012.

a picture of Long Drive Hall of Famer Pat Dempsey, owner of iGen Golf.

It was during his long-drive days that Golfsmith hired Dempsey to work on the Killer Bee driver with designer Jeff Sheets. And that experience led to his career as a PGA TOUR rep for UST Mamiya. But it was his association with Sheets that brought Dempsey to the custom club business and, eventually, to iGen Golf.

“I’d work the Tour and then come home and work on my custom club business. And I’d start getting all these high-end juniors with swing coaches and putting coaches. They’re playing in junior tournaments all over the place and they started having me build clubs because they couldn’t get good clubs anywhere.”

Dempsey sourced lighter heads from Asia and shafted them with UST Mamiya Recoils in AA or AAA flex.

“I’d build them these irons and was discounting them because I’d be embarrassed. Their parents were spending $1,500 for a set of irons that would last maybe a year to a year-and-a-half.

“And people were thanking me. So I had to look into this because the junior golf business is the last business I ever thought I’d be in.”

… Turned iGen Golf Proprietor

“Not to bash anybody’s product but the junior golf club business is shit,” says Dempsey. “I started to think about what parents deal with and what I could do to help.”

To be clear, Dempsey isn’t talking about a run-of-the-mill boxed starter set to see if your kid likes golf. Those, he says, play an important role. But Dempsey is offering top-quality forged irons and wedges for kids with a passion for the game and for those who compete at advanced levels. The American Junior Golf Association, for example, runs up to 60 tournaments annually for boys and girls ages 12 to 15. Sponsors include pros such as Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Corporate sponsors include Wyndham, Under Armour and Rolex.

“I went forged for bendability, not feel. I want to bend the lie angle and lofts because every kid is different. And as they grow and their trajectory changes, parents can go to their local club builder and have their lofts and lies adjusted.

“Or they can just send them to me and I’ll do it.”

a picture of iGen Golf forged irons for junior golfers.

The iGen idea is to have one set of heads for the entirety of your junior’s career. Forged allows for bendability, while shafts can be extended and eventually replaced. And iGen Golf’s unique weight ports allow the swing weight to be adjusted as the junior gets stronger.

“Most companies just offer different lengths based on your kid’s height. And it varies every three inches of height. But they don’t do anything about swing weight which is especially important for younger kids.

“The weights cost three bucks each and I send you the wrench. In a matter of minutes, you can add some weight, have your kid hit some shots and see what they think. If it feels heavy, you can dial it back.”

A Parent’s Dilemma

Any parent of a kid in competitive sports knows the high price of participation. It’s a bundle to participate and a bundle more for equipment. Ask a traveling hockey, lacrosse or baseball/softball parent and they’ll tell you they’re lucky to get a full season out of all that gear. Kids, it seems, grow.

“As a professional baseball player, I know how important good equipment is,” says Dempsey. “Catcher’s mitts, shoes, things like that. If a parent isn’t a golfer, keeping up with equipment can be a nightmare. How do you stay in front of it?”

iGen Golf, says Dempsey, is a one-man band. But every parent has Dempsey’s personal cell phone number and he’s more than happy to walk them through how to change the weights, how to add shaft extensions and how to have loft and lie adjusted.

a picture of iGen Golf forged junior golf clubs.

“There’s no such thing as giving someone information over the phone and that’s it,” he says. “Once their kid has their clubs, we go to work on making it right.

“Is he hitting them left? Is he hitting them right? Do they feel heavy? They call me back and we can dial them in. They can have their local guy do it or send them back to me and I’ll do it for free.”

iGen Golf has been in business for three years now and Dempsey still talks with every customer and offers them the same deal: If we can’t make it work, he’ll give them their money back.

“People go, ‘Really?’ And you know what? In three years, I’ve never had a set sent back to me. And in the past two or three weeks, we’ve had 12 to 15 kids win their junior tournaments with these things.”

So, About That Math …

There are lots of kids’ starter sets out there and Dempsey says those are vital to get kids to try golf and see if they like it. But if a kid starts taking the game seriously, it’s time to get serious about equipment.

And $1,200 for a set of forged iGen Golf irons and wedges is pretty serious.

“It sounds like a lot but it’s actually cheaper in the long run,” Dempsey explains. “A junior set might be $300 and every year or so you have to get rid of them because the kid grows. They have no trade-in value.”

A forged wedge from iGen Golf.

By that math, after four or five seasons, you can offset the purchase price compared to buying four or five starter sets. The offset is even quicker if you consider junior clubs made by major OEMs such as PING, TaylorMade or Callaway. And you’re getting top-quality forged heads with real-deal UST Mamiya Recoil shafts.

As mentioned, iGen Golf irons and wedges aren’t some off-the-shelf open models from China. Dempsey worked with longtime club designer Jeff Sheets – the man who designed the iconic 1999 Ben Hogan Apex and Apex Plus irons, among others.

 “You’re not going to have to do this for another five or six years. There’s some value to that. Parents who play golf get it. For the parents that don’t, it’ll work out if I can get them on the phone and talk with them. Very few kids don’t get bigger and stronger over the summer.”

Is There a Market for iGen Golf?

It would appear so.

We’ve said it many times but price is nothing more than a number. It’s how one looks at that number that matters. Any parent with a kid in any travel sport knows the bills for good equipment never stop or go down. And what may be outrageous to one parent may, in fact, be a bargain to another.  

“I’m not the brightest bulb in the tree when it comes to marketing,” Dempsey admits. “People tell me I can’t talk to that many people every day and still sell enough irons. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it but I don’t ever want to outgrow that.”

an iGen Golf seven iron for junior golfers.

So while iGen Golf is a business, it’s one Dempsey plans to run his way with no apologies. So, yeah, $1,200 for seven irons and three wedges for a 12-year-old may sound crazy to some but the old adage applies: If you ever want unsolicited advice, just start a business.

“People say these are kind of expensive and they are. But not in the long run. We’re going to be successful because we really care. I can’t afford not to care because I’m not that slick of a businessman.”

iGen Golf: Serving a Niche

Here we are at the end of the article and we still haven’t mentioned Dempsey’s other talent: singing. A fine crooner, Dempsey opened the 2002 ReMax World Long Drive Championship with the national anthem followed by God Bless the USA. And in 2006, he sang both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems at an Orioles-Blue Jays game in Baltimore.

The catcher for Toronto that night? Greg Zaun, who happens to be Dempsey’s nephew.

Singing, baseball and long driving aside, Dempsey has been around the golf business long enough to know there’s a sizable and underserved market of talented junior golfers. And the fact a junior can play his or her iGen Golf irons from adolescence through their teen years and beyond (at 66, Dempsey games fully weighted iGen irons) has proven to be a value proposition.

And if the price tag does limit sales volume, that’s OK, too.

“There are more important things in the sports business than how many sets you sell a day or how many sets you get out the door,” says Dempsey. “If we can help these kids, the returns will come on the back side.

“People call me too old-fashioned to be successful but that’s what I’m going to hold on to for as long as I can.”

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

John Barba

John Barba

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John Barba





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      MJ

      7 months ago

      Nice clubs but uses 40″ adult irons shafts and cuts them down for kids. For example, a 34″ / 5 iron shaft will need fo be cut down at least 7 inches. Sand wedge, same set will require cutting about 10″ from original shaft length… Those shafts will play stiffer than men’s X stiff shafts… but for kids?

      Reply

      CoryO

      9 months ago

      Really interesting! “iGen Golf HQ” (this guy’s house) is literally two blocks from me and I walk past it all the time. I can hear him working on stuff in the junior tour trailer he has parked out front.

      Reply

      Brian Weisberg

      9 months ago

      My son Lucas has been playing the iGen irons for about 6 months now. He started with US Kids Ultra Lights and then graduated to their Tour Series irons. After he kept breaking the heads off the clubs because of his swing speed, we went to Pat for his full set of iGen’s (4 iron to 58 degree). It’s a world of difference for Lucas. The feel and the ability for him to not only gain distance, but to shape shots and get the consistency he desires is amazing with these clubs. Like the article says, Pat is always available and whenever the clubs need adjusting because he grew or needs new grips, Pat always answers the line and takes care of us. It’s not just about the clubs, it’s about the man. He fit players on the Tour. He knows his stuff and he enjoys working with junior golfers to grow their love of the game.

      Reply

      Da Slammer

      9 months ago

      MGS, can you come back to these irons in a year after you have collected the data and see where the kids and parents are with them, also tracking those who may have bought them over the last 3 to 4 years etc???
      That would be a project that I’m sure will be very well respected if you can do it

      Reply

      Chris Soong

      9 months ago

      Checkout @jadenrsoong on Instagram.. Played them since 9 years old (prototype). Biggest thing missing from this article is the importance of making sure your kids are play the right length and weight club as they grow and develop. Working with Pat and iGEN irons allowed us to do that. Today at only 62” Jaden hits a 7I 160 yards at 13 years old. Best investment ever!!

      Reply

      Da Slammer

      9 months ago

      What is “right” for one person may not be for another person.
      Even on Tour, many play clubs that are shorter than what’s standard or being sold as standard on retail shelves. Weight to flex ratio also vary greatly depending on swing, feel and flight requirements. And then there’s the whole one-length situation.
      I’m happy that your kid is playing nicely with them, but it would be nice to see what the results are across the ages that these are designed to do. I’m also happy that kids are being given more options, finally.

      Miles

      9 months ago

      Hi Chris, Does Jaden still use iGen? If not, what made him switch? Thanks.

      Stuart Braham

      9 months ago

      My grand daughter started playing at age 5 with US Kids Golf. They are biggest in that market. If your child wants to play more competitive as they get older they will need better clubs. Pat has filled a void here. He’s been fitting and making custom clubs for a long time. Few have his expertise.With mass market makers Ping &TM at $100 an iron for juniors not forged you the price point is certainly not out of line.

      Reply

      GripGarageYYC

      9 months ago

      This is a great idea…. It’s very intuitive, and something I wish more companies offered for adults. The big thing here is figuring out that swing weight, along with the length of the club. Which is forever changing with the variable of length.

      It is kind of a hard sell in one sense… I recall being younger, and wanting to hit the brand name clubs…. I’m sure kids today over the age of 10 are the same. Therefore, I would think this idea, perhaps at a lesser price point, would be best for the kids aged 4-9? The wear on the faces would be minimal, plus it is a massive leap in growth and strength each year.

      I own a small repair shop/golf business. I have already tinkered with my sons clubs to help get him a light club head. He’s only 4, but it was hard to find a club light enough in an iron. Don’t get me started on tot drivers……

      I love business, I love golf business, and I like what he said. It’s not about the quantity of sales. I think he enjoys what he has to offer. Having his name attached to it, and being proud of it.

      If anyone has a lead on those younger tot clubs, that are light and can hit real golf balls, let me know! I know there was one company that was similar with weight adjustments?

      Reply

      Paul Lees

      9 months ago

      Pat is an entrepreneur always making tasty lemonade out of well you know. He is everything the article claims and more. a loving husband. devoted family man, an experienced woodworker and cabinet craftsman are all parts that make him a knowledgeable man a a quality Man. And as noted he can hit that little white ball a freakin mile. Just look at the dozen or more tournament wins his junior golfers are doing with their own sets of custom fit Igen irons.

      Reply

      Mark

      9 months ago

      Great for juniors, yes! But I would argue – also great for Seniors! I played Hogan Apex from 1996 to 2017! Yes, same irons for years and I believe they are the best irons ever created! My game has improved immensely from my move to iGen and as my swing speed declines with age I can adjust the weight and shafts in my irons! I absolutely love them!

      Reply

      Casey Kirkman

      9 months ago

      I have been fortunate enough to fitted by Pat and have sent a number of others to him. Not a better guy or a more knowledgeable person in the game of golf. My children use these IGEN irons and absolutely love them. I cannot speak highly enough about them. Way to go Pat!!

      Reply

      Steven Paquin

      9 months ago

      The great thing is these clubs are easy to upgrade as my kid grows we just change the shaft due to him growing he likes sticking with the same club because he knows how it performs, my friends constantly buy their kids new clubs and they are all over the place with them and it seems like they keep trading out sets all the time. One thing that the article doesn’t mention is the shafts. Pat doesn’t use the cheap us kids shafts or flynn it makes a huge difference. Pat is awesome you can always reach him and he has a ton of knowledge, that you can’t get at your local dicks or golf galaxy. The clubs are awesome give him a call.

      Reply

      Mike

      9 months ago

      Interesting article. But when do you buy this single set, when a child is 8? 10? 14? 16? Kids, especially boys, grow immensely during this time, can’t imagine the same set he had at 8 will be still useful at 14.

      This is such a niche market I find it hard to believe it’s going to be profitable.

      Reply

      Brian

      9 months ago

      Did you read the article? You purchase while they’re in the junior sizes and will get fit accordingly…you can switch out shafts and adjust weighting as needed. This includes longer shafts. It is indeed a niche market and perhaps why the major manufacturers have ignored it…Pat is doing it for his passion of the game and the good of the sport.
      My kids are too old for these clubs now, but sure wish this was an option a few years ago.

      Reply

      Mike

      9 months ago

      Lot of effort there & don’t you think the clubfaces will be pretty worn after all those years? Nice story but niche market.

      Geoffrey

      9 months ago

      Apparently, iGEN irons never receive any wear on the face of the club. As a junior golf parent, my kid has been playing US Kids Golf irons since age 6. We have been through their UltraLight 45, Ultralight, 48, TS51, TS54, TS57 and currently TS60 iron sets. Each set has cost me around $350. The old sets I have sold on eBay for no less than $125/each (some as high as $180). So that is roughly $2,100 (6x$350/set) worth of irons. Add back the $625 (5 old sets sold for minimum $125/each on eBay) and you get a total investment of $1,475.

      No back to the wear on the face of the clubs. The sets when he was younger were not as worn because he was just a little kid. The latest TS57 set I sold on eBay probably needed to have the SW replaced because its face wear was pretty bad (still sold the set for $125 used on eBay). Also, don’t forget grips as they wear out as well.

      So for $1475, I get new clubs with new faces and new grips every 12-18 months. Sure, they are not forged, but I would argue a kid does not need forged until they get close to puberty or are in the 0.01% elite of their class.

      Reply

      Michael T

      9 months ago

      I get your points, but maybe omitting a few variables. Are you actually taking home $125 from eBay, shipping and fees. Also, you are not considering resale of the iGen irons.

      Reply

      Justin

      8 months ago

      Not sure why the irons would wear so fast. Bernhardt langer uses some tired set of irons, Daniel berger 2011 TaylorMade, Michael block 2014. Are you going to say the faces aren’t wore out on pro golfers? Pretty sure they hit more balls than juniors.

      Reply

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