Gadget keeps golfers on course
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chuck Stump and Brent Pauley are out to end drunk driving - and not just the kind you think.
They're fighting drinking and driving on the golf course.
In February, Stump and Pauley introduced the Golfalyzer, a portable, AA battery-powered breathalyzer geared toward what they call "social athletes" on the golf course.
It's no secret that many casual golfers play as a way to have fun and drink a few with their buddies. Beer carts and the clubhouse's "19th hole" keep social lubricants flowing.
But that can be a recipe for disaster when people fail to realize they've had too many and decide to drive home.
Stump and Pauley hope their device helps people realize when they need to call a cab, hand the keys to someone else, or sit tight and sober up.
"Drinking and golfing seem to go hand in hand," Pauley said. "We wanted to bring awareness to the alcohol consumption on the course and to let golfers know and make better decisions when they came off the course."
Stump, 52, of Hurricane and Pauley, 59, of Charleston have been golf buddies for many years. They met when Stump did some consulting for Kanawha County while Pauley was county manager. Both men now own their own consulting firms.
Their idea for the Golfalyzer came out of the blue during a friendly round last fall.
Like many golfers, the two men have found they tend to play better after a few drinks.
"A few pops, as we call it, helps you loosen up and quiet your mind and play the game," Pauley said.
But they put a strong emphasis on "few" - too many and the alcohol impairs rather than relaxes the mind.
During that game last October, Stump said he found the perfect balance.
"We were playing and I just got lightning hot - I made two birdies and just missed two birdie putts," Stump said.
"I looked over at (Pauley) and said, 'I don't know what my blood-alcohol is right now, but it's perfect.' And he said, 'Well, if we had a breathalyzer, we'd be able to let you know what your number is.' "
The two men laughed off the thought at first but kept coming back to the idea as the game progressed. The more they talked about it, the more they thought they might be on to something.
"I joked, 'We could call it the Golfalyzer,' " Pauley said. "And he lit up like a Christmas tree and said, 'That's it.' "
While initially thinking of it as a way to help golfers strike that relaxed-but-not-intoxicated balance, they realized the potential went far beyond that.
They realized that most people thought breathalyzers were available only to cops. People they talked to didn't know they could buy one of their own.
"Nobody really is marketing a breathalyzer," Stump said. "If you want one, you have to go somewhere on the internet and find it because nobody is marketing it."
Since it's not out there as a consumer product, most people have never tested themselves to see how their "buzz" translates to blood-alcohol level.
"People are just ignorant to where they are," Stump said. "They know they have a buzz - and that's a real common term - but can they put a number on it? Most of the time they cannot."
After using one a number of times, Stump said he was able to start matching the feeling to the blood-alcohol level. By knowing where it falls on the scale, he knows when to quit.
Both men hope the Golfalyzer can help others recognize when they've hit their limit.
"We want them to make reasonable, intelligent decisions and have that information to make those decisions," Pauley said.
The product is not without its critics. Some have told the men they are condoning drinking on the course. But they see the product as a way of helping those who already drink make sure they stay under the legal limit.
"We're just trying to give people a tool to help them know where they are . . . so they can make that more-informed decision," Stump said. "It's about them not getting behind the wheel of the car after having too much to drink and going out and killing someone."
The two men started selling the product online for $24.95 at www.golfalyzer.us in February.
They also started selling the product at local country clubs and golf tournaments around the state. Berry Hills, Sleepy Hollow and Edgewood country clubs are all selling it at their clubhouses.
In May, Stump and Pauley showcased the Golfalyzer at the International Network of Golf industry conference in Orlando.
"The common response we heard at the show was, 'I can't believe nobody thought of this sooner,' " Stump said.
After showcasing the product, ING named the Golfalyzer "2013 Conference Best Product."
"The Golfalyzer was a fresh new addition to our group and I think it has great potential in the golf industry" ING executive director Michael Jamison said when announcing the award.
The Golfalyzer's range measures blood-alcohol levels ranging from .01 to .19. They think an ideal level for a golfer is .02 or .03.
While the legal definition of intoxication is anything above .08, both men say anyone who has over a .05 is beginning to be impaired and should avoid driving.
They hope their tool can help more people recognize when they have hit that point.
"One of our informal taglines is 'Know it before you blow it,' and blow it can mean a lot of different things," Stump said. "You may lose your job, your license, or your life, so you need to know where you are."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.
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