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Q&A: Building a better golf ball

After losing his job in the economic downtown of 2008, Bret Blakely’s career dramatically changed course – he moved home from NYC to cofound OnCore Golf with his dad, Keith, and friend/partner Steve Coulton. Their first ball, the hollow-core CALIBER, was designed by a local engineer who wanted to reduce his own side spin. Now in business for six years, the company offers a full suite of balls – including their first tour ball, the ELIXR, which launched last year. Their sales grew by six times in 2017.

What makes WNY a good place to start and run a business?

Anyone from Buffalo could answer this — the people, the sense of community and the way this city rallies behind anything of its own that’s adding something positive to the city. Buffalo is an underdog city and we are an underdog company. We both continue to prove people wrong in the best ways possible.

What’s the hardest thing about being a golf company in WNY?

The long winters don’t exactly make it easy. Sometimes it just requires us to get a little more creative from December through April, since we can’t get out on the courses.

What advice would you give a young local start-up?

Take full advantage of the unique personality of this city and engage with the people that make Buffalo so incredible because they will become your biggest advocates and your best fans. Creating a fan base here is truly planting a seed that will spread far beyond Buffalo.

What’s next for OnCore?

We will exit 2018 with a bang by launching our GENiUS ball — a golf ball with a brain. It has a computer chip inside that will give real-time analytics of every shot you take while playing on a course. No need to go indoors to a simulator — you will be able to take this ball to your course and get every bit of statistical information a trackman would give you.

If you could have any player endorse your ball, who would it be?

Ricky Fowler — he goes against the grain, has some flash and a personality and is a heck of a golfer.

Dream course to play?

Shinnecock or Pebble Beach would both be incredible.

Biggest golf pet peeve?

Nothing is more frustrating than slow play.

Favorite non-golf thing to do in Buffalo?

Enjoy all the city has to offer, and, of course, rooting for our sports teams. Win or lose, if you grow up in Buffalo…supporting them is a way of life.

Where do you play and test product in winter?

The industry does allow for travel to some pretty warm and beautiful places, and it always changes, but our robotic testing is done in California and player testing comes from all over the world. OnCore has a global reach and that allows us to get feedback from amateurs to pros in every condition and location imaginable.

How many people do you employ locally?

Currently we employ 6 people locally but also place a strong emphasis on utilizing local partnerships, vendors, suppliers and service providers which totals over 30 companies.

Are the balls made in Buffalo?

The balls are not made in Buffalo but the innovation and headquarters are rooted here. Our long-term goal is to have a manufacturing facility here, but it can cost in the tens of millions of dollars, and is not something we are able to take on quite yet.

Favorite local golf course?

Any course that carries the OnCore product line!

What’s it like working with your dad?

There are so many things about this job that are rewarding, exciting and fun, but the best part is being able to work side-by-side with my father. We experience all the highs together and all the lows together. We get to share in the exciting moments and vent when there is another challenge to overcome. I have always been extremely close to my parents, but this experience is an opportunity that very few people have. I am grateful and appreciative of it every day, and know that these memories will last a lifetime…..and so will OnCore Golf.

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