Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Driver vs. Driver Finalists Bios

Jonathan Dineen
Age: 26
Current Residence: Wilmington, N.C.
College: Appalachian State University
Occupation: Industrial Designer

“I’ve always had a passion for sports. A bucket list goal in my life is to design a piece of sporting goods equipment that could change that sport for the better.”

An industrial designer with a determined work ethic, Jonathan Dineen’s passion is about helping people bring their ideas to life. This passion came about at a young age, when he assisted in the building of his Aunt and Uncle’s home. This inspired Dineen to get into design, and developed a love of not only designing houses, but also designing and building cars and sporting equipment.

As a student at Appalachian State University, he broadened his scope and majored in product design. His idea for Driver vs. Driver – “The Wasp,” was the concept for his senior thesis.


Richard Gischer, Kimberly Leonard
Ages: 37, 35
Current Residences: Crowley, Texas (Gischer); Pinckneyville, Illinois (Leonard)
College: Campbell University (Gischer); Southern Illinois University (Leonard)
Occupation: Golf Professional (Gischer); Teacher (Leonard)

“I want to see if I have what it takes to be a golf club designer. I think I have some great ideas and know what makes a good golf club. If I win, I will use the money to go back to school and get an engineering degree.”— Richard Gischer

Gischer and Leonard are a brother-sister team, where Gischer is the golf expert and Leonard has vast experience with public speaking and communications. Both are passionate about products using renewable resources and energy conservation.

Gischer is a graduate from the Professional Golf Management program at Campbell University, where he fell in love with club making. He began making golf clubs in his parents’ garage, and following graduation, he worked at Nike in the company’s famous “Oven,” building custom golf clubs for some of the best players in the world.

A few years ago, he left his job at Nike to pursue another passion of his – mission work. He moved to Mexico, where he volunteered for an organization to help start a learning center for underprivileged children. Growing up in a family who struggled financially, they learned the importance of helping others in need. Thus, Gischer sought out the opportunity as a way to give back. It was a life altering event that helped him organize his priorities and re-energize his passion for club making. Now, he’s ready to tackle his newest ambition: club design.

Their driver concept is a green design, with the hopes of creating a driver using a renewably sourced bio-product. Leonard, Gischer’s younger sister, plans to help him bring this unique driver to fruition.

Steve Kirouac
Age: 59
Current Residence: Welland, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Retired High School Teacher

“My primary motivation for being on this show is my love of golf coupled with my fascination with design and innovation (Although the money and fame would be nice too!)”

A retired art teacher living in Ontario, Canada, Kirouac has been married for more than 35 years. A perfectionist by nature, he says he had a “eureka” moment one afternoon while grilling sausages in his backyard that led to his driver concept. Bees were attracted to the smell of the sausages and he “shooed” them away with a fly swatter. The sound of the fly swatter hitting the wood reminded him of a driver hitting a golf ball and thus, an idea was born. The result is the honeycomb golf club, an aerodynamic club designed to increase club speed and hit the ball straighter and longer.

Sheila Pancani, Jimmy Huynh, Brian Mar, Patrick Soriano, Matt Ulery
“Team Long Beach”
Ages: Pancani – 45; Huynh – 26; Mar – 21; Soriano – 25; Ulery – 30
College: California State University, Long Beach
Occupation: College Students – Industrial Design Program

“As future product designers we value the knowledge that professionals in the field of design and manufacture can share with us. Also, $500,000 can pay a lot of student loans.” – Sheila Pancani

Seniors in the industrial design program at Cal State Long Beach, this multi-cultural group is determined to create a driver that is, in their words, “Sick.”

Sheila Pancani, their self-appointed leader and big sister of the team, formerly was a lead singer in a punk band. Jimmy Huynh is the son of Vietnamese immigrants who is looking to make his father proud. Brian Mar is the artist of the bunch. Matt Ulery is a former basketball player and Patrick Soriano is the one who is the biggest cheerleader for his team in showcasing their different skill sets in developing a one-of-a-kind driver.

The group – most are not golfers – took this as a challenge and created a three-week “driver cram session” to learn everything they could before submitting their driver design. Their micro-honeycomb design was inspired by Formula 1 cars and the grill from Ulery’s motorcycle. They are determined to win.

Weston Maughan
Age: 35
Current Residence: Draper, Utah
College: Brigham Young University (Undergrad); Academy of Art University (Masters)
Occupation: Sales / Business Development

“At a young age I dreamed of designing golf clubs, but life led me elsewhere. When I saw this competition, I couldn’t believe it! Learning about the competition rekindled my old memories of designing golf clubs, and I knew I had to be a part of it.”

Weston Maughan has been hooked to the game of golf since his first golf swing as a child. He knew he wanted to have a career in the golf industry ever since he was a teenager when Hall-of-Famer Johnny Miller gave him some tips that delivered instant results, and Miller told his mother that he had a very natural swing.

Maughan played collegiate golf at Napa Valley Community College, where his team won the 2003 Community College Golf Championship, and turned professional while still in college at Brigham Young University. Due to a fast growing family (he is the father of four young children) he changed his career plans and direction and went into the business sector.

An excellent player, Maughan is utilizing his golf expertise to develop his driver design, which allows the driver to dial in the weight of the club, making it customizable. He says he has developed an idea that any golfer of any skill level would want to play.

Kevin Neitzel, Kyle Hanquist
“Team Michigan”
Ages: 30, 26
College: University of Michigan
Current Residence: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Occupation: Doctoral students, University of Michigan

“We are interested in helping people play better golf through the application of sophisticated engineering design. We are excited about the opportunity to combine our engineering knowledge with Wilson’s golf club expertise.” – Kevin Neitzel

“We want to use our experiences and knowledge of aerodynamics to help the average golfer.” – Kyle Hanquist

Colleagues and friends at the University of Michigan, Neitzel and Hanquist are both PhD students in aerospace engineering studying aerothermodynamics of high speed flight. Their extensive engineering background includes work experience at NASA Ames Research Center, Beechcraft and Ford Motor Company. When they aren’t in school together, they play golf, and working on starting a consulting company, and travel the world – their idea for Driver vs. Driver was submitted while traveling through Europe.

Neitzel is newly married whose wife is doing her medical residency in Kansas, so he tries to visit her as often as their busy schedules allow. Neitzel, who has been playing golf regularly for nearly 15 years, also was an Evans Scholar – a college scholarship offered annually by the Western Golf Association. Hanquist grew up on a farm in Nebraska that has been in his family for generations. In addition to his engineering and aerospace work experience, Hanquist also interned in the United States Senate.

Matt Purtell
Age: 37
College: University of Hawaii
Current Residence: Sonoma, California
Occupation: Building Contractor

“Sometimes hitting 1 for 3 is all you need.” – Matt Purtell

Matt Purtell is a 37-year old everyman. With the exception of playing college baseball at the University of Hawaii, Purtell has lived his entire life in Sonoma, Calif., where he has taken over his father’s building contractor business.

In 3rd grade, he sent a Valentine to girl he had a crush on. She tore it up. In 6th grade, he asked the same girl out. She pranked him after school and broke his heart. Years later, in 12th grade, he asked her out one final time. They are now married and parents of an 8-year old daughter. Growing up playing baseball, he cites an important life lesson learned: “Sometimes 1 for 3 is all you need.”

Purtell is an avid golfer who noticed that he often mis-hit his driver but never his 3-wood. This led to his design idea, which is overlaying the crown of a 3-wood on top of the driver to help make a more controlled golf swing.

A devoted family man, Purtell describes himself as a regular guy, but sees his daughter as someone truly special who can make her mark in the world. Should he win, he wants to use the money to take his wife and daughter around the world to help expose her to life beyond Sonoma.

Eric Sillies
Age: 26
College: University of Cincinnati, (DAAP – Design, Architecture, Art and Planning program)
Current Residence: Cincinnati, Ohio
Occupation: Product Designer

“Making better products make life better for people. So, I wanted to remove the frustration of hitting bad shots by designing a club with features that instinctively makes you hit the ball square, thus elevating everyone’s game, from the novice to the pros.” – Eric Sillies

Eric Sillies is a product designer who believes in the power of design to make life better. This is his guiding principle both at work and at home, where he believes finding the meaning in things is the key to focusing on what is more important. He and his wife have two daughters, with his newest daughter born Thanksgiving, 2015.

His driver design, which he calls “Manta,” is a multi-piece construction with a unique alignment feature. He calls it both “simplistic and complicated,” and sees the design being received as easy, intuitive and desirable. In college at the University of Cincinnati, he interned with Dick’s Sporting Goods, where he had the opportunity to help design the aesthetic direction for the 2012 Nickent golf club line.

Sillies loves family time and playing board games. He credits playing board games with his family as inspiration for his love of competition, which he sees as a way to not only inspire people to push themselves to be better, but to also make sure they are having fun along the way.

Ryan Nelson and Branndon Jones
“Team Tennessee”
Ages: 21, 21
College: University of Tennessee
Current Residence: Knoxville, Tennessee
Occupation: College students, University of Tennessee

“We want to not only completely change the driver and its abilities, but also gain knowledge and experience in the TV world. My goal is to one day be on television or creating videos for live television.” – Ryan Nelson

“I have a huge passion for designing new products and materials for commercial use. I chose to become an engineering major in hopes of designing the new wave of technology for future generations, whether it is building bridges, artificial limbs, or a new wave of golf drivers.” – Branndon Jones

Students at the University of Tennessee, Ryan Nelson and Branndon Jones have known each other since their freshman year of high school. The two played on the same basketball team and have been best friends ever since.

Out of the two, Nelson is more outgoing and creative, whereas Jones is more analytical. The team plans to have a balanced approach by utilizing Nelson’s creativity and Jones’ knowledge to try and create the most unique and technologically advanced driver on the golf market today. The idea for their driver is to get millennials into the game with a design that appeals to the youth of today.

They plan to utilize a honey comb pattern to the face and the back of the driver, thus increasing aerodynamics and resulting in a faster club head speed. The idea came about after Jones watched Serena Williams on television competing in a tennis match and thought it would be unique to incorporate the pattern/material from her tennis racket into the head of a driver.

Gavin Wallin
Age: 40
Current Residence: Eagle Mountain, Utah
Occupation: Product Design

“With both a degree in industrial design coupled with experience in golf club design, I think it gives me an advantage for what Wilson is looking for in their next great golf driver. They are looking for my driver idea.”

Gavin Wallin loves his family, loves to ski and is a big fan of Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, whose “Do what he wants” motto is what inspires him. Wallin has extensive experience in golf club design with multiple golf manufacturers, and is an avid recreational golfer. With a college degree in industrial design, he is combining his real-world experience and college degree to develop an adjustable driver concept that has benefits for both the low handicap to high handicap golfer.

Easy-going and genuine, Wallin is married with three kids. Should he win the series, he plans to pay off debts, buy a new truck and take his family on a vacation around the world.

Karl West
Age: 43
Current Residence: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: Golf coach

“I want to create the coolest looking driver in the industry, while furthering my career and skill-set in golf club design. I’m my own biggest obstacle in a lot of ways. I’m different than other people. I think differently and I see things that other people don’t see.”

Originally born in New Zealand and now residing in Victoria, B.C., West is a dual citizen and self-proclaimed “Caniwi.” An avid fan of the outdoors – where it offers him the chance to decompress and escape from the stresses of everyday life – West also is a fan of cycling, where he rides more than 20 km daily to and from Royal Colwood, where he is a golf instructor.

A tinkerer, West enjoys conceptualizing and designing putters and drivers in his basement lab. His concept for the series is to create the “coolest looking driver ever,” with a minimalist design. With no formal training, on golf club design, West is self-taught in developing ideas and concepts for putters and drivers, and his ultimate goal is to bring those ideas to life through this series.