mid-October of 1971, Karsten Solheim discovered his PING Anser putter
was being counterfeited in California. The crooks had already sent a
shipment to Japan, where they hoped their sales would go unnoticed.
With the help of law enforcement, Karsten broke up the operation,
stopped the shipment dead in its tracks, and took the mold used by the
counterfeiters. The mold happened to be a good one the counterfeiters
made using an actual PING Anser.
A few years later, when Karsten was asked by Kawecki Berylco
Industries (KBI) to provide them with a few hundred beryllium copper
putters along with around 50 or so beryllium nickel putters, Karsten decided to cast the BeCu and BeNi putters using the
counterfeiters mold. Because their mold was made from an actual Anser,
the putters it produced would be slightly smaller than the putter used
to create the mold. This was perfect for the KBI job. Because
both beryllium copper and beryllium nickel weigh more than manganese bronze, both beryllium copper and nickel Ansers cast from the slightly smaller mold weighed the same as the
manganese bronze Ansers cast from Karsten's original mold. (See And The Putter Went Ping p 129-130)
On the approximately 50 beryllium nickel putters Karsten made for KBI, he marked the
heel of the face "BeNi" and the back cavity "KBI". These few putters stand as the first golf clubs ever made from beryllium
nickel, a material that became extremely popular years later. Beryllium nickel clubs were known for their soft feel. Unfortunately, PING and other clubmakers had to give up on a real good thing. They stopped making BeNi clubs due to the challenge of getting supply and the nature of all the precautions that needed to be taken in order to keep workers safe when working with beryllium materials.
This KBI BeNi putter has its original 36" shaft, "Heel Toe
Balance" shaft band, and PING grip, although the grip is starting to show hairline cracks. The head shows very little use.
Of all the millions of PING putters made, this is among the rarest and most historic. Why spend a grand for a recently made "anniversary" putter when, for a few dollars more, a true original can be acquired?
One final thought. In a world of designer putter makers who produce a myriad of prototypes, special models, tour grinds, limited editions, and small runs ad nauseam, all in an effort to elevate the price of their clubs under the guise of "rarity," early PING putters are completely divorced from such smoke and mirrors. They are genuinely rare, and their quantity is finite. Furthermore in this KBI BeNi putter we have one of the rarest early PING clubs, plus it is a genuine historic first—the precursor to the BeNi irons and putters that would not come on the market until many years later. This KBI BeNi putter is truly a great club to own. It stands on genuine history.