For the final day of Putter Week at The Hackers Paradise we wanted to do something a little different, yet still follow the same theme. This week was all about putters and putter companies that you need to know more about. So when you see a title like Taylormade you start to wonder “Why do I need to know more about them?”. However the Rossa TP putter line by Kia Ma is fairly new and still an unknown entity to most of our readers. Sure we hear the name and see the TP logo, but what do we know about the putters themselves? To understand the line, it is important that we understand where the line came from and the man behind this series of fabulous “art like” putters. By the time you finish reading this, we think the insight you gain into the world of Kia Ma will change your perspective on the equipment that he builds, and the equipment that Taylormade Golf is putting out with his name on it.
Here is a Kia Ma timeline
1980 – Arrived in California at the age of 25 after a 17-month trip leaving Vietnam.
1981 – Despite no golf experience he took a job with Shamrock Golf as part of a club assembly team for $4 per hour.
1987 – Accepted a position with Ray Cook Golf where in a short time he rose to company vice president in charge of about 50 people.
1992 – Kia Ma gained US citizenship.
Kia Ma started his own company called K&M Golf.
2003 – K&M Golf was purchased by Taylormade Golf and Ma joined the staff there.
From the beginning:
Kia Ma grew up in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War where he worked on his fatherâ€™s ferry service between South Vietnam and Saigon. In 1975 North and South Vietnam were united and because of the communism he did not want to live there anymore. Like many of his countrymen, Ma risked everything for the promise of a better life with a 17-month trip that that landed the then 25 year-old in California in 1980. His experience on the ferry service made him comfortable around machines, but Ma had no golf experience when he arrived in the United States. “My first jobs were as a boat pilot and a truck driver when I arrived. I couldnâ€™t speak English and felt completely lost. The transition of meeting someone kind enough to let me stay on their couch and getting my first job and learning the language thru newspapers, TV and radio was tougher than anything that I have ever done. ”
In 1981 Kia Ma entered the golf business working on the assembly line at a company called Shamrock Golf, which was located in Irvine, CA. He was making only $4 an hour on the assembly line, however he learned how to assemble clubs as well as grind and polish clubheads. At this point in time he was simply gaining knowledge and experience as it pertains to clubs and never designed a single piece of equipment.
It was at Ray Cook where Ma first showcased his unique eye as a putter craftsman. One day, a broken putter was sent back to the company headquarters for a repair. “I saw the issue with the hosel and re-worked the putter by placing the shaft all the way through the putterhead”. It was the first ever design of a hosel-less putter.
By the time Ma went to work at Ray Cook, he already had a lot of experience working with golf clubs. It was around this time that he started using his imagination and experimenting with different putter hosel set-ups, shapes and grinding. It was also around this time that Kia Ma designed his first putter. He was working with the Ray Cook M1 which was a great sales success for the line. Ma started to make some changes to the hosel design and the bend in the shaft. A salesman saw it and really liked the final product and in about six months they were selling the putter and calling it the M1-X. “Nobody asked me to come up with this design. I was just playing around and I created a putter that went on to be very successful.”
In 1992 Kia Ma founded his own company called K & M Golf. It was primarily putters because “making putters came easier to me”. It is what Ma had been doing from the beginning at Shamrock Golf and then at Ray Cook as well and was what he had the most joy in doing. At K & M, he worked with almost every putter manufacturer. “The only ones that I didnâ€™t work with were Bobby Grace, Cobra and Kevin Burns.”
In 2002, Taylormade launched the Rossa line of putters and K & M served as the exclusive customizing shop and performed custom work on Rossa putters that were used to win 13 times in the world that year including the 2002 British Open.
The next step seemed like a logical move in the chain of events and that is in 2003 Taylormade Golf purchased K & M Golf. “Kia’s expertise at customizing putters is well-known throughout the industry and was a key reason for Rossa’s success on the world’s tours last year,” said Tom Olsavsky (in 2003), director of Rossa and Taylormade’s tour department. “Now that Kia is a full-time member of the Rossa team, we expect even greater achievements from tour pros using Rossa in 2003.”
Ma joined the Taylormade staff in a role that included building putters for the tour staff and working with the R&D department in the creation of new putter models and design concepting. While at Taylormade, Ma has been instrumental in crafting such putters as the top-selling new Monza Spider, plus Monza Corza, Daytona, Imola, Monte Carlo, Suzuka and many others. The unique designs Ma produced have put the Rossa brand at its highest level in history looking strong for increased future growth.
In late 2008, Taylormade Golf launched a new line of premium putters; Rossa TP by KiaMa is a new performance putter franchise. The putter face is 100% carbon-milled for a perfectly-rendered face. Rossa TP by KiaMa putters are completed with a rich, Midnight Black finish that gives them a sleek, sexy appearance both on the shelf and behind the ball. These putters are the most carefully honed and finely detailed Rossa putters Ma has ever created.
Each Rossa TP by KiaMa putter has been carefully crafted of 1020 carbon steel by the man himself. Every model in the Rossa TP by KiaMa line is 100% CNC-milled so that every surface is satiny smooth and every curve and corner is perfectly rendered. The result is one of the most elegant putters that you will ever putt a ball with. The look is classic and the lines are perfect. When asked what it is like to be one of the most respected experts in putter design today? “I am humbled by the success of the Rossa brand. We love when a player wins a tournament using one of our putters. There are many people that help make up the Rossa brand. We work really well together.”
Unlike just about anybody in contemporary golf, the journey that this man has been on is truly remarkable. As you look at the pictures please make sure you click on each one to enlarge them and show off the true beauty that each piece of equipment has. All of the putters being shown in this article belong to a reader of The Hackers Paradise that was kind enough to let us use photographs of his equipment. The nickel putter is an absolute thing of beauty that is extremely rare. Notice the face and the AGSI being milled right into it. The other two putters being featured are a custom KiaMa Daytona and a custon KiaMa Imola 8 that truly show off the amazing finish that these putters have. Both feature an unbelievably soft face and amazing feedback only found with this line. All three are actual works of art.
Something is just different about using a Taylormade Rossa TP by Kia Ma putter after knowing the history behind the man. For Putter Week here at THP, it involved lots of research and reading a whole lot of information. After reading everything we could find on the man behind this great franchise, picking up one of the putters has a different meaning. Should it? I can’t answer that, but I was not alone in the feeling. Each person associated with getting this article ready that picked up the THP KiaMa felt something different than they did before. A pride of ownership and a feeling of sense of worth that you just do not get from anything else in the golf equipment world.
We hope each and every reader thoroughly enjoyed THP’s Putter Week. The five putter companies that you need to know more about. If you get a chance to try out a Taylormade Rossa TP by Kia Ma it is an opportunity you will not regret. Silky Smooth feel, gorgeous aesthetics, and the history behind them all truly put them in a class by themselves. At the beginning of this article we explained why The Hackers Paradise thought that a Taylormade Golf product belonged in these articles and we hope each one of our readers agrees with us. To read more about the Rossa TP products, check out their website at www.taylormadegolf.com.
Till Next Time