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Have a seat – and tee off

Tim Omarzu

by Tim Omarzu/The Union

Call him Thomas Edison in a golf shirt.

Patrick Yates has invented a line of equipment for disabled golfers, including a golf cart he’s dubbed “The Model Tee.”

Shiny and new, the first cart Yates produced looks like it came straight from a factory.

But Yates built it from the ground up in the workshop behind his south Nevada County home.

That’s no exaggeration: he even fabricated the cart’s plastic body parts.

Yates considered hiring a factory to do that, but it would have cost a fortune. No problem. He simply built a machine to fabricate plastic in a corner of his shop.

“I made this monster,” said Yates, who had no previous plastic-fabricating experience.

It’s basically a big table onto which Yates sets wooden forms of the golf cart’s body parts, such as the hood and front grill. A longtime woodworker, Yates made the forms himself.

Then Yates sets sheets of hard ABS plastic like that used in pickup truck bed liners on top of the wooden forms. The plastic is softened by propane heaters positioned above. The wooden forms are riddled with air holes so a vacuum pump can suck the softened plastic tight up against the forms.

Wouldn’t most people have just abandoned the project before they built such a machine from a scratch?

“Maybe I’m just dumb enough” to keep going, Yates replied. “When you want to do something, you’re going to make it work.”

Yates’ workshop wizardry could come from his father, who ran a Los Angeles-area sheet metal shop.

“He used to take all the jobs nobody else wanted,” said Yates, who worked in his dad’s shop as a youth. “All my life, I’ve had to come up with (creative) methods and ways of doing things.”

Yates ran his own heating and air conditioning contracting businesses for years in the Fresno area. He also had a window installation and kitchen-remodeling business in Nevada County for eight years.

“He’s good at everything,” said his wife, Juanita.

Yates started inventing disabled golfers’ equipment pretty much by accident four years ago after he took a course to learn how to custom build golf clubs.

It turned out that people were more interested in a boxlike-device Yates made to feed golf balls onto a practice tee.

It’s ideal for disable players. To release a ball, you don’t need to bend over – you just tap a ball-release lever with your club.

Yates tinkered and tinkered until he perfected the device, which he calls the E.Z.T. Ballfeeder. He fabricates them out of plastic in his shop and has sold 250 to 300 of the ball feeders for $295 each.

Other Yates inventions include the T-Up Club, a $49 club that allows disabled golfers – without bending over – to put a tee in the ground, and pick up and set down golf balls and ball markers.

Yates also developed the “Static Chair,” a $695 chair that allows a disabled golfer to hit a ball from a seated position.

His Model Tee golf cart will be available in a month or so for $4,200, plus shipping. Its features include a foot rest to hold up a golfer’s legs and extra-wide tires that tread softly on greens.

The Yateses hope to focus on production now, as opposed to inventing more devices.

“I keep telling him, ‘No more (new inventions),'” Juanita said.

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