One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.
By Gary Van Sickle
Nathan Sutherland wants to save the environment and help golfers hydrate. Me, I’m just cheap. I mean, who wants to pay for water when you can get it for free?
Sutherland’s decidedly low-tech product for golfers who walk works for both of us, therefore, but for different reasons. Meet the Water Caddy ($39.99 www.thewatercaddy.com), Sutherland’s clever insulated bladder that holds the equivalent of five water bottles and keeps liquid cold for up to five hours, which should be enough for all but the most dreadfully slow golf rounds.
COURTESY OF WATER CADDY
Water Caddy offers golfers a ready source for hydration.
The Water Caddy fits discreetly into a golf bag pocket, and its hose and drinking mouthpiece snap easily onto a bag strap, so I can stride down a fairway and sip water as needed. Sutherland dislikes the waste of plastic bottles. I don’t like paying $3 or more for one. Plus, it seems as if the beverage cart (if there is one) is never around when I need it, or the tee box cooler (if there is one) is always empty when I get there.
Sutherland, 28, got the idea for Water Caddy while mountain biking near Reading, Pa. He used CamelBak water bags to stay hydrated while riding and realized that golfers needed something similar.
Where do you go when you have a smart business idea and need manufacturing prowess? To mom, of course.
Sutherland’s mother, Ann, is an excellent seamstress who once spent months making her own wedding dress. She made some prototypes using neoprene for an outer layer and a silvery material like you find in a to-go beer case to provide insulation for the inner layer. The Sutherlands found a manufacturer in Asia to put it together, and just like that, Sutherland is in the golf business.
He’s no stranger to golf. He was an all-Mid-American Conference player at Miami (Ohio) University and then took a run at pro golf. He played in one Web.com Tour qualifying tournament and was two shots inside the cut line at the second stage (of three stages) going into the final round, then shot 77 and didn’t advance. He turned pro and in 2012 qualified for Web.com events in back-to-back weeks but missed the cuts.
“That was pretty much the highlight of my pro career,” Sutherland said, laughing. “I thought maybe I could crack the egg in three years, but then you play with guys that you know have the stuff. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do this long-term, and I was scared what I was going to do if I was 30 and still hadn’t made it.”
After a frustrating 1½ years, he decided to move on from pro golf. He landed a job with a friend in Reading who started his own company making Keto bars, trendy items for low-carb dieters. Sutherland was the startup’s first employee. His friend had a 42-batch recipe, and he and Sutherland would make 16 of those a day, mixing them by hand, scooping into silicon molds and spreading, then putting them in an oven for 2½ minutes. Then it was rinse and repeat.
Now, the startup has a facility in downtown Reading, seven employees and produces 15,000 bars a week. The idea inspired Sutherland.
“I always wanted to do something like that,” he said. “I figured out you can launch a business on the Internet for not that much. It’s about creating a niche item that people need. I think there is a need for the WaterCaddy.”
COURTESY OF WATER CADDY
The Water Caddy’s hose fits seamlessly onto a golf bag strap.
The need might reach beyond the golf course. Sutherland said some of his buddies take a WaterCaddy to bachelor parties and use it to carry liquids that, ahem, aren’t water. The most unusual WaterCaddy use Sutherland has heard of so far?
“Screwdriver mix,” he said with a laugh. “Use it creatively. I’m definitely open to that.”
Now that he’s got inventory, Sutherland is working on distribution and display. He’s hoping to persuade some PGA professionals to attach it to carry bags that they already have sitting out in their shops.
“I sold 40 in the first three months,” Sutherland said. “It’s nothing crazy, but I’m happy. I sold something on the Internet, so I’m excited.”