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The Story Behind the Death of an Inventor

Caleb Hannan didn’t know Dr. V. He hadn’t even met her. I did. Hannan wrote a 7,700-word piece about putter inventor Essay Anne Vanderbilt for the online site Grantland, which is a home for writers who still do long-form, well-written, well-researched feature articles. “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” was all of those things. Yet, parts of it were incredibly out of bounds. While Hannan was reporting this story, he uncovered some aspects of Vanderbilt’s life that were apparently difficult for him to deal with. And he said things and wrote things and threatened to reveal things that were none of his business. In October, Vanderbilt committed suicide. Three months later, Grantland ran Hannan’s piece. Work that out for yourself. I met Vanderbilt, as I recall, sometime in 2007 at a writers’ gathering in Scottsdale, Ariz. She wanted to be known as Dr. V. She had invented a different-looking putter that she called Yar. I spent a half hour on the putting green with her, making putt after putt while trying to latch onto her description of the science. I understood not a word. But I kept making putts and that’s not something I’m prone to do. Needless to say, it got my attention. She told me later about her credentials: graduate of Penn and MIT and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. She asked that I not write about her and her background because of Department of Defense security clearances. Among other projects, she said she had worked on the Stealth bomber. That’s why she asked us to refer to her as Dr. V. The first time I used the Yar putter in an 18-hole round, I made four birdies on the front nine, a couple from beyond 30 feet. I had never putted like that in my life. I sent her an e-mail to that effect and it wound up on the company’s website.


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