LAKE FOREST, CALIFORNIA | On the afternoon of Dec. 5, 2006, golf club designer Dave Boone left his Orange County, Calif., apartment for a walk.
He never came back.
Boone’s acclaimed Parallax irons, manufactured and sold in the 1990s by Lynx Golf, had won both the Masters and U.S. Open. At 56, though, he was inexplicably missing. Golf at this point was meaningless.
There was speculation that he might be injured or lost in nearby Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, which encompasses 2,500 acres of steep canyons, slopes, hills, oaks, grasslands and scrubs. At night, in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, it can be freezing cold. Mountain lion attacks have been confirmed in the park, which is open year round from 7 a.m. to sunset.
Intensified searches provided no clues. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department deployed bloodhounds and helicopters. The dogs picked up Boone’s scent, but this led nowhere. Likewise, search and rescue teams found nothing. Boone was intimately familiar with this land. He walked it frequently. A former college football player, he knew how to protect himself.
Some of Boone’s friends, especially those from the glory days of Lynx, wondered about a possible psychological breakdown. Lynx went out of business after declaring bankruptcy in 1998. Boone, the chief golf club designer, left the faltering company before the bankruptcy and ultimately became executive vice president of Zevo Golf. Unfortunately Zevo followed the path of Lynx, liquidating its assets in 2003.
Furthermore, Boone was separated from his wife, Terrie Boone. They had four sons.
Those sons, aged 17 to 27 at the time, organized their own search party. Riding mountain bicycles, they meticulously scoured the surrounding land, looking for clues. Hundreds of additional friends and church members were on foot. They found nothing.
Terrie Boone, to her credit, pulled the family together. “She’s like that, a real mother hen,” said Parker Boone, the oldest of the four boys.
Today, more than 12 years since Boone vanished, there still are no clues to his fate, no indication of what might have happened.
The last documented mountain lion death in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park occurred in 2004 when a 35-year-old man was mauled by a 122-pound cat as he attempted to repair his bicycle alongside a trail. The park contains a 17-mile network of bicycle, hiking and equestrian trails.
A 30-year-old woman was attacked in 2004 by the same mountain lion – confirmed by DNA testing – and was dragged by the head into the nearby brush. She survived only because other park visitors were able to drive the animal away.
The park was temporarily closed in 2016 after an aggressive mountain lion snarled at several hikers. Ordinarily the animals keep to themselves and do not approach humans.
“I’ve been (bicycle) riding all through there since I was a kid,” said Parker Boone, now 39. “I’ve never seen a mountain lion, although I’m sure they’ve seen me.”
Adding to the mystery, Boone’s wallet, money, keys and bicycle were left at the apartment, which he shared with Davis, his youngest son. Many of his papers relating to new golf club designs were there, too.
“There were no warm clothes missing from the closet. It was as if he just walked out,” said Adam Boone, the second oldest son.
With the help of a former FBI agent, the boys were able to access everything in their father’s computer. They found no irregularities, nothing to indicate he planned to travel or adopt a new identity.
“We quickly became detectives,” said Parker Boone. “We had to answer a lot of questions. If our father created a false identity to run away from his life, how would that look? How would that manifest itself?”
Added Davis Boone: “We tried to correlate the amount of stress he would be in. It was sort of a bottom point for our father. If he couldn’t look the family in the eye, what was he feeling? Was there a health issue? Did he break a leg or something? Was he just clearing his head?”
Concluded Adam Boone: “We ended up with lots of information that we gathered on our own. We had his bank records, his credit card activity, every financial document for the last five years.
“The evidence shows that there was no planning. We found no indication that our father wanted to get away from it all. We looked at every possible scenario. We checked with all the hospitals. We distributed fliers. We tried to get as much publicity as possible.”
Boone made his reputation with Lynx. Upon his disappearance, those who expressed their concern and curiosity included major golf champions Fred Couples and Ernie Els. As Lynx staff members, they were direct beneficiaries of Boone’s immense skills.
In 1991, Boone finished his design of the Lynx Parallax iron. He had been working on it for several years. The first set went to Couples, who was under contract to Tommy Armour Golf but still put the new irons in play at the Johnnie Walker World Championship near the end of 1991.
Couples won the tournament. In January 1992, he became an official Lynx staff member and ended up using Parallax irons to capture four tournament titles in four months – the Johnnie Walker, Nissan Los Angeles Open, Nestle (Arnold Palmer) Invitational, and the 1992 Masters.
Two years later, in 1994, Els won the U.S. Open with the Parallax irons. His experience was much like that of Couples.
“I started winning with them from the get-go,” Els recalled. “I won in Dubai, then I won in South Africa. In Dubai, I shot 61 in the first round, then held off Greg Norman (No. 1 in the world at the time) in the final round.
“I was absolutely shocked when I heard about David,” Els said. “It struck me how much he meant to my career. He really believed in me. More than that, he was a good person, a great person. I cannot tell you how much he loved his boys. Family and golf – those were his priorities.”
Couples, too, noted Boone’s affection for his boys. At a Skins Game practice round one year, Couples invited Parker Boone inside the ropes to hit a shot with one of the Parallax irons.
“Wow, what a thrill,” Parker said. “That was at Bighorn (Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.). Freddie was great to all of us.”
Couples reflected on the Parallax design: “He (Boone) kind of made the irons for me. It was fun playing so well. It was really nice to see that Ernie felt the same way I did. We felt like they were really, really state-of-the-art clubs.”
Michelle McGann said much the same thing as Couples and Els: “I won every one of my golf tournaments (seven LPGA victories) with those clubs. Dave Boone was the guy who helped us with our clubs. He was somebody you could always rely on. He was such a positive man. He provided an extra bit of confidence. It was fun, being part of that team, rooting for those guys.”
The Ping Eye2 iron had inspired a new generation of investment cast, stainless steel irons with cavity backs. Prior to that, most irons were blades that had been forged from carbon steel.
Some thought the Lynx Parallax was the standout of the new irons. “To my eye, it looked better than the others,” Couples said.
Marveled John Carey, president of Lynx at the time: “I had seen the clubs, but I hadn’t hit them. We were at Virginia Country Club (in Long Beach, Calif.). Dave knew I couldn’t hit a 2-iron, but he handed me a 2-iron anyway. I wanted to tell him he was crazy, but he was clever, always making clubs just a little bit better. What the heck, I started hitting the 2-iron. I was killing the ball. It was amazing. I really could get it up in the air. I told him, ‘You get this thing patented right away,’ and he did.”
Boone was a larger-than-life kind of guy. A former tight end on the Fullerton College football team, he was rock solid at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. He also was a long-hitting club professional who twice made it through the local qualifying round for the U.S. Open.
“A man’s man” is what Els called him.
“I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of a fight with David Boone,” said his longtime friend, toolmaker Byron Butler. “He was a big, tough guy.”
Tough, but with an endearing, outgoing personality.
If golf journalists had conducted a popularity poll, Boone probably would have ranked at the top along with Callaway Golf founder Ely Callaway. Those were memorable times, Boone sometimes hosting writers at the Nevada golf club foundry built by Lynx.
“Ak-n-bock,” he would say to me, “we’ve got to visit the foundry. You need to see what we are doing with our new irons. Bring your clubs.”
And thus it was that Lynx, along with Ping and Cobra, led an iron revolution in the 1990s.
Dave and Terrie met through her father, who was fond of the long-hitting assistant pro at Alta Vista Country Club in Placentia, Calif. “His parents were members there,” Terrie said, “and that’s where Dave learned to play golf. My dad talked me into taking golf lessons. I didn’t care any more than the man in the moon about golf but I went anyway.”
Terrie happened to be engaged at the time, and Dave not so subtly suggested, “I think you should break that off.” She did.
Boone was like that – no nonsense, just an opinionated, straightforward observer of everything around him.
“He had a big personality,” said Dave Gast, who was involved in the marketing of many different golf products. “He was very dynamic, which is exactly what you wanted in the golf business. Everybody knew Dave Boone.”
And that included the neighborhood kids in Lake Forest. “He was so big, he was a pretty terrifying guy from a kid’s perspective,” said Davis Boone. “But all our friends liked him. He was a totally dorky guy. He built his own telescopes. He would wake us up at 3 in the morning to see something in the sky. He would always stop for a snake in the road. Sometimes he would bring home a snake in his golf bag. He was very much an animal guy. If there ever was an animal to be caught, all the neighbors would call the Boones.”
The saga of Dave Boone is also the saga of Lynx. As Lynx soared, so did Boone. He was a golf star. Later, as Lynx plummeted, so did Boone. When he fell, he fell hard.
Boone, brought to Lynx by Carey, previously had worked for Wilson and Daiwa. Both were large international sporting goods brands with innovative golf divisions. Although Boone was a sales representative for these companies, he was always tinkering with clubs and creating new designs.
Carey recognized Boone’s talent and made him product manager at Lynx. After the Parallax came another extremely popular iron, the Black Cat. Lynx was flying high.
“With the Parallax and the Black Cat, the phone lines were ringing off the hook,” Carey said. “We had this wonderful receptionist who would answer the phone. We would always joke, ‘How’s your jaw today?’ because she was talking non-stop to people who were calling in.”
Not only did Boone design the clubs, but he also created the Lynx touring staff, headlined by Couples, Els, McGann and Gil Morgan. Thus Boone became an institution at Lynx. He was a club designer and tour rep rolled into one. Around the company, he was known as a guy who loved golf and was extremely generous to those who shared his affection for the game.
Butler, the toolmaker who collaborated with Boone on most of the Lynx designs, was a recipient of that generosity. First, he was given a vintage Indian motorcycle by Boone and Lynx. An accompanying card said simply, “From the Indian givers at Lynx.”
Then Butler was the recipient of a royalty arrangement for the Black Cat iron – 25 cents for each iron that was sold.
Butler didn’t think much about it until the quarterly checks started growing. Eventually he accumulated, by his count, about $500,000. “We were like brothers,” Butler said, “but I never expected anything like this. It was the most unbelievable thing that ever happened to me in golf.”
The saga of Dave Boone is also the saga of Lynx. As Lynx soared, so did Boone. He was a golf star. Later, as Lynx plummeted, so did Boone. When he fell, he fell hard.
As golf club production moved outside the United States – particularly to China, where labor was considerably cheaper – the giants of the golf equipment industry were able to spend less on golf club components and much more on advertising and marketing.
Lynx had trouble keeping up.
And then there were some bad business decisions. Zurn Industries, which owned Lynx, sold the company.
According to newspapers accounts, the new ownership group was headed by G. Louis Graziadio III and included actors Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson, tennis star Pete Sampras, basketball legend Jerry West, and television broadcaster Jim Nantz, as well as Couples and several well-known business executives.
Regardless, they failed miserably in the golf marketplace. After the sale, Lynx moved from the City of Industry, Calif., to Carlsbad, Calif., but defaulted on a $3.4 million bank loan in 1998 and filed for bankruptcy protection.
“I never understood why the company never used its biggest asset – those celebrities – in trying to market its clubs,” said Bud Leedom, who started a publication called Golf Insight & Investing.
On the other hand, a golf company run by famous people didn’t make sense to some insiders. Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf, said he was approached by Lynx. “They wanted to merge with Adams, and they wanted me to run it,” Adams reported. “I told them they would have to disband the board. If I came in, they were out. They had no experience in running a golf company. It was doomed from the beginning, I’m afraid.”
The Boone boys grew accustomed to their dad showing up with celebrities and famous golfers. Some of Boone’s old friends still joke that he might be discovered somewhere in the world on a picture-perfect beach, sipping an exotic drink (even though, as a member of the Mormon church, he didn’t smoke or drink).
“Well, I just hope he’s somewhere where he can read this story,” said Terrie Boone.
Boone could be a voracious reader, particularly when the subject was new scientific developments. His best driver, the high-tech Compressor, came after he joined Zevo.
The Compressor contained an internal compression device made of a material called Zylon. This device, designed for stability, connected the sole and crown of the driver.
Manufactured in Japan, Zylon was said to be 40 percent stronger and 12.5 percent lighter than carbon fiber. The Zylon compression device, weighing less than 2 grams, was connected to the sole on one end and the crown on the other, using aerospace fasteners. Tension that compressed the two together was applied with a precisely calibrated torque wrench.
“Without this technology, you have expansion and movement of the driver head,” Boone said at the time. “You’re dissipating energy.”
After Zevo closed, Boone created clubs for several small South Korean manufacturers. By this time, many golf club makers were using computer software to design clubs, and Boone’s brilliant 13 years at Lynx were largely underappreciated.
As unfair as this may have seemed, it was the reality of the modern golf industry. Companies were looking for any strategy to cut costs and boost revenues.
Sean Toulon, now general manager of the Odyssey putter division of Callaway Golf, remains a devout admirer of Boone. “Very intelligent, a super curious guy,” reflected Toulon, who worked with Boone at Zevo. “He had a relentless sense of creativity. He didn’t cut any corners. The Compressor was a great driver. It showed what a unique, imaginative guy he was. I always had a deep respect for Dave Boone.”
According to Terrie Boone, who worked as a recruiter for a large international law firm until her retirement in 2018, there was never any money to be inherited or collected. No death certificate has been issued. Furthermore, the family has decided to forgo any more public comments on the disappearance.
“The boys and I want to move forward and think about Dave and love him in our own private way,” Terrie explained. “Rather than add to the story, I think I’ll just back away and decline to make comments from now on. We’re going to move forward with our family, and I think that’s the best way to handle it.”
To the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Dave Boone appears to be little more than another missing face. On the OCSD website, his photo is first in a lineup of missing persons. There are zero leads. There is nothing new. It has been this way for a decade.
Mark Stichter, the public information officer for the OCSD, was straightforward: “This case is currently open with our homicide/missing person detail. There are no new leads on this case.”
And that was that.
Internationally recognized sports psychologist Bob Winters talked in depth about the tricky mental challenges often faced by golfers, whether they are touring professionals or golf industry figures.”Golf is a dog eat dog sport,” Winters summarized. “There can be severe psychological trauma. Golf can be a dream smasher. One day you are living a dream and the next day somebody obliterates it. You’re on top of the world and suddenly your whole world is turned upside down. This is my golden egg and somebody destroys it.”
Looking at the big picture, the boys clearly have encountered their own scrambled emotions. With their lives full of uncertainties and unanswered questions, not one of the four married until late in 2016.
On November 11, 2016, Adam Boone married Sharon Bounvongxay in Oahu, Hawaii. It was a joyous occasion, although still dominated in a sense by the one person who wasn’t there. The figure of Dave Boone creates ever-present memories in this family.
Brandon Boone revealed a photo that was hidden under his suit jacket. It pictured Dave Boone and the four boys, all holding a snake. “Dad is with us today,” Brandon told his mother.
In the years since Boone’s disappearance, one more theory has emerged. A few people have raised the possibility of revenge or retribution.
“I suspect it could have been foul play,” said Ron Drapeau, who followed Carey as president of Lynx. “He convinced a lot of people to put money into the (golf) business. There might have been some very bad feelings.”
Before the disappearance, a mysterious phone call came to the Boone residence.
Terrie Boone remains perplexed by the message – “We know where you live” – although she does not discount the gravity of the words.
Overall there remains a deep sadness in her eyes, as she clearly mourns the loss of a father who adored his four sons. The boys have pretty much bottled up their personal intuitions about their father’s fate. They rarely address their beliefs in public, and they have conducted their grieving in private. As the proverb goes, big boys don’t cry, particularly when they are thrust unexpectedly into manhood.
The inevitable question is posed by Brandon Boone: “Did he end his own life? No, I don’t think he did. I think he’s still out there.”
Brandon talks about a persistent dream: He bumps into his father in a convenience store. Startled, his first reaction is to head-butt his dad. Then they embrace.
Adam Boone offers a different point of view. “If he was still out there, I think something would show up. From a logical point of view, it seems like such an impossibility to start a second life.”
Terrie Boone, meanwhile, looks back. “After everything that happened to him, he was not the same man,” she said softly.
In general, the golf industry didn’t help. “There weren’t many at all who contacted us,” she lamented. “It was like they didn’t care.”
The heavy-hearted truth is that this family probably will never know the fate of its patriarch. The boys seem to sense this. Life goes on, they are told, although a strong argument can be made that life has denied them a full understanding of this prolonged cataclysm.
Because of the unexplained disappearance of their father, they remain extra-sensitive young men in a world that often reverberates with insensitivity. This is not a happy ending.
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