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Visit Knoxville Open golf trophy

Engineering Vols Get in the Zone to Create Custom Golf Trophy

Students of the UT Maker’s Club and staff members of the Innovation and Collaboration Studio (ICS) hit the course this spring for a project that linked engineering and design with the world of professional golf. They redesigned and delivered a custom trophy for the Visit Knoxville Open golf tournament, which took place May 13–16 at Holston Hills Country Club.

Marc Gibson, UT’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Research, heard about the need for a trophy from his wife, Kelli, who is the senior director of convention services at Visit Knoxville. He connected them with UT’s Maker’s Club and Michael Allen, academic support specialist for the ICS and the Engineering Fundamentals Program.

Maker's Club student oversees woodworking of the trophy design.
A Maker’s Club student oversees the woodworking for the Visit Knoxville golf trophy.

“I had worked with Michael and the ICS prior to COVID on the design, crafting, and manufacturing of gifts for board members rolling off of the Office of Research and Engagement’s External Advisory Council,” said Gibson. He knew the team would come in under par with something unique for the tournament. “Michael and his students are incredible ambassadors for the Tickle College of Engineering.”

Visit Knoxville sent the TCE team an inspiration picture of a trophy from a previous tournament. They used that photo as a launching point, but they hit a long drive in design to make it unique to Knoxville.

“It’s very different in a lot of ways,” said Allen. “It has a similar shape, but is made out of a different material. The woods are quite a bit different. We incorporated their logo with the tee and the ball, and the Sunsphere on top.”

The finished trophy carries over a circular “golf ball on a tee” motif from the older design. But the ICS/Maker’s team turned the circle into a hybrid Sunsphere/golf ball image sitting on top of a removable tee. The base of the trophy is lacquered solid walnut with raised lettering reading, “Visit Knoxville Open 2021 Champion.” An inscription on the bottom gives information on the Maker’s Club and ICS.

“We’re quite happy with it,” said Allen. “We were originally not going to make the tee removable. But once we got into it, we thought it would be kind of a neat concept. The students really liked that, and so does the team at Visit Knoxville.”

“Knoxville is all about partnerships and connections,” said Visit Knoxville President Kim Bumpas. “The Visit Knoxville Open trophy is a great example of just that. So when a Visit Knoxville team member first mentioned The Maker’s Club at the University of Tennessee and the idea of 3-D printing—we all got excited. A few emails and mock ups later, we had this amazing, one-of-a-kind trophy. We could not be more pleased and can’t wait to see it raised high by the first Visit Knoxville Open Champion.”

Students on the project included Leo Beale, Mason Phillips, Sam Baumann, Andrew Rutter, Kevin Nguyen, Nathan Black, and Ben Isbell.

One challenge was in the woodwork of the base, a truncated pyramid shape with beveled edges that called for a precise 46.2-degree cut that also lined up squarely at the corners. The students had not done this kind of angle work before.

“It was a good learning experience,” said Allen. “You have to be super precise on your angles and cuts. We spent about two or three hours setting up the saws, tuning them up, making sure everything was in line, and then got them lined up for the actual cuts. Once we did that, they actually came together quite well.”

Students also did the lathe work on the oversized golf tee of the trophy, and the laser cutting of the Sunsphere-ish golf ball motif.

Will Schleter, distinguished lecturer in TCE’s Engineering Fundamentals Program, helped with the printing of the trophy, and also volunteered help keep score for the tournament.

The trophy was presented following the final rounds of the tournament on Sunday, May 16. The tournament is part of the Korn Ferry Tour, which serves as the Professional Golf Association’s developmental tour. It features golfers who are working their way towards their full PGA Tour Card.

Read about the tournament.