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A Duffer's Dream
Antitheft retail tags inspired RadarGolf founder Chris Savarese to tackle one of the sport's major annoyances.
By Siri Schubert

(FORTUNE Small Business) – THE PROBLEM

With a handicap of 17, Chris Savarese spent a fair amount of time in the tall weeds whenever he played a round of golf. After hitting a particularly bad slice on a course in 1993, Savarese headed to a patent library in search of the ideal system for tracking wayward balls. He unearthed several approaches—the oldest dating back to 1925—but none was the hole in one he was seeking.


Later, while shopping at a department store, Savarese saw someone trip an alarm by unwittingly leaving with a sweater that had its security tag attached. "That technology might work in a golf ball," he thought. So Savarese asked a cashier for some sample security tags, took them home, cracked them open, and found the tiny radio-frequency-ID antennas inside. Soon after, he raised $80,000 from friends and quit his sales job to work on the idea.


Savarese launched RadarGolf in October 2005, selling packages of a dozen radio-tagged balls with a homing device that can detect them up to 100 feet away ($199); retailers include Golfsmith and Sharper Image. Savarese says revenue grew 30% a month during golf season and broke $1 million in 2006. Running a startup means his game has suffered, of course. Still, though he sprays more balls into the woods when he tees up, now he finds just about all of them.