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Their product is called Simple Circle, but it took hours of painstaking work to propel a trio of Eastern Kentucky University PGA Professional Golf Management students to a third-place finish, and a $10,000 prize, in the business plan division of the recent Idea State U competition.

Simple Circle is a patented tool that uses sand to make the process of drawing circles on a golf green or any sports field, well, simple. It is the brainchild of seniors Craig Hicks, Aylett, Virginia; Konnor Kimmel, Columbus, Indiana; and Austin Molen, Florence, Kentucky.

The popularity of using circles around the golf hole has grown due to the partnership between the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), the United States Golf Association (USGA), and Augusta National Golf Club to form an initiative called Drive Chip & Putt, according to Dr. Laura Barthel, team adviser.

Drive Chip & Putt, a national junior golf competition, is scored on driving, chipping and putting skills by applying measured circles around golf holes to represent different point values. Qualifiers hosted across the country lead to Augusta National, home of the Masters, for the championship event.

“Simple Circle gives accurate and temporary circles to see measurable results for practice, instruction and overall enjoyment of golf,” Barthel said.

Another EKU team placed fourth in the Business Model category, taking home $2,000 for its project, Moe Mi, “the Uber of lawn care,” a mobile phone application that connects homeowners with lawn care specialists to provide hassle-free same-day service without long-term contracts. Members of the Moe Mi team are Nathan Hall, senior human resource management major from Richmond, Kentucky; and Kyle Marcum from Somerset Community College.

Both teams will plow the winnings back into their businesses. The Simple Circle team plans to use the money to finalize its prototype and fill its first purchase from the PGA to be the official tool for the national Drive Chip & Putt competition. Moe Mi will continue application development.

Rick Johnson, state director of the Kentucky Innovation Network, said the competition, involving colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth, “has gotten steeper every year, and this year exceeded expectations.”

Barthel noted that the teams’ work did not stem from course requirements at EKU.

“They put in numerous hours for this competition in addition to all their senior projects,” she said. “For the competition, they write the business plan, create a marketing video, create and host a trade-show table display, present a 60-second pitch, and present their business plan and answer questions from a panel of entrepreneurial judges.”

Molen, the inventor of Simple Circle, “led his team with diligent focus,” Barthel added. “Nathan Hall’s team has competed three times with three different ideas. He has been Management, Marketing and International Business’ serial entrepreneur, and we will miss his innovative perspective in our department since he is graduating. All his previous ideas are moving forward. His first patent has been sent to SE Johnson for licensure review, and his Longevity Tea recipe is being formulated for production.”