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Volume 4, Issue 12 – December 2014

Happy Holidays to all Crazy Town Citizens –

It has been an eventful and challenging year in the golf business. If you’re like most industry people I’ve spoken with, you’re looking forward to turning the page into 2015 and seeing 2014 in your rear-view mirror. By the way, that’s not true for everyone – we work with many businesses that had highly successful years. Regardless, there always seems to be a charge of optimism as we gear up, literally, for the PGA Merchandise Show in January (golf business people are “glass half full” kind of people) and I embrace the positivity.

In any sport or business, engaged folks are always looking for the next big thing, right? A massively talented up-and-coming phenom is typically hyped as “the new Jack, the heir to Gretzky or the next Jordan.” Most clear heads understand that these icons are one-of-a-kind individuals and that whatever the “next” anything is… it won’t be a direct replacement. This variety of hyperbole has a habit of setting folks up for disappointment.

I’ve recently taken notice of articles that suggest alternatives to golf as the ultimate sport for business. An article published just last week (http://www.aol.com/article/2014/12/03/the-golfer-s-substitute-exploring-what-might-replace-the-tradit/21001219/) explored a number of other choices. Poker, cycling and fishing were among the suggestions of business-wise options. The most curious thing about that article (which didn’t completely write-off golf as the champion of biz sports), is that it was written by a college Junior! Now, Northwestern is a fantastic university, but does it really make sense for an article about corporate relationship building to be written by somebody who’s still in school?

In 2013 and 2014, articles started popping up about cycling as the next big thing replacing golf for productive out-of-office business. It should come as no surprise that the folks promoting the power of the peloton were in the cycling business… and those in the media appeared happy to promote this “emerging trend” since it furthers their negative agenda on golf.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/29/smallbusiness/cycling-golf-entrepreneurs/

I have absolutely nothing against cycling or any other activity that people are passionate about. In fact, I’m just a huge fan of people who are passionate about anything that brings them great personal satisfaction. However, much like those singular athletes that inspire us cannot be supplanted, I do believe that golf is quite secure as the ideal sport for business people interested in getting a sense for each other.

Golf is the ultimate relationship and deal-making sport for several reasons, including the invaluable four-plus hours together (not counting the 19thhole time), the mutual enjoyment of a beautiful outdoor environment and the general camaraderie that the game inspires. However, the ultimate argument for golf is the window into the character and psyche of the player that any round provides. Perhaps surprisingly, this most meaningful truth about golf is one that the suggestors of its replacement either choose to ignore…or more likely, simply don’t understand. The mayor’s argument goes something like this…

Senior executives, especially business owners and C-level people on top of the pyramid, must be (or appear to be) decisive, secure, confident and rarely expose any cracks in their armor while in a professional setting. In fact, most big bosses go to great lengths to avoid even the possibility that they could be vulnerable, or heaven forbid, embarrassed… in the presence of associates, partners, vendors or anyone they do business with. Golf presents a rare situation, indeed.

A round of golf is a virtual guarantee of foolish looking moments, sub-standard performance and if I’m being really dramatic… utter humiliation. There may be no other scenario where a business leader would voluntarily allow themselves to be so vulnerable. And when leaders inevitably flip a divot over their ball, chunk a chip or shank one miserably into the woods, then we all get to see how they handle such adversity. It’s an absolutely unique and brilliant opportunity to get into the head of somebody you do business with… or prospectively so.

Do they whine? Do they make excuses? Do they cheat (OMG)? How seriously do they take themselves? Do they show genuine humility… or expose a raging temper? As an admitted arm-chair psychologist, golf is a goldmine.

As the sport for business, golf simply has no substitute. Cheers to a great 2015 and I wish you many wonderful moments with family and friends… on and off the course.

Happy Holidays from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 11 – November 2014


Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

In a Mayor’s Blog first… this is the climactic episode in a three-part series on how I first met Joe Beditz and ended up at the NGF. (Read part one here, and part two here.)  It’s a story that could apply to anyone and everyone.  It’s about good fortune and a series of events… some mundane and others downright lucky and serendipitous…that resulted in a complete life change for me and my family.

Please indulge me for a moment as I take a step back in time to my early 20s as a junior advertising executive in NYC.  Though no members of my family played golf (and my competitive athletics had focused primarily on tennis and ice hockey), I had gone “all in” on golf as I finished my undergraduate education at Lehigh University and joined the world of young professionals in The Big Apple.

I enjoyed the ad business, was motivated to do well, and had the good fortune to work for three high-performing companies.  I was energized by the collaborative process, developed deep friendships and learned new disciplines from many gifted and talented people.

However, my professional dreams were all set in the golf business.  I knew I wanted to organize my life’s work in and around golf.  At that time, I could not have given you a traditional job description of what I was looking for… but my dream sounded something like this:

“The depth of my passion for golf and the golf business is insatiable. I want to be in the middle of it all.  In an ideal world, I image myself in a position where I get to work with the leading CEOs and executives in golf.  I want to know them… and I want them to know me.”

I did not know what this job was… or if it even existed in any reality.  But fast forward to early February 2007 (after ten years in advertising and seven years at GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com), and here I was in Jupiter, FL on a family vacation… about to sit down in Joe Beditz’s office to talk about the NGF and a role he was looking to fill. If you read last month’s blog, you might recall that Joe had responded to my unexpected call (made only after strong urgings from mentor John Dunning during golf at McArthur), by inviting me to play golf with him at McArthur.  TIP to all golf husbands on vacation – an on-course interview for a job is one of the best ways to get permission for an extra round of vacation golf… but I digress…

So I finished the drive back to the apartment where Alyson and I were staying with our five year old son, Jack… anticipating my round of golf with Dr. Beditz the next day.  More than seven years on from that night, I can tell you that my son threw up more times that night than he has in the rest of his life, combined!  It was an absolute disaster.  Linens were destroyed, brains were fried, and nobody slept.  I was going to have to ask Joe for a rain check while Alyson and I recovered and looked after our sick little boy.

Joe was very understanding and invited me to NGF for a late afternoon visit instead. I sat down in Joe’s office on this typically gorgeous South Florida day and he enlightened me regarding the unique, strategic and exciting projects that NGF executes with its private clients.  When I learned of the list of brands like TaylorMade, Titleist, Toro, Club Car, Club Corp, GOLF Magazine, PGA TOUR who engaged the NGF as a trusted research, consulting and database partner, my interest grew exponentially. Who knew they did all this?  This didn’t sound like boring work with a bunch of research geeks at all!

Joe wheeled over to his computer desk and printed out the job description for the position he was looking to fill at the organization.  He explained that he had been searching for a while… had a search firm engaged, and even had two finalists… but the door was still open for what he called “a dark horse candidate.”

Joe handed me the job description, which was surprisingly detailed.  It was three full pages, single spaced.  He advised me to “take your time… have a seat on the couch and give it a read. Then you can let me know if you’re still interested.” This was easily the most important document I’ve ever read.  Paragraph by paragraph, the three pages spoke to me. They outlined the current and future prospects and responsibilities for the role… but even better… it described the person who could excel and thrive… and laid out some VERY high expectations for the individual.

A crazy thing was happening… as I internalized the words, I physically could not stop myself from smiling.  Everything I read described the person I was at that time, and more critically, it vividly articulated the vision for how the ideal candidate would need to grow.  Plain and simple, the document described the person I was at the time… and the person I wanted to be.

I went back to Joe, asked if he was ready to continue our talk… and proceeded to tell him that I was very interested in being his dark horse candidate.  I decided in my mind at that moment… that this job was for me… it was going to be mine… and started to consider how I was going to hunt it down… and drag it into my cave so nobody else could have it.

More than seven eventful years later, I can tell you how fortunate I am that I actually found and won the position I had imagined in my early 20s.  The job actually did exist in reality… the needle in a haystack was in Jupiter at the NGF.

At one time during the interview process (maybe more), I told Joe that he’d be crazy not to hire me.  I’m so glad he did.  I wake up every single day, thinking about ways to help the golf companies we serve, and hopefully ensure that our members/clients, Joe, the board of directors of the NGF and my co-workers are as grateful as I am that we found each other.

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 10 – October 2014

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

In last month’s episode, I recounted the story of my first in-person meeting with Joe Beditz at the January 2007 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. After easily filling 90 minutes and recognizing early signs of some philosophical simpaticosity (I think I may have just invented a word!), he threw the line out to me that NGF was “looking for someone” and he asked me if I “knew anybody” who might be interested in such a position.  I might have been born at night… but not last night, as the saying goes.  I knew what Joe was up to… but I have to admit… I was only mildly interested.

At this time, I don’t think Joe was aware that I had spent a week each of the previous ten years in NGF’s backyard of Palm Beach Gardens visiting my in-laws.  Since that perennial visit was during the heart of the “blue hair” season in February, you would not be surprised to know that my wife Alyson and I thought the average age near NGF was 70+.  We had never actually seen anything that looked like a young family that resembled ours.  On top of that, I was like most people in golf… I was extremely familiar with the three letters “NGF,” but not very clear on what the NGF did for many of golf’s leading companies… at least not familiar enough to be excited by the prospect.

Just like it was yesterday, I can visualize the conversation I had with Alyson back in Irvington, NY when I returned from the PGA Show following the meeting with Joe.  The conversation can be summed up with one line I remember uttering.  “I just can’t see us moving to Florida and working with a bunch of research geeks.”  Boy was I wrong. My vision is starting to deteriorate now at 45… but apparently it was pretty cloudy already in 2007.  I wrote the idea off and continued my work in NY at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com.

However, our annual February trip to Palm Beach Gardens was only a few weeks after I had drawn this not-so-brilliant conclusion about whether or not to follow up on Joe’s teasing inquiry. Each of these Florida trips south from cold NY were fantastic opportunities to play golf and I tended to take my course selection very seriously (big surprise to those who know the Mayor). I tried to play at least one great south Florida course on each year’s trip.  I had previously knocked off places like Old Marsh, Emerald Dunes, Medalist, Frenchman’s Creek, PGA National Champion Course, The Bear’s Club and even Seminole. I had my sights set on McArthur Golf Club for this particular trip.

To facilitate the McArthur invite, I reached out to my friend and mentor, John Dunning.  John was a veteran of the Sports Marketing (IMG) and advertising agency businesses (BBDO) and we developed a great friendship after a cold-call he made to me at GOLF Magazine regarding contract research work he was pursuing.  We enjoyed some terrific conversations about… you guessed it… golf… and he made me aware that he spent his winters down in the Delray Beach area.  John was very well-connected in south Florida so I asked him about the prospects of a McArthur invitation.  It didn’t take John much time at all to call me back with a day and time for a round at McArthur.  Fantastic!  Now I just need to negotiate my holiday golf day(s) with Alyson.  Done.

The drive north to McArthur from the apartment where I was staying goes directly past the NGF building in Jupiter.  This was an easy reminder to discuss my Beditz breakfast with John during the round.  I knew he’d be interested.  This was about to be a life-changing round of golf.

After a few warm up holes and easy conversation, I started telling John about my meeting with Joe in Orlando.  I provided the meaningful detail on the conversation and the subsequent decision that I made… not to pursue the NGF position any further.

John abruptly brought his stroll down the fairway to a halt.  He turned squarely to me (I had also put the brakes on) and said with great seriousness:  “Greg, Beditz is a very smart cookie.  You absolutely have to go back to him and talk more about this.” I was surprised by John’s conviction on this… but it was extremely convincing.  He didn’t need to say anything else about it.

As I drove back down U.S. Highway 1 past the NGF building, I called Joe and explained that I had really enjoyed our breakfast and would like to learn more about the position.  “I’m down on vacation so I’m without a suit, but I’d really enjoy coming up to the office and meeting with you again… if the position was still available.”  I could hear Joe’s smile through the phone and he surprised me by asking me if I wanted to join him for golf the following day… at McArthur Golf Club!

The McArthur round with Joe didn’t happen… stay tuned for next month’s issue to find out why.

To be continued…

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 9 – September 2014

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

Earlier this month, the team here in Jupiter celebrated Joe Beditz’s 30thyear with the National Golf Foundation. On his request, the modest anniversary menu included what I’ll call “slider-sized” hot dogs and mini-rolls flown in from his favorite foodstand in his childhood hometown of Troy, New York.  Joe is passionate about his cuisine, and he coached the staff regarding the liberal application of Charlie’s trademark special chili-ish sauce.  It was a unique condiment, indeed, one best enjoyed with complete ignorance of the ingredients (I noticed a chemical un-bundling of multiple liquids and solids in the jar… perhaps a sign that the component parts were not the most healthful).  In fact, I have my doubts that this sauce can be definitively tied to any of the four food groups.


Hot Dog Charlie’s in Troy, NY

It must be noted that Joe truly has a diverse and sophisticated palate and he’s an excellent chef… yet, five years ago, his 25th anniversary celebration featured Chicago-dogs from Portillo’s.  They arrived in Florida, complete with poppy-seed buns, celery salt, banana peppers and all the other traditional trimmings… but that’s enough about franks… unless we’re talking about J. Francis Beditz.

Joe was hired by David Hueber in 1984 and succeeded him as president five years later in 1989. Beditz originally had grabbed a bulletin board ad for a research director position and imagined himself in the role at The Foundation… “I guess I could try this for a couple of years,” he thought to himself.  His three-decade tenure at the helm of NGF covers a period that has seen enormous industry growth, golf companies going public, and the transition into today’s hyper-competitive zero-sum-game.

Today, the business is characterized by an unprecedented strategic and tactical market share battle for golfers, rounds and dollars.  There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, a dynamic that tends to inspire innovation and new thinking… two things that Joe has always tried to instill into the organization.  Perhaps it is his dedication to a mentality un-tethered by the status quo that has Joe and the NGF working as closely as ever with golf’s business leaders… all looking for just a little bit of an edge.  Dr. Joe still has great energy and enthusiasm, and it’s contagious.

I had read Joe’s writing and even seen his picture when I was working at GOLF MAGAZINE between 2000 and 2007.  I consumed all the NGF material I could get my hands on… and I developed a nice NGF relationship through Andy Allen, who helped me every time I needed anything.  I kept coming across Dr. Beditz’s name and reports, but I had never met the man.  When Andy called me in late 2006 to let me know he was moving his family to the Winston-Salem area and leaving NGF, I took that opportunity to introduce myself to Joe personally.  I called down to Jupiter and asked Joe if he wanted to meet up at the Orlando PGA Merchandise Show in January of 2007.

Our first-ever meeting took place during a breakfast at the Rosen Hotel next to the convention center.  My NY snobbishness had me thinking that Joe’s sportcoat was one tweed away from the thrift shop (I’ve never told him that until now… and he’s long since upgraded), but I chalked it up to being a reflection of his professorial/Ph.D. nature.

Perhaps needless to say (since I’ve just recently celebrated my own 7thanniversary at NGF), it was a great breakfast.  We spent at least 90 minutes together and the more we talked, the more we seemed to be philosophically in sync as it related to certain views on the golf business.  Executives from other companies were coming in and out of the open restaurant where we were eating… and… without being rude to one-another… each of us stopped to talk to those we knew over the course of the meal.  I watched him and I’m guessing he was also observing me.  I instantly liked Joe for many reasons… but there was one in particular that I couldn’t completely put my finger on at the time:

Joe and I both love people. 

This point of commonality is a gift, and I suspect he feels the same way.  Loving people means we take great satisfaction in helping them, which translates directly into NGF’s business.  Joe made it clear to me from the beginning of our professional relationship… that our job is to concentrate on the success of our members and clients.  I have learned that this is not as easy as it sounds, because NGF’s capability to help golf businesses will always be dependent upon the evolution of the products, services and market intelligence we offer… We always try to be out in front of what the industry needs and develop those assets.

For 30 years, Joe has made some very astute decisions that have guided the organization’s content and product development.  I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him every day.  I have a front-row seat to his vision and especially his humanity… both of which have kept him in hot dog heaven for a very long time.

Incidentally, the 2007 breakfast at The Rosen Hotel concluded with the news that the NGF was “looking for someone” and had a position to fill.  Joe told me he had narrowed their lengthy search down to a few “finalists” and he rattled off a very brief and incomplete description of the role… followed by the inquiry that I’ll never forget.  “If you think of anyone who might be a good fit for us, please let me know.”

“Mayor” was not in the job title… of that I can assure you.

To be continued…

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 8 – August 2014

Since 1996, statistics have proven time and time again that there is only one player who “moves the needle” when it comes to golf television ratings.  I’m both dumbfounded and delighted that the early Nielsen numbers for the final round of the Valhalla PGA Championship were up 30%.  TOUR ratings have suffered substantially when Tiger isn’t playing, because most non-golfers barely recognize anyone who isn’t named Eldrick (which actually begs the question… is there anyone else in the world named Eldrick?).

Lefty Mickelson, five-time major winner at 43, has logged a serious amount of broadcast face-time so his presence on the leaderboard in the gloaming at Valhalla likely provided some ratings gravity.  Rickie was Orange Crush-ing it and representing himself with his youthful class, a profound contrast with his decidedly ridiculous 70’s porn star ‘stache (please, Rickie, it’s not “Mo-vember” yet). Henrik Stenson and Jason Day faltered down the stretch a bit, but they’re not particularly recognizable outside the core golfing audience anyway… which leaves me at our 96thPGA Champion, Ulsterman Rory McIlroy.

Despite Rory’s razor-sharp recent form (is he going to own “Sunday Purple?”) and four majors at age 25, I doubt that most non-golfers could pick him out of a lineup.  I’m not alone in hoping he never shows up in one, by the way.  I’ve been contemplating the incredible Sunday finish and why so many more folks tuned in than last year.  The drama itself was undoubtedly riveting… but I’m the Mayor of Crazy Town!  Watching a journeyman (my friend Michael Methvin would symbolically insert the name of former PGA TOUR players Ed Humenik or Barry Jaekel here) grind his way to victory in the Greater Peoria Classic is must-see TV for me!

But I’m not the typical golf watcher… I’m obviously one strange “duck” when it comes to golf.  I must confess that I was seduced by the quality of the golf swings we were watching.  Of course I recognize and appreciate that getting the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes is far more important than artistic form, but who doesn’t love watching the power and grace of a magnificent athletic move?  Technology, over-coaching and the quest for swing “perfection” are not positive trends. Just look at Tiger (he of the missed cut) executing his 2014 swing and you can almost hear the gears grinding in his head… that is, if they are loud enough to be audible above the banging of the cymbals between his ears!!

For the first time since the Tiger swings of Masters 1997 and 2000 Slam vintage (the two most ingrained in my psyche), I find myself fiercely coveting a golf swing.  I am simply mesmerized by the freedom, speed and effortless magnificence of Rory’s “move.”  Since I’m not 25, I hold no delusions that I have the flexibility, strength or talent to create that action… but I know I can enjoy it and certainly learn something from watching it.  I find this curiously similar to my previous interest in watching (more like studying) Nolan Ryan pitch, John McEnroe serve orDavid Beckham spin a dead-ball free kick over a wall and into a top corner.

I pick those examples, specifically because… like golf… these genius athletic skills are not reactive to a moving projectile, but actions completely created by the athlete from nothing… from a dead stop.  I’ve always been fascinated by these types of athletic feats… because they can be refined to the highest level through practice and repetition.  My low-level obsession with the swing is one of the reasons that playing golf appeals to me so much.  I’ve always loved working on my swing and attempting to make subtle changes to my swing mechanics (through repetition that I could control) in order to get more length, accuracy and consistency.

Perhaps the time thinking about this has also helped me figure out why I never really fell in love with the sport of basketball. The free throw is another stand-alone repetitive move that has received some attention from me over time… but funny enough… I like watching Shaq’s pathetic efforts way more than Larry Bird or Ray Allen who could stroke in more than 90 out of 100 efforts.  Perhaps that tells this non-fan of hoops everything I need to know.

Aspiration and the desire to improve remain among the greatest motivators to all golfers.  I do enjoy the short game and all the creativity and imagination required from 120 yards in.  However, everyone loves the full swing and trying to hit the long ball.  Rory is truly something special and I surmise that the ratings bump is a sign that America is excited that we may have a new player to root for, a player who can chase history and a magnificent athlete that we really enjoy watching.  The next 10 years could be a lot of fun. None other than Jack Nicklaus thinks Rory has the chops to win 20 or more majors.  I know all the Crazy Town residents will be tuning in.

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 7 – July 2014

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

In July of 2001, Hizzoner shot his all-time best “career round” of 73 (+1) at his former home club, Manhattan Woods GC, in Rockland County, NY.  MWGC is the current teaching home of my friend Michael Breed… he of the infinitely positive attitude, relentless intensity and purposeful Golf Channel jack-hammer of fantastic golf instruction. Prior to Michael, Mitchell Spearman had his U.S. teaching base on the MWGC range… making good on his fantastic reputation and delivering on the promises that only “the world’s most expensive golf instructor” can make.

Well… neither of those guys gets a pinch of credit for my lifetime best golf performance.  Even though they have generously provided me expert tips over the years, I always share the joy of my historic over-achievement with my amazing sister, Sue.  She walked step-for-step with me on that special day and her presence contributed greatly to the round.  While I certainly hit all the shots, I eclipsed my career low by a full four shots because of my state of mind.  I was so happy to be with her (Sue and Hizzoner don’t get to spend much time together)… and our conversations over those miraculous four hours alternated between deep and shallow, and from family to frivolity.

I was mindlessly enjoying her company… and the golf shots were short moments of focus that intermittently created gaps in our conversation.  The golf certainly was far from serious.  I wasn’t thinking about “shooting a number” and some of my more typical “grinding” was out of the question. I was most comfortable NOT thinking about golf (which is virtually impossible for me!), except for the 30-45 seconds required to focus on the specific shot at hand.  I had always read that this was how the best on-course thinking is done… I just had never experienced it personally.

This and every July, I like to remember this round because it reminds me about some of the amazing ways the human mind works.  For context, I shoot between 83-87 in almost every round.  I don’t practice nearly enough to expect much improvement from there… and I certainly play well enough to enjoy my game, independent of score.

But occasionally, I play a round of golf or two where my mindset returns to where I was with Sue.  Two recent experiences with my good friend Andrew Fleming brought me back to the mindset of the 70s-shooter.  Great days with AF (at Mountain Lake in FL and Blue Mound in WI, for those who care) have inspired rounds of 74 and 78 and padded my wallet appropriately, much to his feigned dismay.  My thinking on those days was very similar to my memorable day with Sue.

This is very top of mind now because the aforementioned sister Sue is getting married later this month.  My personally famous July 2001 round with her is one of the clearest examples of how much love we have for each other… despite the 115 she shot that special day.  I can say, without hesitation, that Sue enjoyed her 115 as much as I enjoyed my 73. The toast I’m preparing for her wedding will undoubtedly include a few doozies that will appropriately embarrass her… but I’m forever thankful for the gift of calm and peace from our shared experience 13 years ago that I’ll never forget.

Golf is an incredible gift to be shared and I hope all Crazy Town residents enjoy some memorable July experiences.

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 4, Issue 5 – May 2014

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

Golf may have started in the United States as a private club game, with its earliest origins owed to John Reid and a gang of friends hanging around an apple tree in Yonkers, New York… but that’s certainly not how it started for me.

I grew up loving sports and participated actively in organized baseball, soccer and ice hockey and dedicated enough time and effort to tennis to become a competitive high school player.  Nobody in my family played golf.

However, I developed a friendship with Steve Monteverdi, who was from a golf household in White Plains, NY.  In other words, Steve’s dad played and my 5th grade buddy was interested in the game too.  North Street School’s grounds sat triangularly between our two houses, so it was a natural place for us to go to knock a few golf balls around.  On the occasions when I/we did go out to the school with clubs and balls in hand, typically I hit wedges back and forth between two abandoned fitted-pipe field hockey goals… or I played invented “holes” that navigated around trees and other obstacles across the hilly but expansive property.  It was great fun.

Even this version of golf was far from a priority when compared with easily organized 2-on-2 football games (occasionally featuring an “automatic QB” who played both ways), street hockey and stickball matchups. But there was no question that I liked the feeling of hitting a golf ball to a target. This was around 1982, golf had not exploded into the media mainstream, and I certainly wasn’t hitting balls because I thought it would make me cool.

Back to North Street School… I specifically recall testing out Tom Watson’s techniques for moving the ball left-to-right and right-to-left on purpose.  Line up your feet where you want the ball to start, and aim the clubface where you wanted the ball to end up… and swing normally.  BRILLIANT!  It worked!  I was excited by the game, but several years after Steve and I first hit balls in the schoolyard, I still had not visited a “real” golf course.

Eventually, I made it to Maple Moor, a local White Plains Muni where I had a first on-course experience and I knew this game was for me.  I purchased my first club, a black Northwestern #1 driver that I bought with my own money at Herman’s Sporting Goods.  I loved the way golf engaged my imagination and athleticism at the same time.  I think it was at this point that I asked my mom for subscriptions to both GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest… and she obliged when my next birthday came around.  To this day, I maintain a very close emotional relationship (as well as business ties) to the print golf pubs… since they essentially taught me the game and how the golf lifestyle could be enjoyed by those that embraced it.  I studied the instruction articles and learned how to hit draws and fades, knockdowns, chips and pitches from the pages.  I was insatiable when it came to learning about the best course designs and the incredible private clubs I aspired to visit someday. I watched the mailbox with great anticipation for the issues… and I was mesmerized by the photos, stories and history of America’s greatest clubs… THAT was where I aspired to be.

However, I lacked access… and tennis was still my primary game… so golf was back-burnered. The stars aligned a bit more when I took summer tennis pro jobs at two very well-regarded Westchester country clubs (the Met Section is so rich with fantastic places).  I enjoyed teaching tennis… but I always looked forward to the nine-holes I could play after work at Wykagyl and Brae Burn on occasion.  The great conditioning, more sophisticated designs and the less frenetic atmosphere were intoxicating.

Early in my four years at Lehigh University, tennis was pushed aside and golf became my clear #1.  And since I was in college and priorities were changing, the beer/golf combo easily won out vs. chasing a felt yellow ball around a court that, incidentally, was always the same boring rectangular dimensions, no-matter where I went.  Golf had far more depth of interest and historical context and I wanted to go deep. As I pursued the dream of a career in the golf business (parts of that story have been told in previous editions of this blog), I worked in the NY advertising business for nearly ten years before the right golf opportunity came along.

After learning the finer points of the game from dozens of magazine issues, it’s not an accident that my first job in the industry was with GOLF Magazine (2000-2007).  I’ve never shared this with him until now, but I took profound satisfaction that my first cubicle (with a sweet window overlooking Park Avenue and 33rd Street) was down the same aisle from the office of editorial legend George Peper.  I thought it was simply amazing that the guy who taught me how to play and enjoy golf was right here, 50 feet away from where I was happily grinding out my work in the marketing department.

When recently preparing for two speeches in the course of a week (NCA’s Annual Conference and an assembly of CMAA members, respectively), I started to think about my golf journey thus far.  How exactly did I get from hitting golf balls in a school yard in 5th grade, to working seven years at GOLF Magazine, seven for the NGF, to becoming a GOLF Magazine course ranking panelist who’s played 65 of America’s Top 100 courses???

I am so incredibly fortunate to make my living in golf.  Perhaps you feel the same way.

The main theme of my NCA speech, as told to the audience in San Francisco…

LOVE.

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

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