I was just asked an interesting question. Hopefully, after reading below you will decipher what the question was.
It was Friday, May 10, 1996, payday. I remember the day vividly. After spending the previous few weekends rummaging through pawn shops for a set of good cheap golf clubs to learn the game, I realized that fate was not on my side. Remember, for all intents and purposes, these were pre-internet shopping days and the thought of buying used golf clubs online was not even close to reality. I left work early that Friday afternoon and went to the local Target store. My goal was to buy a cheap set of golf clubs and to have enough to buy a dozen balls and maybe even a pair of golf shoes. Why was I so interested in golf after spending years in high school mocking the golf team? Because I was tired of seeing my colleagues getting invited to golf events and going out with clients while I was stuck at a desk. These outings tended to result in their achieving higher sales which ultimately led to higher compensation. I was not only going to make this happen, I decided then and there; I was going to be good at golf.
I jumped right in and started to frequent the driving range every night after work and on the weekends. I was not making a lot of money back then, so I played every chance I could afford to get on the course. In the over 20 years since then, I have become a decent golfer and play regularly. My handicap has ranged from mid-single digits to low teens. What I found was a direct correlation between my handicap and how well my business was doing. Interestingly, when I spend more time on golf, my company seems to perform well. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Just think, in the early days, I learned to play golf to do better in business, now I do better in business, perhaps, because of golf. Regardless, I would say that 90% of my golf rounds are for business or charity and I would have it no other way. I am very fortunate, in many ways, but in terms of golf, I hit the jackpot. I belong to some neat golf clubs in the USA, Europe, and Asia. I get questioned about why I would join a club that I might only frequent once or twice a year? My answer is simple; I join clubs I fall in love with and then I don’t waiver; I’m all in. In some ways, it is like a relationship. Sometimes we are together a lot, sometimes we are not, but when we see one another, it is always special.
As it relates to spending time on the golf course, perhaps I hit the golf lottery. I have had the occasion of playing golf with some of the most elite people in politics, business, and the golf world. I have played with a U.S. President, members of both chambers, tons of Fortune 500 CEOs, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Nick Price, Gary Player, Corey Pavin, John Daly, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, and Fred Couples to name a few.
Now to be clear, golf did not come naturally to me. Absolutely nobody in my family ever played the game, nor was I exposed to it as a child. Me, the guy that has played with some of the most notable playing partners in golf, was never really destined to play the game. Being of Persian descent, and knowing Persians aren’t known for playing golf, it is rare to find one of us on the course, but I have run into a few over the years. Sometimes, while playing, I wonder if I am the only one out of 85 million Persians on earth that is on a golf course. Knowing my heritage, I think I am probably right.
Looking back at golf and at my career in business, I can absolutely tie many successes to being an above average golfer (that isn’t saying much about how I score). I know in recent years golf has started to lose it luster, especially with the Millennials — but here is what I do know about golf and business. First and foremost, the two do mix and, over the years, golf has had a monumental effect on my business as well as my career. I have been able to schedule meetings, which I might not have been able to arrange, solely because I worked it into a round of golf. Who needs a boring office meeting? I have also been invited by industry colleagues and clients to play golf with them at some of the most spectacular golf courses around the world and have competed in numerous member-guest competitions on a purely social level (yeah right). I have closed deals, found countless opportunities and frankly, just had plain fun playing golf; both business-wise and socially. Perhaps, one of the greatest benefits and the most rewarding aspect that comes from golf is the contribution the game makes to charity. My family’s contribution, along with that of my company through sponsorships and donations to charitable golf events has resulted in millions of dollars going towards these worthy causes. Just think about the positive impact on our community and our society derived from the game of golf.
In the end, if I look at all the things that have shaped my life, golf would be right near the top of the list. My only regrets are that I did not start playing golf earlier and that I do not have the discipline to stop going for the green in two on par 5s (I almost never make it). Now, can you figure out the question that led to this tirade? For those that cannot, here it is. What compels you to fly around the world to chase a little white ball around the golf course for four hours trying to get it into a small hole? I am hopeful, you got the answer above. Hit ‘em straight!