Riding Tall In The Business World
Pictured here with some of the products he and his employees distribute as part of a thriving turf care and irrigation company, Jerry Pate is just one of a growing number of tour pros who have translated their success on the course into success in the business world. Other tour players who followed their entrepreneurial spirit include Peter Jacobsen, Ray Stewart, Jane Blalock, and Brian Tennyson. We tell their stories on the following pages.
Jerry Pate's education as an entrepreneur began with an introduction to legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in the early '70s and continued when he won the U.S. Open at age 22 and the Tournament Players Championship six years later.
Pate, now 52, parlayed these seminal events in his life into the Jerry Pate Cos,. a business empire that includes Jerry Pate Turf & Irrigation (one of the largest distributors of Toro products in the Southeast), Jerry Pate Golf Design (course architecture), and Wausau Farms (a turf grass company). Meanwhile, he is still playing competitive golf -- in February, he won the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am on the Champions Tour.
Bryant was a friend of a friend of Pate's father, resulting in Pate receiving a partial scholarship to play golf at Alabama and befriending Coach Bryant.
Pate then won the U.S. Amateur at 20, turned pro a year later, and won the U.S. Open in 1976.
"All of a sudden," Pate says, "I was flying on corporate jets, doing outings for Citibank, for Mobil, playing golf with the chairman of IBM, Frank Cary. Coach Bryant knew everybody in business. When I'd go out West, I hung out at Los Angeles Country Club and Bel-Air. I was only 22 or 23. Ed Hookstratten [a high-profile attorney in Los Angeles] introduced me to some of the top people in Hollywood. Barron Hilton was a close friend of mine. I knew Bob Hope.
"They taught me a lot about business. I'd listen to them. I'd pick up on how they conducted their businesses. It's about trust and hard work. They were all classy business people, honest and fair."
Their utility to Pate was unknown until a series of shoulder injuries began derailing his golf career. In 1982, he tore cartilage in his left shoulder, an injury that by 1985 required surgery. He tore his rotator cuff in 1986, requiring two more surgeries. Three operations in three years ended his PGA Tour career. He never approached the level of profi ciency he had achieved in winning eight tournaments.
In the meantime, he began working with renowned course architect Tom Fazio and eventually ventured out on his own. Through his design business Pate became familiar with Toro products. In 1997, Pate bought a Toro distributorship that had 60 employees and revenues of $20 million. Today, Jerry Pate Turf & Irrigation, has 140 employees and revenues in excess of $60 million. He has 400 dealers in eight states distributing Toro, Echo, and Lawn-Boy products.
"I love business," Pate says. "If I'd never been injured, I'd be out chipping around like my friends. My heart is in hitting golf balls, but the reality is, I have interest in doing other things."
By John Strege
Peter Jacobsen's peers have dubbed him the goodwill ambassador of the PGA Tour, and for good reason. The affable 52-yearold has never met a corporate pro-am he wouldn't play in, and his pre-tournament clinics -- where he does impressions of everyone from Arnold Palmer to Craig Stadler -- have made him a fan favorite. Jacobsen's charisma enabled him to build a group of businesses impressive for a player who, before his victory at the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, had gone nearly a decade without a win.
In his portfolio: a golf course design business with noted instructor Jim Hardy that has completed 13 courses. (His company's fee: $600,000 to $700,000 per project.) Peter Jacobsen Productions has overseen more than 250 golf events, including a Champions Tour stop. He has endorsements with Ketel One, Lexus, and Titleist, commitments that command roughly 75 days of his time each year. Golf Digest reported in its February, 2006, issue that these ventures generated more than $4 million in income last year, far exceeding the $1.04 million he earned in tournament play.
Then, there's TV: As recently as 2005, Jacobsen was starring in three shows on the Golf Channel. Though he took a hiatus this year to play more Champions Tour events, Golf Channel executives are thinking up new shows for 2007. (In one program, contestants would vie for the right to caddie for him in a Champions Tour event.)
No small accomplishment for a golfer who, as a business major at the University of Oregon, left his senior year for the PGA Tour Qualifying School with the goal of earning just enough to finish college. Even when Jacobsen earned his card on the fi rst try and joined the tour at 21, he says he envisioned playing just a few years before going into business. "I fi gured if I got fi ve years out of the tour, great," he recalls. "I was thinking business law, or maybe marketing." Jacobsen's fi rst go at building a business came in the 1980s. With three tour wins, he attempted to bring a PGA Tour stop to his hometown, Portland, Ore. When that failed, he created the Fred Meyer Challenge, a celebrity proam that had a 17-year run. The event-management business he founded in recent years has directed the Jeld-Wen Tradition and the Constellation Energy Classic on the Champions Tour, the popular CVS Charity Classic outside Providence, as well as the 2003 U.S. Women's Open.
Jacobsen's entrepreneurial endeavors have put him at odds with PGA Tour offi cials. One of his Golf Channel shows had him playing rounds with the likes of actor Dennis Hopper and prompted the tour to demand the cable channel pay it steep rights fees, given Jacobsen's status as an active player. (The Golf Channel responded by suspending production of the series.) That riled Jacobsen, who believes the tour should be encouraging such celebrity tie-ins to attract more fans to the sport.
He also lost control of the Constellation Energy Classic in January when the Champions Tour converted the event into one of its major tournaments beginning in 2007. As a result, Jacobsen says he's switching focus to the LPGA: Just last year, he acquired Sports One Inc., which helps manage LPGA events in Portland and Phoenix. "The LPGA is still a growth opportunity for everybody," he says. Which means that Jacobsen will be bringing his show to a new audience.
By Dean Foust
Ray Stewart is a professional golfer who understands that a bad decision can prove costly. His trade also has taught him how to recover from a dubious position. So it was that Stewart, 52, turned a questionable investment in a British Columbia medical equipment company into a profi table business that has eased the uncertainty of entering his senior years without a Champions Tour exemption.
"I invested a lot of money with a friend of mine," he says. Make that an ex-friend. "I was misled."
This was in January, 2001. Two months later, Jamieson Healthcare began to unravel, and with it, Stewart's investment. By October, 2002, he had become the sole owner of the company, which became Stewart Medical Inc., an Abbotsford (B.C.) concern that sells used medical equipment around the world.
"I didn't know anything about anything," he says of his business acumen then. "I found out very quickly that the more money you've invested, the faster you're going to learn. I sold a heart-and-lung machine to China, a bone densitometer to South America. It's a huge business. There are thousands of dealers in the U.S."
Most of his business is international, particularly Third World. He does about one-third of his business in Canada, which has government funded health care and purchases its equipment new. "I take their surplus stuff and resell it," he says.
Stewart, a British Columbia native, played eight years on the PGA Tour, earning nearly $275,000 in his two best seasons, 1989 and 1990, and finishing second in the Chattanooga Classic in '89, tying his best finish on the U.S. tour. He won twice on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour, and represented his country on two Dunhill Cup teams, winning in '94, and one World Cup team.
Golf has helped him in business in one important regard: "A lot of doctors play golf," he says. "The business fi ts very well with the game."
Another significant part of his business has been renting medical equipment to the movie industry. British Columbia has become a less expensive alternative to filming in the U.S., creating a growing industry. Stewart's medical equipment has appeared in Final Destination 2, and WB's Smallville.
Stewart has not abandoned the notion of returning to tour golf. He qualified for and played in only one event in 2005, the Senior British Open, and tied for ninth, earning $33,339. It was a result that indicates he can still compete, given the chance. He made it to the fi nal stage of Champions Tour, qualifying at the end of the year, but tied for 21st and failed to secure playing privileges. He will try to qualify again in the fall, either on the tour or the European Seniors.
"I'm not quite done yet," he says.
By John Strege
Jane Blalock made her move from the LPGA Tour to Merrill Lynch's Boston office in 1986, after her most lucrative year as a tour pro. Many people thought she was simply trading professional golf for window dressing. Instead, after 27 wins and more than $1.2 million in earnings, Blalock wanted a new way to keep score. "I thought how great it would be to go out at the top of my game," she says. "I always had a yearning for business, and I wanted to try something completely different."
Contacting an acquaintance who had asked her to keep in touch if she ever thought about a career change, she tackled broker certifi cation with the same intensity she brought to golf as a New Hampshire amateur, Rollins College standout, and LPGA star. "It was the scariest and the smartest thing I've ever done," she says. "I treated the Series 7 exams like a competition I wasn't going to lose."
Her transition to the business world required a mental adjustment, she admits. "I was no longer being coddled," she says. "It meant asking, `What can I do for you?' instead of `What can you do for me?'"
Rather than flip through business cards collected during LPGA pro-ams, Blalock built a client base by networking around Boston. "I even joined a tennis club," she laughs. Inspired to strike out on her own, in part by reading Bill Gates's advice to "deal from personal strength," Blalock hit upon a way to fi ll a need she felt to be creative and to do something charitable. Soon she was running corporate- sponsored women's golf clinics that benefi ted the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
That was the start of the Jane Blalock Co., launched in 1987, even as its namesake continued to work as a broker. Last January, with annual revenues of roughly $2 million, the company became JBC Golf. Under its umbrella are the LPGA Golf Clinics, previously title-sponsored by Mazda then Gillette but now underwritten by multiple sponsors including Fidelity Investments, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM, Toshiba, Staples, and American Airlines. They are conducted for women in 15 cities across the U.S. In addition, there's the Jane Blalock Golf Academy, where executive women can hone golf and business skills; corporate golf event management, which she refers to as "private-label events;" and the LPGA's senior circuit -- the recently renamed Legends Tour, for which she serves as twice-elected president and paid marketing consultant. (Successes include a recent three-year contract with BJ's Wholesale Club that will generate $1 million for charity along with $500,000 in annual prize money.) Blalock has eight employees working at events or in her Cambridge (Mass.) offi ce and plans to hire more staff this year.
"When I turned 60 last fall," says Blalock, "I decided I could speed up or slow down." When she decided to speed up to foster growth, she sought investors she'd met through her networking efforts: Jean Temple, a venture capitalist; Phyllis Godwin, chairman and CEO of Quincy (Mass.)-based Granite City Electric; and Sally Susman, executive vice-president for global communications at Estée Lauder.
Focused as Blalock is on building her business and signing new clients, she remains intent on generating money for charity. "I wake up every morning with a purpose," she says. "It's a chance to make a difference. It has nothing to do with my bank account."
By Lisa Furlong
Brian Tennyson, as an undergrad at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., made one of those fateful connections with a roommate that would transform his life after golf. In 1984 the two went their separate ways as Tennyson began pursuing his dream of winning a PGA Tour card and the roomie, John Schnatter, went off to run a biker bar called Mick's Lounge outside Louisville.
Tennyson qualified for the tour in 1987. Thanks to a second-place tie at the 1990 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic behind Peter Jacobsen and a runner-up finish at the old Hardee's Classic, he finished 29th on the money list that year with $443,508.
But when a balky putter and a neck injury caused him to start missing cuts in 1992, Tennyson took up his friend's offer to join a fledgling pizza chain that Schnatter had named after himself: Papa John's. Over the next year, Tennyson went from owning Papa John's franchises in the Akron region to joining the parent company as vicepresident for strategic planning. When Schnatter began exploring ways to expand, Tennyson encouraged him to do a public stock offering. "I still remember traveling around the country doing the road shows with investors," he says. "It was a great ride."
After Papa John's went public in 1993, Tennyson became its fi rst head of investor relations. But within two years, the 80- hour work weeks started getting to him. Finally, he got his wife's blessing to leave the fi nancial security of Papa John's and attempt a return to the tour in 1995.
Unfortunately, Tennyson did not fare as well during his second stint. After a brief return to the Asian Tour, where he had started after college, he played on the PGA Tour in 1996 but lost his slot the following year. By 2001 he knew it was time to quit. But he also knew his Papa John's experience gave him the skills to make it again in business.
Working as a studio analyst for the Golf Channel and Fox Sports Net helped Tennyson stay in the game, even as he cast around for a new venture. "I probably looked at 500 businesses," in every area from restaurants to waste management, he says. Today he's a partner in a small, Dallas-based marketing outfit, Ash-Allmond Associates, that manages regional sweepstakes for such clients as Frito-Lay, he says with pride. He is also starting up a new venture in his hometown of Evansville, Ind. -- Complete Fleet Solutions Inc. -- which dispatches mechanics to maintain and repair vehicles at company sites. About his years on tour, he says, "I was never great, but I always found ways to get better." He says he's taking that approach to business as well.