Catch The Flying Tiger

African American interest in golf is growing rapidly, but how do we profit from the windfall?

U.S. Bowen, 31, joined the firm in 1991 as a telephone customer service representative, and quickly leapt into research and development. He soon became a sales rep responsible for managing all of the Titleist golf shop inventories in the metro Detroit area, generating $2.5 million in revenue for the company. He earned about $100,000 for his efforts.

Although he’s been playing golf since age 12, Bowen doesn’t believe you must be a golfer to break into the industry. “Golf needs accountants. It needs attorneys and it needs engineers. Internally, different companies are experiencing different and growing needs for personnel, human resources staff and management level positions,” he says. “Just playing the game doesn’t mean you understand the business. You have to truly understand the products.”

The PGA of America is one of the golf industry’s governing bodies. The organization sponsors a number of major events including the Ryder Cup, PGA of America Championship and the PGA of America Senior Championship. Each can draw from 50,000-100,000 spectators, making them attractive business partners for budding minority entrepreneurs. Ernie Ellison, director of the PGA’s minority procurement program, works with small vendors seeking to partner with the PGA.

In dealing with small start-ups, Ellison says the first step is determining if an entrepreneur has a quality product to sell and the ability to produce it in volume. The PGA would then sign a licensee agreement with the business owner for one year, allowing vendors to use the PGA of America logo. The agreement also gives the licensee the option of setting up floor space at the PGA’s trade show, held twice a year in Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, to sell their merchandise. “That’s a tremendous marketing opportunity because you’re in an arena with hundreds of PGA professionals and industry people. Last year, we had over 57 countries represented [at the shows],” Ellison says. Opportunities to advance in the industry are growing daily, he adds. “And it’s not just because of Tiger Woods, but because the business world has endorsed golf as the game for business.”

That point hasn’t been lost at one historically black college. For the last 15 years at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, M.B.A. candidates have been required to take a course in either golf or tennis. “We decided long ago that we must prepare students to take advantage of every opportunity related to the business industry,” says business school Dean Sybil Mobley. “And these golf courses are the places where business is generally done.”

Beditz warns those exploring golf as a business not to do so only because you have a passion for the game. “You can’t fall in love with an industry or let your love of the game dull your business sense. You have to fall for a great business opportunity.”

Is the risk worth the reward? In some cases, yes. Just ask Bill Powell, who now owns a 130-acre dream because 51 years ago someone told him “no” one time too many. “I feel a sense of reward

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