One Tuesday morning, my sales guy, Donald, dropped the bomb. “I got us a tee time on Friday with Tom B.”
Tom B. was #2 on our prospects list. We’d been courting him for months. His company was known for hiring professional services firms like ours and, at the time, was one of the largest companies in Alabama. For us, landing work with Tom’s company would be a lifeline. At any other time, with any other announcement, I would have been buying Donald some excellent scotch.
This time, though, the problem was the tee-time.
I broke out in a sweat. It had been twelve years since I’d held a club in my hands, yet in two days, I’d be playing golf with a decision-maker who could triple our revenue. I wasn’t even sure I could hit a golf ball.
We cleared our calendars for Thursday and set to work. First thing was the outfit: an unfair truth of golf is that a man can throw on any golf shirt and khaki shorts, but a woman’s professionalism – and possibly her golf game – will be judged on just how short her skort is. Finding the right outfit was crucial, but not easy. At the time, stores like Dick’s didn’t carry a wide selection of women’s golf clothing. It took all morning to find the right skort, shirt, hat and shoes to convey the image of confident professionalism.
Next was a trip to the driving range, where Donald and my business operations manager, Stan, spent hours telling me to keep my eye on the ball, keep my head down, not to close the club face, not to open the club face, stand wider, stand closer, etc. Golf clubs were thrown, and while I’m not going to divulge who did the throwing, I can confirm that I wasn’t the only one.
Thursday evening, I speed-read Golf for Dummies to remind myself of the rules. White stakes were out-of-bounds. Red stakes marked hazards. Stroke and distance penalties. By nine o’clock, my head felt like it was going to explode. I popped four Advil and shoved the book under my pillow.
Friday morning,Donald and Stan “loaded up” together (put their bags onto the same golf cart), leaving me to ride with our potential customer. Tom. Fabulous. Not only did I have to remember a kajillion rules, but had to do so while entertaining Tom for the next four hours. The headache returned with a vengeance.
The first hole was a par four, with a water hazard along the right side and a dogleg-left hundred yards out. I grabbed my driver, ignoring Donald’s startled look. There was water to get across, by golly. I teed up a brand-new Titleist and took five or six practice swings. No more stalling. I got in my stance, pulled the club back, and swung with everything I had.
The ball went fast, high, and left. It hit an oak tree, ricocheted ninety-degrees right, and whizzed past a duck before plopping in the water hazard.
Donald and Stan burst out laughing. Tom tossed me another ball. “Here’s a mulligan,” he said. I couldn’t remember how many strokes a mulligan cost, so I just teed up the ball. This time, I hit it, straight and true. It sailed over the dogleg and landed in the next fairway.
By the seventh hole, Tom was tired of the snickers from the other golf cart. There was a lateral ditch crossing in front of the tee box, with a short rock wall marking it. Donald and Stan bet $10 on whether my ball would clear the ditch.
Tom joined me in the tee box. “Smack the crap out of this ball and shut those boys up,” he said.
I took my practice swings, addressed the ball, and swung. The ball hit the rock wall in front of me, shot straight up about seventy feet, then dropped down in the middle of the ditch. The boys laughed again. Tom shot them a blistering glance and didn’t say another word for the rest of the round. We were sunk.
In the clubhouse after the round, I sat, sunburned, bug bitten, and miserable. Stan tried to entertain us with one ridiculous golf story after another. I didn’t laugh, and neither did Tom. It was the longest lunch of my life.
In the parking lot, we took turns shaking Tom’s hand. He leaned in close to me. “Next time we play, leave those two at the office.” Later that afternoon, I got an email from Tom, thanking me for the round and telling me he’d given us a job.
I’d played horribly, lost a box of golf balls, and torn a hole in my new golf shirt, yet, we still got the business. It didn’t matter how bad my game was, how many hazards I hit or putts I missed. In the end, the client learned a little about my company and me and enjoyed himself in the process.
No matter how new or bad a golfer you are, a round of golf with a prospect is a golden opportunity. Deals are made on the green (David Rynecki’s book is a great resource on this subject). Relax, be yourself, and it’s okay if you duff a shot.
Just don’t throw any clubs.
I’d love to hear any good golf stories. Please leave a comment below.