Sunday, July 11, 2004

Women execs can prosper by teeing up

The Daily Grind

John Eckberg

Women executives with $350 to spend on training to improve business skills might consider taking up golf.

The acclaimed Dave Pelz Scoring Game School comes to Hamilton County's Meadow Links & Golf Academy grounds through Saturday.

Each one-day clinic offers three hours devoted to putting drills and three hours directed to wedge skills.

It seems like a lot of money for a little bit of golf. But it's likely to be a worthwhile investment for any executive.

Men executives have long known about the revenue-generating power of golf because the course often doubles as a 6,500-yard-long office.

Many women executives are catching on to the power of a two-putt green, said Dave Pelz, founder of the school, during a telephone conversation last week.

"Two players have a bonding experience of fighting the game together, trying to score well on the golf course, and yet have plenty of time to talk," said Pelz, a former rocket scientist who brought his physics background and discipline to the game of golf.

"That's maybe better than sitting in a plush office looking out at a beautiful view with a nice ambiance, comfortable chairs, good food and good wine."

Andrea M. Folz, a senior account executive for Sprint Business Solutions, says she is forever indebted to her father for introducing her to the game 30 years ago, when she was 12.

"Golf was my ticket out of mundane project management into the lucrative world of corporate sales," Folz said.

"Four hours at Hueston Woods with the vice president of sales and marketing - shooting an 84 didn't hurt - and the next thing you know I'm making a higher salary and earning commission checks selling computer graphics equipment in the eastern United States and Canada."

When Pelz started the school in 1987, about one in 10 golfers who attended was a woman. Today, one in four are women, Pelz said.

"Now the golfer in the family is the wife, and she's dragging her husband in," Pelz said.

Folz said one of the greatest features of golf is the proximity it brings to would-be clients.

"I get a captive business audience, usually a hard-to-get-to executive, by offering a tee time on a nice local golf course," Folz said. "In the words of my father, you can play this game with friends, dates or business associates, and you can play it till you die."

Crystal Faulker, principal at Cooney, Faulkner & Stevens, certified public accountants and business consultants, believes golf has opened many doors.

She said that's particularly true of golf scrambles, events where the best ball hit by a foursome is used for each stroke.

"Women get a decent advantage, as the ladies tees are often much closer to the pin, and often they avoid the hazards," she said.

"The way I look at it is that you can still have fun and use a golf outing to make connections and build relationships."

Suzanne LaChapelle, founder and president of LaChapelle Design and principal of StrategyStyle Consulting, says there is no doubt she has found new business because she knows how to golf.

Golfing well isn't even the point, Chapelle said. What's important is to move the ball down the fairway and do it at a decent pace.

"Golf outings are a great way to meet clients," she said. "And yes, I think you have to be a decent golfer."

Marsha H. Steed, president of Visionary Alliance Inc., a Blue Ash-based firm that proposes business development strategies to consultants, plays golf at outings at least once a month to generate new business leads.

She says Visionary Alliance, which also produces perspectives for proposed mergers and acquisitions, has made money and gained new clients as a result.

"Just this year I met somebody at an event," she said, "and now I'm in line for a consulting contract that could be huge.

"There are no guarantees, but (without) the connection we made on the golf course, the sales cycle would have taken much, much longer."

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