Journal Entry #53
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April is the happy second birthday for this website and this company. Thanks to everyone who has made this ride a very pleasant one. Good things just keep happening and we look forward to many more years of success.
SeniorFriendlyGolf was officially started on April 26, 2003 by John K. Darling, the Founder, and Michael M. Darling, the web creator and web master. Originally the concept was simply a website where John could write articles about senior golfers, golf and related matters as well as for reporting his review of golf courses and rating them on a scale of one to ten as to their friendliness or challenging nature. Initially the plan was to franchise out the concept with revenues coming from on site advertising and fees for reviewing golf courses.
Dave Csintyan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, was the inspiration for a simple and different course rating system that would alert golfers about courses before they invested hundreds of dollars to play them. His observation was that a golfer might go on vacation, spend $250 on a green fee, battle the course, end up with a horrible score, and thus ruin their vacation.
The inspiration to write the articles came from Bobby Steiner, professional golf teacher, book author, and golf columnist. Three months after complete hip replacement surgery, John attended a golf school at the Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, California, at which Bobby was the instructor. Bobby mentioned to John that he was writing a book on golf instruction and would he like to review it. John obliged and Bobby gave him a copy of his manuscript. Two years later the book, "Muni, the Jitterbug collection" was published. Bobby was also writing a weekly column for the "Desert Sun" newspaper and has now expanded it into syndication. Bobby's philosophy was simple, "People who want to write books and articles just don't do it." This inspired John to start writing.
The guidance & counsel
Upon John's return to Colorado Springs he wrote four articles and submitted them to several golf magazines and newspapers in Colorado. None of the editors were interested in his contribution. John and Dave Csintyan had become friends, as John was a Chamber Ambassador. The Ambassadors are volunteers that act as liaisons between the Chamber and its members as well as host and assist at Chamber events. Dave read John's articles and exclaimed, "We need to package you." Dave felt compelled to talk to a few movers and shakers about SeniorFriendlyGolf and arranged a meeting at his home for John to show them his vision. The result of the meeting was to encourage John to put up his own website and to spend the next year or so establishing himself on the Internet as the focal point for senior golfers.
Michael, his son who lives in Montana and is President of Inetekk.com, Inc. heard about John's intention to go on the World Wide Web and offered his services. John, not knowing much about Michael's abilities with respect to the Internet, was initially reluctant. John had hopes that one of the movers and shakers would partner up and do the Internet work. Michael felt strongly that he could provide the service even better than the company John was considering. He even called his mother, John's wife, and argued that he should provide the service. The price was right. He would do it for free. One of the best decisions John has made once starting SFG, was to have Michael do all the Internet work.
The previous year before the SFG Internet launch, John played golf in a tournament in which the player gift bag contained a certificate for a free gap wedge from Giant Golf, a custom golf club manufacturer in California. He ordered the gap wedge and still counts it as his favorite. John saw the coupon as a vehicle to give to golf tournaments as a way to secure information and provide materials to write about. When he called Giant Golf and asked to speak to their sales or marketing manager, they informed him that a company named Advantage Golf had the contract and gave him the phone number of Dennis McCann. Dennis is the president of Advantage Golf of Colorado. Advantage Golf is a national chain franchise that provides support for golf tournaments. They are a one-stop center for all the golf products and services needed to conduct first class golf events.
The relationship with Advantage Golf of Colorado turned out to be a wonderful one and a key to the initial growth of SeniorFriendlyGolf. Dennis agreed to not only provide Giant Golf certificates, but also issues of golf magazines for every player in tournaments he served in the southern Colorado area. The first year the magazine was AdvidGolfer of Colorado. The following years the magazine has been Colorado Golf. Both magazines are of the highest quality in both content and physical presentation. The second year, certificates for free 1-800 consultations with professional golf instructors at a Ken Venturi Golf Academy were added. With Giant Golf's going out of business the gap was filled by Warrior Golf and iGolf Technology's certificates for free performance fitted golf wedges. In 2005 golf club certificates are provided by Magique Golf with its offer of a free fairway rescue wood and Upswing Golf offering the choice of a free putter, wedge, or driver. Why do these fine custom club manufacturers give away their products? It's simple. Rather than paying millions of dollars on pro endorsements like Nike does to pay Tiger, they had rather get actual clubs in the hands of golfers. Later they will call to see if the benefactor likes the club and if they would like to have a custom set made for them at a competitive price. I took Giant Golf up on their offer and love my clubs. A year's free subscription to Golf Illustrated rounds out this year's free gift bag items. Illustrated Golf magazine is allegedly our country's leading instruction magazine.
Serving golf tournaments
SeniorFriendlyGolf has continued to evolve. As John called on golf tournament committee planners and their committees, he identified a need for a tournament list to serve both tournaments and golfers wishing to play them. With Michael's creativity, a tournament listing service started on the SFG web site. Tournaments could be submitted directly from the site. As the number of listings increased, it became a slight burden on Michael, so he taught John how to do the posting, which he now does frequently.
Finding tournament information has provided a challenge. John found that golf professionals were reluctant to give names of tournament contacts. Many felt that the information was privileged while others had the idea that they could provide all the products and services needed for tournaments at their course. Bill Fumai, the head professional at Fort Carson, saw the value of SFG services to his tournaments and wanted them to have them. In 2004 the major contributor of golf tournament information came from Bill. There are several other sources for finding tournaments to list. The first is brochures and printed materials left at golf courses and other sports outlets. The second is through listings submitted through the SFG web site and the third is through networking with anyone and everyone. The Chamber mixers, known as Business After Hours, have been productive. This fall Frank Jacobson, a PGA master professional assumed Bill's position as Bill transferred to Fort Gordon in Georgia. Frank and Steve Berness of the mountain post have acknowledged the value of SeniorFriendlyGolf services and eagerly endorses them to Cheyenne Shadows golf club at Fort Carson golf course tournament planners.
Colorado Springs Business Journal
As an active member of the Chamber, in addition to being an Ambassador, John served on the Chamber's Government Affairs committee. At one of the meetings in 2004, all of its members introduced themselves and said a few words about their business. Lon Metejczyk, the publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal, approached John after the meeting and asked if he would be open to providing tournament listings to his newspaper. This became another key decision in SeniorFriendlyGolf's evolution. Lon was going to publish an Executive Golf Guide and this would be the lunching pad for the Journal's intention to become the focal point for nonprofessional golf events in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area. John submitted a lengthy article on SeniorFriendlyGolf and provided information on golf courses, tournament booking and his current list of tournaments. To John's surprise and delight all of the material was published with very little editing. For the remainder of the year the Journal published over 50 tournaments, which served over 6,000 golfers
Life After 50
Halfway through the 2004 golf summer, John was contacted by Bruce Schlabaugh and Dennis Ingmire, owners and publishers of the monthly Life After 50 newspaper. They met with John at Starbucks and he presented his services to tournaments. Then they offered him the opportunity to write articles for their publication. In their words, "John, you're a senior and should be writing in our newspaper for seniors." John agreed, provided Lon at the Colorado Springs Business Journal had no objection. Lon was important to John and deserved to courtesy of his input. Lon agreed that he would have no objection provided the Journal retained exclusive rights for listing tournaments in print media. John was introduced in Life After 50 in September and his first article on the Santa Fe Golf Trail in New Mexico appeared in the October edition. The February edition was scheduled to feature John's annual January golf trip to Mesquite with 50 other senior golfers.
Golf tournament training seminars
The next stage of SeniorFriendlyGolf's evolution filled a need voiced by the many golf planners and their committees. This prompted John's offering and holding golf tournament planning seminars. Will Temby, the CEO of the Chamber, saw the need as well and offered to be a sponsor of the seminars and provided the first class venue site. The Colorado Springs Business Journal also offered to promote and sponsor the seminars, as did Advantage Golf of Colorado. The first class was held in the Chamber boardroom with over 30 attending. The next was held at the Pine Creek Golf Course, and later ones were scheduled for the Antler Creek and Fort Carson golf courses. While the first seminar was scheduled for three hours, subsequent ones were open ended and offered a three to four hour time frame. This extension of time was suggested by the first seminar attendees.
The original business plan was to develop as a franchise operation to extend nationally. However, John did not believe in borrowing or financing his business venture. He has financed his project through his own retirement income from AAFES and additional funds from being the secretary for the Rocky Mountain Franchise Association. The RMFA represents Burger King franchisees, mostly in the Denver and Colorado Springs metropolitan areas.
John's commitment to Advantage Golf of Colorado, in exchange for the free value-in-kind certificates, Colorado golf magazines and other items, was to encourage golf tournament planners to go up to Denver to discuss services and products they needed to purchase. For all products and services purchased SeniorFriendlyGolf would receive an override. This worked very well, since John's emphasis could be solely to serving golf tournament planners. Advantage Golf of Colorado and Dennis McCann, its president have been very supportive and provided some financial incentives
The golf tournament planners training seminars also provided a trickle of income, as does coupon distribution for products and services. In 2004 Burger King, Ron Weber's Success Training Centers, L3 Screen printing and Embroidery benefited form this service. Several new accounts have joined these quality companies in the 2005 golf season.
2005 and the future
SeniorFriendlyGolf continues to find new and interesting opportunities. The future will likely see its expansion into other states. John does not intend to charge a hefty franchise fee and wants parties in other states to expand the company in the spirit of fun and service as he has done since its inception. In 2005 two helpers have come on board and a third is expected to do so as well soon. Debi Reed and Billye Adams are an asset to serve southern Colorado tournaments and golfers. With two new golf courses in Colorado Springs and a booming population SeniorFriendlyGolf expects to serve over 100 tournaments and over 10,000 golfers in 2005. Recently it was announced in various news media that the population of El Paso county, where Colorado Springs is located, will soon exceed the population of Denver county. SeniorFriendlyGolf will be ready.
John K. Darling, Founder of SeniorFriendlyGolf may be contacted by email at GolfGuy@SeniorFriendlyGolf.com or mail to P.O. Box 38951, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.