Combining golf and business is nothing new; in fact, according to the PGA of America, nearly 60 percent of businessmen who play golf report having closed a deal on the course.
The Back-9 Boardroom, a startup launched locally about a year ago by California native Steve Lyga, hopes to turn such opportunities into a national enterprise with its origins in Palm Beach County.
More than 50 members and guests gathered on a recent steamy late June day at Jupiter Country Club for a day-long event. The group will reconvene this month at Dye Preserve west of Jupiter and U.S. Open champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are scheduled to appear at the August event at a site yet to be determined.
Lyga, who got his start in sales making cold calls for Yellow Pages ads and has since overseen the launching of seven successful startups, said after some initial reluctance he became convinced that Palm Beach County should be ground zero for his ambitious venture.
“When I lived in California and someone would mention Florida, my first thought was that was the place people went to retire,” Lyga said. “But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that’s changed, and it’s changing all the time.
“The other thing is, Palm Beach County not only has a lot of golf courses, it has a lot of great golf courses, the kind of courses successful businessmen like to play. Once we get the word out, we feel this is a concept that can take off.”
Lyga has amassed plenty of experience in his five-person Advisor Board, including former longtime PGA of America employees Kelli Elgin and Paul Metzler; golf writer Elisa Gaudet, author of the Two Good Rounds series, and Miguel Rivera, who caddied for Charlie Hoffman on the PGA Tour for seven years and serves as President of Strategic Accounts.
The Jupiter CC meeting involved a lot more than golf. Speakers who bookended a buffet lunch included self-described serial salesman and author Steve Nudelberg, Colette Beland of the Palm Beach County Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Keith Davey of the Alkeon Capital Management Fund. Proceedings then moved outside, where trainers from Jupiter-based Joey D Golf offered pre-round stretching techniques, followed by an 18-hole scramble and happy hour.
Memberships are $2,500 per year, and by invitation only. Membership information is available online at back-9boardroom.com. A club official said membership is now close to 100.
ESPN Radio 106.3, a media partner, is presenting a monthly one-hour Sunday morning show featuring golf news and information about group activities.
Lyga has plans to expand his operation throughout Florida and west all the way to California, but likely not north of the Carolinas and Texas.
“The idea is this is a year-round operation, so it won’t work in places where you can’t play golf year-round,” he said.