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This article was prepared for the September 19, 2001 edition
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Coping at a Golf Outing
Bob Leonardi has crafted a professional life to
envy. Analyzing his strengths — gregariousness and an ability
to hit a golf ball several hundred yards straight down a fairway —
he came up with a whole new job title: Golf performer/motivational
speaker. Leonardi flies around the world, landing mostly in the
sun-drenched resorts favored by corporate meeting planners. His job
is to give a little inspirational talk, perhaps during a kickoff
and then go out onto the links, encouraging the less able duffers,
giving advanced tips to the better golfers, and keeping everyone happy
with light banter.
Touching down in one of the less glamorous spots on a schedule that
frequently takes him to Maui, Peurta Villarta, Rome, and surfside
resorts in Florida and California, Leonardi appears at the annual
golf outing of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce on Monday, September,
24, at 11 a.m. at the Cherry Valley Country Club. Cost: $250 for
$125 for tennis players; reception only, $65. Call 609-520-1776.
Leonardi spent 20 years in corporate America before coming up with
his unique gig. A graduate of St. Leo College (Class of 1967), who
took two years off to serve in the Marines, Leonardi majored in
anthropology, and philosophy. He points out that the late-60s and
early-70s produced a bumper crop of college graduates just as the
country was going into a deep recession. He says he went into sales
rather than a career more aligned with his college studies,, because
"we all went a different direction. We were looking for
It turns out that the career chosen because no other jobs were
was a perfect fit. "I’m from Brooklyn, a quintessential New
says Leonardi. "I’m gregarious. I loved sales, loved dealing with
people." A golf club can be as much of a sales tool as a
presentation, so Leonardi took up the game when he was 30. He took
to the sport as naturally as he did to sales, and soon was winning
tournaments. On golf outings he volunteered to give clinics.
The clinics gave him an audience, and made him realize that performing
in front of a group of people was what he was born to do. "I was
always the class clown," he says. "Now I’m doing what I
For a while, leading the clinics was a hobby, as Leonardi continued
on in sales, and played serious amateur golf, and then turned pro,
teaching the sport for money and competing in professional
Seven years ago, Leonardi decided to quit sales and drive for a career
in a field he calls "golf entertainment." He contacted
and corporations asking if they could use him to "enhance golf
events," by doing clinics, entertaining, and being a
on the course. Originally, he called his business "Follow the
Sun," because that is exactly what he did. He maintains a summer
office in New Hampshire, but for the rest of the year, home was
he had been hired to appear at a corporate golf event.
His business now is called LifeSpeak, and has evolved beyond golf.
Many of his engagements still center on golf events, but others
inspirational speaking only. In his talks, he urges audiences to
his example and find work that draws upon their innate talents and
While legions of Americans have an interest in golf, a few are
in the talent department. A big part of Leonardi’s job at events like
the Princeton Chamber’s golf outing is to make these un-Tigerlike
golfers comfortable, to help them have fun. Here are some of his tips
to beginners who want to take part in a golf event, and have fun
worrying — too much — about humiliating themselves.
says Leonardi. He can help you learn how to swing the clubs, and will
be tolerant and helpful as you play during the event.
to a practice green, Leonardi suggests. Practice putting and chipping.
"Shots from 50 feet to the hole represent 70 percent of your
on the golf course," he says. It is Leonardi’s opinion that even
a rank beginner, with a little help from a friend, can quickly learn
to chip onto the green and aim at the hole with reasonable accuracy.
beginning golfers to acquit themselves well on the greens, he is not
so sanguine about their chances from the tee. "Ride in the
is his advice. Don’t even try to drive or get off any of those long
shots on dogleg fairways. He says it is common for beginners playing
at events to carry their balls, and then set them down 100 yards from
the green. That way, no one is held up, and the new golfer can come
away from each hole a little more confident in his ability. "You
feel totally empowered," Leonardi says. "It’s so much more
follow the one-man, one-ball format of most televised professional
events. There are a number of different ways to structure play, and
Leonardi suggests beginners seek out "scramble" tournaments.
In these events everyone hits the ball. Often, he says, "One guy
hits way down the fairway, and the three other guys hit into the
The three direction-challenged golfers then forge into the woods,
pick up their balls, and set them down next to the best ball hit.
This is true for each shot as the foursome progresses toward the
Just like life. But with a good strategy, it can turn into challenging
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