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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

scenic,

sun-drenched resorts favored by corporate meeting planners. His job

is to give a little inspirational talk, perhaps during a kickoff

dinner,

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

golfers;

$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

psychology,

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

survival."

It turns out that the career chosen because no other jobs were

available

was a perfect fit. "I’m from Brooklyn, a quintessential New

Yorker,"

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

PowerPoint

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

am."

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

tournaments.

Seven years ago, Leonardi decided to quit sales and drive for a career

in a field he calls "golf entertainment." He contacted

associations

and corporations asking if they could use him to "enhance golf

events," by doing clinics, entertaining, and being a

"personality"

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

wherever

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

involve

inspirational speaking only. In his talks, he urges audiences to

follow

his example and find work that draws upon their innate talents and

interests.

While legions of Americans have an interest in golf, a few are

challenged

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

without

worrying — too much — about humiliating themselves.

Hook up with a buddy. Find a friend to teach you the

basics,

says Leonardi. He can help you learn how to swing the clubs, and will

be tolerant and helpful as you play during the event.

Good putters have it made. Have your golf buddy take you

to a practice green, Leonardi suggests. Practice putting and chipping.

"Shots from 50 feet to the hole represent 70 percent of your

experience

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.

Ride to the green. While Leonardi is optimistic about

beginning golfers to acquit themselves well on the greens, he is not

so sanguine about their chances from the tee. "Ride in the

cart,"

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

fun."

Go for the scramble. Golf tournaments do not necessarily

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

woods."

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

green.

"Golf can be incredibly intimidating," says Leonardi.

Just like life. But with a good strategy, it can turn into challenging

fun.


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