Graduate student Isaac Hattem, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Ithaca College, said playing golf in a business setting is something he has always had in mind after seeing his best friend’s father make a deal on the golf course.
“The best thing about golf is it takes you out of the suit interactions,” Hattem said. “It’s almost as formal without being as formal. … Your handshake at the end of the deal is like, ‘When we get back to the office on Monday, this is something that’s going to happen.’”
In 2002, Business Week and Golf Digest teamed up to put out a supplemental issue called Golf and the Business Life that laid out tips for business golfers on how to play, where to get started and how to organize corporate outings.
According to the survey “Golf and the Business Executive,” conducted by Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, out of 400 businesspeople surveyed, 93 percent agreed that golf is a good way to establish a closer relationship with business associates. Eighty percent said golf is a good way to find new contacts, and 35 percent said some of their biggest deals were made out on the golf course.
The college offers Physical Activity, Leisure and Safety classes in both golf and tennis that not only teach the game, but also the etiquette behind each sport. This semester, the college is offering six tennis classes and seven golf classes.
Last year, the Women in Business Network, which was founded in 2007, hosted a golf tournament along with Beta Alpha Psi, to teach women the ins and outs of the game.
Junior Katie Wefer, a member of the Women in Business Network, said the group held the outing so women would feel comfortable in an already male-dominated career.
“It’s important for women to realize that not only can they exceed standards males set in business careers, but also in male-dominated sports,” she said. “We want women to feel confident playing the game if and when they step onto the field surrounded by men in the future.”
Wefer said playing golf in the business world is also a good way to build relationships.
“When you go, you’re able to network with other people who are playing, and you form relationships,” Wefer said. “It’s more like a social event; it’s not as formal as the real business setting.”
Hattem said he never took formal lessons, but instead, he has learned from just playing at a golf course in his hometown.
“Golf is one of those things, I’m not good enough at it to play it — because I love golf — because it’s too frustrating, but I play golf for those three shots a round, I chipped it on the green, or I had a great drive,” he said. “The main factor is I would love to be playing golf with business at some point in my life. That was something I definitely took into consideration.”
While both sports can be beneficial for people in the business world, Bill Austin, head coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams, said that golf is probably more practical for that setting.
“With golf, a really good golfer can play right alongside a really bad golfer, and they can still enjoy the round of golf; it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If a really good tennis player is playing a really bad tennis player, it’s not nearly the same type of camaraderie that you’re able to transact on that.”
Jennifer Beekman ’04, who played on the women’s tennis team all four years at the college, uses her tennis skills and knowledge in the business setting but in a different way.
Beekman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports information and communication and is now the tennis beat writer for the Montgomery County Gazette in Maryland. She said she continues to play in leagues and that has helped her network.
“I’ve met people that are not necessarily in my profession, but that know people in my profession and have passed my résumé around, so it’s been good to meet people and kind of network that way,” Beekman said.
Scott Ruben ’03, who also played four years of tennis at the college, said tennis was an integral part in finding a career.
“It helped me — it may not have gotten me my job — but it definitely put me on the path to be at a place where I could get a good job and have a good career,” Ruben said.
Ruben, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, said at all three of the places he has worked, he has found people who are into tennis.
“It has helped me form relationships at work with people that I wouldn’t necessarily have a relationship with,” Ruben said.
Whether applying the games of golf and tennis to the business world or another career, Austin said one of the main reasons these sports can help in the job world is their longevity.
“The big thing about it is the phrase ‘sport of a lifetime,’” Austin said. “And they really are because you can play them until you can’t walk anymore, and then you can still figure out ways to play them.”