Sports always seemed like the great equalizer to me. It didn’t matter if you were white, brown or black. How big your house was or if you lived in a trailer home like me. Whether it be a basketball court, a football field, or a baseball diamond, everyone was the same. I thought everyone had an equal opportunity to rise to the top, that was all until I spent some time at the golf course.
As a kid, I would tag along with my Tio’s Humberto, Paco, and Guero to Bear Creek Golf World in Houston, TX. My job was to drive the golf cart while they drank a few brews and let the stresses of the real-world travel through their drivers and into the ball.
I heard experienced players take their cuts out of the bunkers as I made my way around a tight corner one unusually cool summer afternoon. We were making our way to the club house after the front 9 because one of my uncles needed some more tees to drive off of. Now, this wasn’t my first time in that club house, something just seemed different about it today. There were more people than usual which made me pay attention to something I had never really paid attention to. My uncles and I were the only Mexican people there.
Not only did I notice we looked different than everybody else, the conversations from hole-to-hole were on universes far and wide from anything I’ve ever heard. I’ll never forget a certain conversation I overheard once that made me realize for the first time in my life that I was broke.
“Sure, Brad and I can do a $10 million-dollar investment next quarter. That seems logical.”
“Great! The board and I were eagerly awaiting your decision. Now, let’s have a little fun. A grand a hole? What do you say? I’ll hustle you guys and you can pay for Jr’s first semester at UT.”
As a child my mom made $25,000 a year. She had to support myself, and my 2 younger siblings off that salary. We lived in a trailer park and my backyard was an infested creek that ran off into the local Wal-Mart.
I wasn’t used to the vernacular that was in my presence. My eyes being open to the rich side of the real world didn’t make me feel bad about growing up poor, in fact, the opposite happened. It planted a seed in me that I still carry with me to this day. From that day forward, I was going to be one of those business men sipping fine whiskey at my local country club talking business. Discussing ideas that will not only push my future forward, but all of humanity.
I wanted to be a rich guy who wants to get away from his wife for a few hours and relax with his buddies as they built foundations for million-dollar deals. I wanted to throw on the fancy argyle sweaters with a fresh pair of Nike golf shoes and hit the country club.
You see, from that moment forward golf was always more than a game to me. The game served as a gateway for me to be on a level playing field with people, I never thought I could. Before I moved out to California, I remember going to a business meeting with Fedex as they were trying to earn some of our business. Fedex sponsors the Valero Open so we got invited to San Antonio to come play the course.
The first 9 rounds were basically the reps buttering me up. You want to know how I figured out they were just being nice because they wanted to do business with me? Because they complimented my putting game. I can drive it close to the fairway and then chip my way onto the green. But, the second I get on the green you may as well get your iPhone out and start scrolling Twitter because we’re going to be there for a while.
We chuckled and had a few drinks as we let the therapeutic relief of the game travel through our bodies. The back 9 is where the conversations I heard more than a decade ago started to come back into my ears.
“Let me just cut it to you straight. I can bring down all my cost 9% across the board. With the amount of volume, you do, that’s almost a quarter million dollars per year. Hell of a Christmas bonus, right?”
It was then that I was taken back to Houston, TX. I could still smell the fresh cut grass, the Texas summer sun beaming on my face, but most importantly, it was then that I realized how life comes full circle. I always knew that the power of the mind is not a joke, but this was something special. A game. A club, a ball, a cup and a whole lot of open space helped me realize that no matter where you come from. No matter what you look like, you can always put yourself in situations you knew you could do all along. That’s what happens when you play the game of business.