Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I played my first round of golf when I was 13 years old and my dad, U.S. Navy Commander Edward W. Baumann, took me out to the Barber's Point Naval Air Station near our house in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, to the base's new nine hole course in 1963.

Dad first stopped at the Base Exchange and checked out (rented) a half set of clubs in a canvas carry bag. Those mixed five irons, driver, three-wood, and putter would be my first set of golf clubs for the next four months. Dad bought me two sleeves of Jato golf balls to use. I would tee off on the first tee, then walk along the right side of the fairway, mostly an old airplane runway covered with weeds, and look for lost golf balls until I reached my drive. I'd hit my second shot toward the green, then return to the rough to look for more balls.

I didn't take a golf lesson right away, using an interlocking grip at first. After two months I could shoot 48 for nine holes, twelve over par, and had filled six gallon buckets with used golf balls I had found. Dad would drop me off at the course on a Saturday at 6:00 A.M. and then pick me up at 7:00 P.M. after I had walked 72 holes, and had found another two dozen balls or so. After four months Dad bought me a series of six golf lessons, and I changed to an overlapping grip. Then I asked Dad if he'd buy me my own set of clubs, a full set with 14 clubs. He replied, "I'll buy you a set when you break 90 for 18 holes!"

A week later I shot 88, playing the Barber's Point nine-hole course twice. And, Yes, it was an honest 88. If Dad taught me one thing, it was to always be honest, in sports and in life.

Dad took me to the base Exchange and bought me a full set of Sam Snead Blue Ridge irons and woods. I think my first putter of my own was an Acushnet blade.

Three years later Dad was given orders to move to San Diego, and my younger brother, Bruce, and I joined the San Diego Junior Golf Association. Being residents of San Diego County, we could play unlimited rounds of golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course, owned by the city, for $33 per month, each! Today it costs over $200 to play one round at Torrey!

In 1966 I attended the University of California, San Diego campus, and was the #2 man on their golf team as a scratch golfer. UCSD being a two year campus at that time, I transferred to San Diego State College to finish my education in business Management in 1971. Two weeks out of college, I met two potato farmers from Boise, Idaho on the first tee at Stardust Country Club and played 18 holes with them, during which I corrected their slices! I was immediately their best friend for life!

Over lunch I told them I was starting a company called Intertel, Inc. where I intended to manufacture and sell the world's first cordless telephone. I asked them if they would like to invest in my company, $25,000 each in stock. Both men said, "Yes." The next day they called me and said they had two other potato farmers in Boise who wanted to invest the same amount.

Over the next four years we made and sold the world's first cordless telephone, as well as inventing the world's first "touch pad dialer" that allowed users to push buttons to dial regular telephones and our cordless phone on rotary-dial telephone lines.

Over the next 40 years every small business I started was with someone I had met and played golf with on a golf course! Golf, I had learned, was better than a Lie Detector when it came to judging the character of a man.

When I started Probe Golf in 1986 and was looking for nationwide distributors to market my custom fit golf sets, I would have interested individuals fly into the Medford, OR airport and drive to the Lake Shastina Golf Resort where my Probe assembly facility was in my garage.

The next morning I would play 18 holes with each applicant, and from one round of golf, or less, I could tell if I wanted that individual as a Probe distributor. I learned in less than four hours how honest a person was. I learned if he had a temper, and if he could handle pressure.

In my new book, LOVE WAS NOT ENOUGH, 2nd Edition, to be published next month, I even suggest that during our next Presidential primaries, we hold a golf tournament between all of those in the running, instead of holding debates.

Golf is the greatest game ever played, and I believe it should play a bigger part in our national and international politics. What do you think?

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