2004: Business - Dave Pelz

There was a time when Dave Pelz believed he simply was too busy to teach amateur golfers the nuances of the short game – or, in Pelzspeak, the scoring game. It was the mid-1980s, and Pelz was filling his time conducting research (still his first passion), creating innovative golf gadgets and tutoring some of the best PGA Tour professionals in chipping and putting.

The problem with being in the golf club manufacturing business, he learned, is that you’re constantly chasing money. So Pelz’s assistant JoAnn Pelly, who later became his wife, kept urging him to teach, to give some sliver of his time to amateurs seeking the same knowledge he was imparting to the Tom Kites of the Tour. After all, the amateurs would pay up front.

The inquiries kept coming, and Pelz, showing lukewarm interest, had an idea to shoo all those Joe 18-handicappers away.

“Tell them I charge $1,000 a day,” he told JoAnn. So she did, and they said, “Fine.”

Hmmm. Pelz then upped the ante to $1,500 per day. No problem, they told him. Not long after, there he was, standing at his inaugural school in Abilene, Texas, addressing a group of students who’d paid $3,000 apiece for his three-day short-game boot camp. His best discovery? The more Pelz taught, the more he learned he actually was the one getting the education.

Today, Pelz Golf has six Scoring Game Schools around the country. His company comprises a staff of 53, including 20 golf instructors at his profitable schools and six researchers at the Pelz Golf Institute, which makes nary a penny. Despite the growing staff, Pelz Golf remains very much a family business. JoAnn helps with the schools, and son Eddie, an engineer, works side by side with his father on research and various projects.

Invariably, Pelz has far more projects than he does time, but at 64, he refuses to slow down, spending half his time on the road.

It took the former NASA scientist six years before he was able to turn a tiny profit in the golf business. His first year he lost $72,000 investors had raised, and the next year he lost $40,000 of his own money, mortgaging his house and two automobiles. Years later, he flies around in private aircraft, drives fancy cars and has homes around the country.

What made him perservere?

“I believed,” he said. “I loved the game, and I believed I could make a contribution. In the long run, it’s not about the money, but feeling good about what you’re doing in life. I’ve always loved golf, and I knew if I could make a living in it, it would be unbelievably fun. It has been.”

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