Friday, June 15, 2012

PERSONAL: A Year Later: My "Open" Opportunity


It was exactly one year ago this week that my professional career and personal life took a bit of a detour. Some have said a complete change of direction - which is fine I guess - as it has been a bit of that. I prefer to call it a "pivot."


 Not exactly my term as I read it recently in a book that ties quite nicely to what I've done and what so many others might also have done mid-career.


 Then in my 17th year at Golf Channel, I was with the LIVE FROM crew in Washington, D.C.  It couldn't have been a better venue.  Our nation's capitol… on site… with the best crew in golf television for the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. As the story goes, I was sitting in the Marriott hotel having a mid-week bite of breakfast and chatting with David Feherty... when my phone rang. I looked down and saw the name of the current LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan.
      

Hosting 2008 US Open        courtesy Golf Channel
The rest, as they say, is history... but it certainly changed my future. His interest in me to fill an open position that he felt was vitally important to the LPGA tour's future direction was quite flattering. I never saw it coming. Sports executive positions working closely with a classy group of leaders usually don't fall in the laps of guys who host television shows. The conversation left my mind spinning about the potential of a new direction, a new challenge, and a chance to make a difference with a league that had, frankly, taken a bit of a media beating over recent years. Trust me, I heard it, felt it, and wondered a time or two about its direction.


Without going into detail about the future meetings we had to discuss the state of the tour, the details of the job and the goals we each had for ourselves, let's just say I think we were equally intrigued about the possibilities of working together and working to take the LPGA to another level. There was so much to consider and so many things to play out in my head.


As it played out, I didn't make the ultimate choice until the weekend before the PGA Championship. I hosted my final show on Golf Channel the following week and started officially as Chief Communications Officer of the LPGA on September 1st.


How did I come to the decision? So many people have asked me that question and I've never really answered it in a forum like this. A year later, I figure this might be a nice opportunity to explain.



Hosting School of Golf  2011


Ask anybody who knows me well and they’ll tell you that from the earliest days of grade school I wanted nothing more than to be on television hosting sports events or being a sportscaster. I went to school for it, climbed the ladder with clear goals, and rode the career escalator to a pretty lofty spot at Golf Channel where we took a great idea,  gave it a big launch, and grew it into a network of substantial value and following.




The Golf Channel was and is much more than a channel... it has become a "brand." The fans are what make it special because "we golfers” can all relate to our own love for the game and those who play it for money. The people I worked with from the earliest days to the last are some of the most talented and hard working I've ever been around. The Golf Channel gave me a platform to be a part of something special and a chance to grow. I consider myself fortunate. Always have.




But as much as I love television and the “rush” of hosting shows and creating lively banter, I have always - and I mean always - had a desire to work with people creating big ideas that shape a business and can really affect others.


Over the last five years, I started to spend more time wondering about how I might spend the "second half" of my career.  I often asked myself if I'd be content to be known as simply "the Golf Channel guy." To me, there was the idea of "making another show" and then there's the idea of really "making a difference."  My thoughts started steering toward how I could use 25 years of television and media experience and put it toward helping others or growing another great plan into a bigger "brand."

Speaking for HTK Media


In January 2010, sitting on an airplane to the west coast, I pulled the mental trigger.  And in March of 2010, I started HTK Media, LLC - a consulting company focused on helping people, athletes, and organizations get more out of every media opportunity.  It allowed me to branch off a bit - by design - and gave me a chance to do a lot more public speaking, and professional sharing.  The idea of helping athletes do better interviews, events create more buzz, professionals develop their individual brand, corporations make better commercials, golf organizations get more from their people, and students see that the only way to succeed is to find a way to out-think and out-work their competition to separate themselves from the pack... was very appealing.  And in a short time it’s been very rewarding.
I'm a huge believer that opportunities are what create success.  Some people are afraid to fail.  Some people are afraid to put themselves outside their comfort zone in the first place.  I understand fully, but I also felt like there was a desire to see what else was out there.  After self-thought, sleepless nights and counsel from a select group of six who know who they are - I made a decision.



Masters 2011         courtesy Golf Channel
 In the most simple of terms, I chose the idea of what else there could be for me over what I already knew I had.  Some people say - if the "grass truly is greener, then go there."  That wasn't the case for me.  I'd challenge anyone to find someone who loved Golf Channel more than I did.  And I full well realize I have the opportunity today because of what Golf Channel and its people gave me - and what I gave them in return.  I was intrigued by the idea of a new mission, and a chance to make a different impact.  After 25 years, a few more weekends off to be with family wasn't a bad perk to consider either.


Unlike television where the show gets wiped clean and a new one begins tomorrow.... I love the idea of the "build."  And that's what is in front of me right now. 



LPGA - Growing the Game
I work with some of the most passionate people I've ever been around.  And they - like me - have a vision for where we want to go.  And through this new opportunity I've had the chance to be a part of leaders shaping the future of the game and a chance to speak to kids who will be the game's future.


But as I say during talks I make on behalf of the LPGA, and HTK Media, I don't believe there really is a true “destination.”  It's about the “journey” and that's what provides the passion to produce.  Do something different... not just because they've always done it that way.  Do something that gets people to pay attention... don't wait for people to take notice.  And most of all... don't be afraid to make a mistake on the way to making a difference.    
I’m always surprised at the number of people who say, “I watch you all the time – love your show!”  It certainly makes me feel good for what I’ve been a part of.  Maybe TV is on "hold"... who knows.  But I do know that I'm fortunate to have had this opportunity come my way.  Who knows if I'd ever have been tossed another one like it.  Ultimately, that was the factor that pushed me to “pivot.”


And just like working to make the Golf Channel a success as part of my "first half," I'm at least as energized about what lies ahead in the "second half."  Sunday, I'll be thinking about it all I'm sure.  It's the birthday of my twins and a Father's Day to boot.  Can't say I've been in town for all of them... but this one will be extra special!


As always, I appreciate you reading this, welcome your comments and hope to see you at an LPGA event in the near future!