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Last month, B.J. Maloy, founder and CEO of Evolve Golf, was named among the “Top 40 Under 40” executives for 2009 by Sporting Goods Business magazine. This award recognizes young business people who are leaders in the sporting goods market.
B.J. was selected from more than 500 nominees, based on criteria of years of service, level of responsibility attained, accomplishments and commitment to teamwork. He was noted to have made a direct and positive impact on the sporting goods industry as a whole.
Last week, B.J. and I had lunch together and I got to know this young innovator and entrepreneur. He’s a cool guy, enthusiastic, bright, proud of what he has done, yet humble. He’s a patriot and a family man.
B.J. lives in Calabash, but his life journey began in Massachusetts in the Berkshire Mountains. He started playing golf at the age of 12, when he caddied for his dad, but played baseball and football in high school. After getting a bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from Massachusetts College, B.J. worked for several years with Internet startup companies in the Boston area.
“One day I went to a major trade show and golf was on the schedule,” B.J. explained. “They had a putting contest, where you had to sink three long putts. I did it and won a Greatest Big Bertha Driver, which was worth several hundred dollars at that time. I needed new clubs, so I traded in that driver for a whole set, and suddenly I was back to playing more and more golf until I became totally addicted to the sport.”
B.J. played every day, driving to the Egremont Golf Club at dawn, walking the course by himself, then driving 1 ½ hours into Boston to work.
“I was so intense that I took the car one day and didn’t notice that the car seat was in the back. My wife called the course and they told me, ‘You’re in big trouble now. Your wife’s got to take your kid to school and you’ve got the car seat.’
“It was crazy back then. I was working lots of long hours, not seeing enough of my wife and kids, not playing enough golf.
“One day, I had this vision that I could make a better golf tee. Tees used to sell for 50 cents a bag, then they went up to $1, and that got me thinking. What if I made a tee of recycled materials? What if the golf ball sat on knobs so there would be less interaction with the driver? The tee would be biodegradable and tough enough to last several rounds. It would cost more, but it would be worth it.
“I had been working with start-up companies, and I suddenly realized that I did not want to work for someone else’s dream any longer. I wanted my own dream and my own success.
“I designed the tee, patented it and called it the Epoch Golf Tee. I put in my own money to build a prototype, did some independent testing to see what it would do. Then I quit my job and drove around to golf courses and stores; I followed the professional tours, selling my golf tee out of the back of my car. Players started to use it. I got USGA approval for the tee.”
(The United States Golf Association must approve equipment that is used in competition, including clubs, balls and tees.)
B.J. attended a meeting of venture capitalists in Raleigh. By then, he had enough established accounts to try to get an “angel” to invest in his big idea.
“I got $250,000 to start the company, and I was off and running. We moved to Calabash and recently opened our own office here. Our sign says Evolve Golf.”
The tees are manufactured in Massachusetts. The packaging is done there, too, because B.J. firmly believes U.S. companies can and should keep their operations here. The materials used are biodegradable, made from a sawdust mixture that is stable at all temperatures and humidity levels. An earlier version of the Epoch tee was more susceptible to those factors, but the newer design is more durable and is reported to last for 36 holes of play.
B.J. is a consummate salesman and entrepreneur. When he talks about the Epoch Golf Tee, he becomes totally animated and his eyes light up.
“The Epoch tee lasts longer and doesn’t ruin mower blades,” B.J. explained. “Superintendents love it because there’s no more litter on the teeing areas. Several of the big name courses, like Reynolds Plantation, The Cliffs and Grandfather Mountain, are using them exclusively. We’re at over 300 clubs around the country now.
“A ball hit off an Epoch tee will travel anywhere from 3 to 12 yards longer, depending on the club head speed of the golfer. Right now, 30 PGA Tour players are using our tees.”
Why would a particular tee add to the distance to a golf ball?
“The Epoch tee is designed so the ball rests on a little pedestal,” B.J. explained. “Tiny prongs span the dimples on the ball so there is zero interference with the driver.”
I asked B.J. what it’s like to have an idea, work hard and see it through to success.
“You have to truly believe in what you’re doing and then work really hard at it. My mother had a start-up company, so I had a little background in what it takes.”
What’s in the future?
“We’re developing the Sweet Spot System. Our latest tees have marks on the stem. Golfers can go to our Web site, tell it what driver they’re using, and we’ll tell you how deep to insert the tee into the ground. In addition, our tees now come in various heights, because a lot of golfers are using hybrid clubs, which do not have a large face. Also, some folks like to use irons off the tee, so now everyone can use an Epoch tee no matter which club they select for their tee shot.”
“We are exploring using sweet grass in the construction of our tees instead of sawdust. This is grass that is used in crop rotation and is usually plowed under. We want to be even more ‘green,’ because sweet grass is a totally renewable source.”
In summing up his life at the beach, B.J. said, “I have the greatest job because I love what I do. Plus, I love living here. I first fell in love with this area on a golf trip with my buddies years ago. In my spare time, I go to the beach with my kids and tinker with an old BMW.”
B.J. admits he doesn’t have much time for golf these days.
Oh, well. First things first, I say.
Golf Gab Groaner
Bob, Bill and Joe were playing their usual Saturday round when Bill hit his drive into a marshy area to the left of the fairway. While looking around for his ball, Bill spotted something shiny in the water and pulled out an old metal lamp. He took out his handkerchief to polish it, and suddenly a huge genie whooshed out in a big puff of smoke.
“I will grant you each one wish for releasing me from my confinement in the lamp,” the genie announced.
Each thought about it for a few minutes, then Bob spoke up. “I want to be rich.”
A huge puff of smoke revealed a large pile of golf coins at his feet.
Joe said, “I’ve always wanted to be attractive to women.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, there was more smoke. Joe’s jaw grew straight and strong, his head was covered in a mass of thick hair, his chest expanded and his biceps bulged.
Bill stood silent and thought for a few seconds longer. “I want to be God.”
A third puff of smoke and Bill was made Chairman of the Rules Committee of the golf club.
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.