When I was nine years old, growing up next to a golf course was very exciting. The woods surrounding the course held many adventures for me. I would walk around the course and pick up balls with my older sister Cara. I felt the same excitement as I would have if I had been partaking in an Easter egg hunt. I always had to focus on scanning the forest floor to make sure I wouldn’t miss a ball under a branch or some leaves. I loved finding the colored golf balls. Aside from the standard white, I would, on occasion, find yellow, green, pink and even clear crystal balls.
This wasn’t all fun and games, though, because I always ran the risk of getting hit by a golf ball. Several times in my golf ball hunting career, I have been standing under a tree that had just been hit by a ball and have been nearly struck in the head when the ball came down from the branches. In another instance, I was almost struck on the head by a line drive that was hit way off course. In addition, while in the woods, I also had to be aware of poison ivy and ticks. In the woods, I have always worn my least desired clothing because I have read that the oil from the poison ivy can last for a year if not washed off properly.
I turned this Easter egg hunting into a business when my Dad mentioned to a co-worker that he had a garage full of golf balls. The co-worker, a golfer, mentioned that he needed balls and would be willing to buy some from me. I put together a bucket of balls for the golfer and he promptly gave me 25 cents for each ball. Following this sale, I asked the co-worker if he knew of any other golfers who would be interested in purchasing golf balls. Soon after, I received inquires about the golf balls, which slowly helped start the business.
With each new customer came additional referrals. One referral named Jim, who came to buy balls, opened my eyes to the world of varying golf ball values. I had no idea that some golf balls could cost much more than others. I figured that if the golf balls look the same and are the same color, their retail price must be the same. Jim, being a very honest fellow, pointed out to me that although they look the same, some balls are worth as much as ten times as others.
I took the information I learned from Jim and went to the local sporting goods store and saw many varieties of golf balls with great differences in price. I was baffled to see certain Titleist and Callaway brands retailing for over forty dollars a dozen. At this point, I realized I was dealing with expensive items and it made sense to clean them thoroughly and set their price according to their condition and retail value. The golf balls I sell now are generally fifty to seventy percent off their retail value. This provides golfers with a huge incentive to buy from me, especially in these tough economic times.
My business has now grown dramatically and I sell balls throughout the year. I have a steady client base that includes business owners, salesmen, retirees, doctors, lawyers and golfers of all ages seeking good value. With the help of my sister, I created business website ( http://bostonareagolf.100mb.com ) that offers thirty different brands of balls ranging from the most elite balls to the shag balls, which are commonly used for practice.
I have also done quite a lot of research, and I am quite confident of my knowledge about the differences between the thirty brands I sell. I have had customers drive long distances to pick up my golf balls, some customers coming from another state. My website even refers to a swing test for golfers to improve their stroke.
I am often asked by golfers for my opinion about the best balls for them to use. I often find that even good golfers get hung up on a particular brand of ball, not realizing that with increased skill or increased age, a better alternative may exist.
The business has taught me a lot. I now have to deal with issues involving marketing, inventory control, quality control, and customer retention. It has also given me an opportunity to meet some fascinating people who, if not for the business, would probably not have the time to chat casually to a fifteen year old. Some of these individuals, particularly the salesmen, have given me great advice. All of them have shown me respect and admiration, which can be very comforting.
Evan Ruccolo is in the tenth grade at Saint John’s Preparatory Academy in Danvers, Massachusetts. He is the proprietor of the Boston Area Golf Group.