Monday, July 16, 2012

Fore! Making your living playing online golf

Ah, just think of the jobs (and the workers) that made America great, from stoop-bend-labor, through Rosie the Riveter, to the oh-so-vaunted (at least a while back) “knowledge work” that was going to replace all that stoop-bend-labor and riveting Rosies.

Digging the Erie Canal. Pounding stakes into railroad ties. Working the blast furnaces in Pittsburgh. Assembly-lining in Detroit. Making movies. Discovering the cure for polio. Figuring out how to freeze food. Manufacturing TV sets. Inventing the Internet. Coming up with word processing and the relational database.

Well, I could go on, but there was a day when we used to make stuff, invent stuff, do stuff that was pretty darned tangible.

Now, alas, there is a lack of tangible, and even intangible jobs, except at the extremes.

You’re either a hedge fund manager or a hedge trimmer. A brain surgeon or a home health aide. A private equity investor making millions off correctional outsourcing, or a prison guard.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more of those barbelllow-end jobs than there are middling let alone high end jobs, and the loss of those middling jobs is particularly disastrous. Forget the Bell-curve. What we have now is the Barbell curve, with the preponderance of weight on that one, not so great side.

So what are we to do?

Because we are Americans, with a not yet dead spirit of determination and can-do, the belief that nothing can stop up, there’s no holding us back. Because we’re Americans, out-of-the-box thinkers, entrepreneurs at heart, we create all new categories of ways to make a living. Hang Thomas Alva Edison and damn perspiration. What we’re really good at is inspiration.

I give you those who make a living playing video golf. (Source: WSJ Online.)

Sure, there are only a couple of dozen people who today manage to scratch out a living making virtual eagles and holes in one. But when Henry Ford started, he wasn’t employing thousands of folks, either.

You have to start somewhere, and this could be big.

And, unlike the world of professional golf, it appears that you can do the job even if you aren’t the most bland, clean cut, buttoned down, buttoned up looking guy this side of the Cedar Rapids Jay-cees.

Why, here’s a bunch of the bros from last year’s Golden Tee tour. Look at them! Not a tour guys$90 Greg Norman golf shirt in the bunch. No corporate sponsorships. Plus, unlike the folks on the PGA Tour, they actually appear to be having fun, and not taking themselves so god-awful seriously that they forget that golf – on links or online - is not really all that important in the grand slam of things. (Which may come as a surprise to those who get all misty-eyed when the winner of the Masters’ Tournament dons the green jacket to the tunes of “My Old Kentucky Home.” Oh, wait, I’m conflating the Masters’ with the Kentucky Derby. Same vague neck of the woods.)

And you can make at least a modest living doing this. Graig Kinzler, who is featured in the WSJ video linked above, earned $50K last year. No, it’s not Phil Mickelson level, but it’s more than your average home health aide makes. You can drink beer on the job. And you don’t have to put up with crotchety old folks, either.

Plus while the Power Events Golden Tee Tour (PEGTour) isn’t yet the PGA – or even the LPGA – professional anything has to start somewhere.

This year’s somewhere start was in Florida in February. The tour ends in Dallas in December, where the winner of the year will be crowned, an honor that will (golf) bag him a bit over $2K. (If I’m reading this correctly. Seems like you’d have to win quite a few $2K pots to make up $50K.)

I guess I’m just a bit vague on all the details here. I mean, I can’t even figure out whether this is an arcade game or if you play online from a computer or both. Need to know basis, I suppose, and the pros who need to know obviously know.

I’m sure that the Golden Tee Tour, and professional video/online golf, will pick up momentum over time. Soon, no doubt, there’ll be large, hushed gallery crowds with those cardboard periscopes to see what’s going on. Green jackets for the winner-of-the-year. Caddies, even, to whisper advice and hand you your next quarter.

What can I say?

All my worries about the long-term indirection of our economy have dissipated.


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