How to Retire Into the Golf Industry

CARLSBAD, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- Golf shouldn't be relegated to a corporate drone's second love when it could just as easily be his or her career's second act.

Pete Wlodkowski was working as national sales manager for online ticket pioneer TicketWeb 11 years ago before it was bought by Ticketmaster ( LYV). He had bounced there from sales positions at EMC ( EMC) and Internet software maker Inktomi before it was bought by Yahoo ( YHOO). His heart, however, was on the golf course.
You can spend your career's back nine on the greens. That's how the founder of is doing it.

Wlodkowski had played college golf at Middlebury College in Vermont, played high school golf while growing up in Connecticut and briefly served as a PGA Tour marketing director for the TPC at River Highlands in Connecticut. He had a working knowledge of amateur golf, but it wasn't getting him much more than the occasional Monday off to play tournaments.

"I always wanted to know what tournaments were going on," he says. "I always lamented that in New England there just weren't that many golf tournaments going on, whereas I was like a kid in a candy store when I moved to California and there were 250 tournaments a year."

In 2000, Wlodkowski bought the domain name and began building his own business by setting up amateur golf tournaments. Wlodkowski is now the chief executive of an organization that hosts 15 tournaments a year for competitive amateurs and less-than-average players with handicaps as high as 15.

"When I tell people what I do, nobody asks me how much money I make, but how I make money," he says.

The tournaments brought in some revenue, but building the site into a database for all amateur tournaments and players while adding course reviews, equipment reviews, player rankings, instructional blogs and more helped bring in paid memberships and sponsorships from Fortune Brands' ( FO) Titleist and other golf equipment companies.

We spoke with Wlodkowski about transitioning from the corporate world to the $26.3 billion golf industry and came away with some tips for entering the golf world as a second career or a retirement option without giving up the freedom to play the game:

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