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Executive profiles in golf.

Sy Green's youngest daughter has owned a putter since she was 18 months old. His first date with his wife was a golf date -- he handed her a 7-iron, a pitching wedge and a putter and said, "Let's go." If he comes back in another life, his wife is convinced it will be as a professional golfer, not as senior vice president and managing director for Chubb & Son Inc., one of the country's most successful property and casualty insurance companies. And that doesn't even begin to explain how much Sy Green loves golf.

Green, 55, carries an 11 handicap and plays at least twice a week. He is keenly competitive, although he won't admit it if you ask him. And like a growing number of other African Americans, he understands and appreciates that golf is a common denominator for many successful businessmen. "Golf makes for a way of warming up a situation where you have strangers involved," he says. "It creates a kind of comfort level. If you figure that in a round of golf, including lunch and a drink afterward, you're engaged with a person for a minimum of five to six hours. You can learn a lot about a person, their business and how they're going to react in a lot of different circumstances. I encourage my staff to learn golf, particularly the female employees. Golf is just a quicker, easier way to build relationships."

And not just business relationships. Green followed up his original golf date with Kim by marrying her six years later. She says the first gift he gave her was a set of clubs. And wouldn't you know it, the second gift he gave her was another set of clubs. He still golfs regularly with Kim and their four-year-old daughter, Jessica, who has become quite a Tiger Woods fan. And, albeit to a lesser degree, Green also tees it up with 30-year-old son Jason and 25-year-old daughter Jennifer.

When Green isn't golfing, he's putting in 12-hour days exploring opportunities in other markets for Chubb and Son, Inc. He has been with the company since graduating from Mount Union College in Ohio in 1964, advancing from management trainee to branch manager to eastern region manager to vice president and ultimately senior vice president. Throughout his climb to the top, golf has been a mainstay. "I try and play a good game but I don't necessarily go out to beat my customer," he says "You don't try to win at all costs. If you do that, you win the battle and lose the war. And that's not the intent."

Not every woman lives for the day when she can beat her husband in golf. Besides, most know that the male ego couldn't handle it. Kim Green could care less. She's determined to beat the pants off her husband, Sy, one of these days and she guarantees the whole world will know about it when she does.

The senior vice president of Manhattan-based Aon Risk Services figures she's at least two years away from "putting" her husband to shame. She has beaten him on individual holes before, but he's always come back to win the complete round. This year, though, she plans to work extensively on her game, including her fourth consecutive trip to the BE/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge.

That's but one of the golf outings Kim makes each year. She goes south to golf school at least once each winter, then there's the annual family trek to Hilton Head in August. When she's not traveling or working, she makes every attempt to get out to her home course at the Westchester Country Club for either a round or lessons.

No less authorities than Lee Elder and Renee Powell have complimented Kim on her golf temperament because she rarely gets flustered, even when faced with some horrific lies. Most times after she hits what she considers a bad shot, she will abandon her cart and try to walk off the miscue. "I go through my drills mentally," she says. "I ask myself, 'How was the club hit? How was my alignment? Was my weight on my back foot or my inside back foot? How was my eye contact with the ball?' I just try to regroup. The key is that you can't let it rattle you. If you do, you can kiss your golf game goodbye."

Kim admits to having tried tennis before but says its very hard to try and do both well. "Tennis is a very good workout," she reasons, "but golf is a mental workout because you're constantly challenging yourself."

Sometimes in the quiet of the morning, before the phone calls and the endless appointments, Robert Johnson slips out the back door of his tk-square foot house in the Audubon Terrace section of Washington, D.C., and enjoys one of life's simple pleasures. With the flick of a wrist, the swing of a racquet, the 51-year-old founder, CEO and Chairman of Black Entertainment Television is in a world of his own. Such are the advantages of having a tennis court in your own backyard.

Johnson, an avid tennis player with a strong baseline game, has had a special affection for tennis since growing up in Freeport, Illinois. That affection has grown to the point whereby these days, he makes a point of mixing tennis with business and speaking freely on the state of the game.

"If professional tennis is going to remain a TV sport, it has to do something about the game. It's no longer attractive," says Johnson, who you might say knows a little about the business of entertainment. "The games are over too fast and players are becoming one dimensional in that they have big serves. It's come down to who can outserve the other guy," he says. "Tennis has lost some of the excitement of the longer rallies that you got when Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg played the game. And it certainly doesn't have a black superstar like Tiger Woods to draw a more diverse viewing audience. It's still pretty much a country club, suburban sport. It hasn't really penetrated the psyche of inner city youth."

With Johnson's help though, the game may one day flourish in Anguilla. Two years ago, while visiting the Caribbean island, he befriended a couple of aspiring tennis players, one of whom worked as a hitting partner for guests staying at the Cap Juluca hotel. Johnson asked what their career goals were and was surprised to learn that each had dreams of going to school in the U.S. That fall, with Johnson's assistance, Mitchelle Lake and Shawn Romney were attending college in this country and last spring, they were the No. 1 doubles team at Gardner Webb University, a Division II school in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. One of their goals now is to promote tennis on Anguilla, which they have done for the past two years with BET as the major sponsor of their annual clinic.

Both students speak highly of Johnson, which is only natural, but it's clear that their critique of his game is no put on. "On a USTA scale, he's about a 2.5 to 3.0, which is pretty good for a person who has to spend most of his time running a company," says Romney. "His first serve is very consistent. He hardly ever misses it. But his second serve is his weapon.

Johnson says he tries to get in two or three matches a week and he takes lessons every weekend. However, when the demands of running the first Black-owned company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange knocks him off that schedule, he knows there's always the possibility of slipping out that back door early one morning.

To understand Earlene Cox's tennis drive, first you have to understand what drove her to tennis. Go back 23 years to 1974 when she was four months removed from having received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Staring her straight in the face were three more years of studies to get her Juris Doctorate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, so Cox did what any serious-minded student would: She took up tennis. This would be her diversion, her occasional attempt to exercise. But faster than she could say 15-love, she was head over heels in love.

"I found that I enjoyed the challenge of it--just being out there alone playing against somebody else," she says. "You have to understand that my background is law, and I love a good challenge. To me, tennis and law are a lot alike. To do both you have to be smart and take risks."

Since graduating from college, Cox has had no trouble finding challenges or taking risks. She hooked up with IBM in 1978 as a tax law clerk in the Corporate Tax Department and became a tax attorney the following year. Her steady and impressive climb through the company led to her to being named Director of U.S. Tax Operations for IBM Credit Corporation in 1995 and Director of International Taxes last year.

Her growth and development in tennis has been just as rewarding. She is a 12-year veteran of the USTA team tennis circuit and a regular at the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge.

Until recently, her forte in tennis was singles, but in keeping with her fondness for a good challenge, she now enjoys doubles, too. "I like the mental part of doubles. It's mostly about placement," she says, "and you really do have to go with how do you confuse the other side."

In singles, her strategy is much simpler: Hit it where your opponent isn't. Cox is also a firm believer in focusing on one point at a time and staying under control mentally. "I don't lose the perspective that it is a game," she says. "I try to keep in mind that I'm doing this for fun, for exercise, and mentally as a stress-reliever." After a very, very difficult day at the office, there's nothing like going out to hit some balls to release the tension. And I try not to get so serious that I walk off the court upset with my partner or someone I played against."

That's not to say Cox is shy about expressing her feelings. If she feels she's being wronged, she deals with it diplomatically. "Trouble is, tennis players tend to be some of the most competitive people you run into," she says. Truer words were never spoken.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Black Enterprise Golf and Tennis Challenge: 4th Annual Tournament Journal; four Black business people who enjoy the games of golf and tennis
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Sep 1, 1997
Words:1762
Previous Article:Reaching out to players of color.
Next Article:Introduce your kids to the game of golf.
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