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December 27, 2017

5 Questions with Golf Genius President and CEO Mike Zisman

Mike Zisman has a background in enterprise software and a long career in building and managing successful businesses -- Soft‑Switch, Lotus Development Corporation, and IBM among them. He has a Ph.D. in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and was on the faculty at M.I.T. before becoming an entrepreneur.

Zisman is passionate about the game of golf (his club memberships include Merion and Saucon Valley in Pennsylvania), but it was his interest in solving scheduling problems that served as the genesis for Golf Genius Software and its tournament management system. Thanks to a partnership with the USGA, the platform has managed almost 8 million rounds in 2017 and will soon be available in more than 10,000 golf facilities across the U.S.

Zisman recently took some time to talk with NGF about Golf Genius’s popular software, its innovation, its benefits to the golf community, and the way it combines technology with tradition. Golf Genius Software has been an NGF member since 2013. 

 

When did you first get involved with golf as a participant and how deep has your connection to the game run over the years?

 

I developed a real passion for the game years ago, but I always say don't confuse a passionate golfer with a good golfer. I’m very committed. My wife also plays golf, so I play a lot with her and other couples, and I’m deeply involved with Merion Golf Club. I joined about 13 or 14 years ago, have been on the board of directors, chairman of finance committee, treasurer, currently assistant treasurer, and I’m very involved in the complete restoration of the East Course we're undertaking. So I have a strong connection to the game. Most of my friendships are around golf. My kids used to play, then they got into girls, and now they're getting back into golf, which is nice to see. So I’ve always had this passion for golf, always enjoyed it, and always was the guy organizing the annual golf trip.”

 

How did the Golf Genius software come about?


Ever since the late 80’s when I started playing, I had a bunch of friends going on golf trips – places like PGA National, Sea Island, Pinehurst, and Kohler. I was always the one organizing it. And I was always the one getting all the crap at the end of trip, stuff like, ‘I played with so‑and‑so three times and I didn't play with Mike at all.’ On a golf trip, you come to play golf, you have dinner, and go to bed. So if I don't see a guy in my foursome on the course, I might finally see them on Sunday and say, ‘So, how is everything?’

I was very frustrated with these golf trips and in particular -- how do you get everyone playing with everyone else? It’s a scheduling problem. It’s not a lot different from how airlines schedule airplanes and crews, how FedEx routes trucks; it’s a class of operations research problem. I went off and worked with a professor at Wharton and solved that problem, and realized that’s not a product. You have to have tournament software, accounting software, and cartography. So in 2010, we came out with this product called Golf Trip Genius that was targeted to save the guy organizing the golf trip an enormous amount of time. It was a very small product. We went from there to golf leagues. Many people think golf is an elitist game, but 90% of golfers are public golfers. So we built a product for golf leagues. By 2014, we thought we really had the software we needed to go into private clubs, which really run complex tournaments and have very sophisticated requirements. We were quite successful with that and started working with the USGA, which has now adopted us as their product in this space.”

 

Full article: ngf.org.

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