Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of 3 in our “The Game’s Inherent Bond” series about how golf connects people in unexpected and wonderful ways. Look for Part 3 in the December issue of Lone Star Golf. For Part 1, click here.
It was still dark out on the morning when Christine
Hollinden and Jane Howze arrived at Shadow Hawk Golf Club for a member’s “ABCD”
tournament, a format that groups together four golfers with different skill
levels. That Saturday in July of 2000 was destined to be another South Texas
scorcher. In the last few minutes before first light, however, the air was
comfortable, almost cool.
The two women, complete strangers at the time, nonetheless
were hesitant as they made their way to the staged golf cart area. Christine
had yet to meet many of her fellow members at the elite, golf-centric club in
Richmond. In a sense, everyone was new; Shadow Hawk GC opened in late 1999. A
strong golfer and the Founder and CEO of a successful Houston-based marketing
agency, Christine would go on to win the Shadow Hawk Women’s Club Championship
in 2001. In the middle of 2000, she was working on her game, meeting fellow
members and forging friendships.
Jane, on the other hand, was relatively new to
the game. The Managing Director of The Alexander Group, an international executive
search firm with offices in New York City, San Francisco, Houston, London, San
Diego and Salt Lake City, Howze started playing golf in 1998. A tennis
enthusiast at the time, all of Howze’s clients played, and she thought, “If I
played golf, I could get four-plus
hours of uninterrupted time with a client. How often in business do you
It was a good call
and a smart move. But back then, Jane had yet to break 100. She was not exactly
confident with a club in her hands.
As fate had it,
Christine and Jane were cart partners that day. It’s not a stretch to say the
random pairing changed their lives.
“I arrive at Shadow Hawk, and I’m the C player in the
group,” Christine said. “I’m paired with a woman I’ve never laid eyes on before
– our group’s D player. Our A and B players were two men who were obviously
very good golfers.”
Both lacking their morning
coffee, Christine and Jane’s games got off to a slow start. They were impressed
with their adroit teammates, who striped shots and sank putts from the outset. The
women’s nervous energy turned to small talk, which instantly changed the vibe in
"That day started out with two strangers uncertain about their golf games and ended with entrepreneurial women forging a friendship as strong as our businesses.” – Christine Hollinden
They quickly learned they
were both business owners, a fact that strengthened their bond and initiated
the conversation. In the year 2000, Jane said it was unusual for her to meet another
“Almost immediately, our
conversation found common ground,” Christine said. “We quickly found ourselves
talking about everything from our views on business leadership to our favorite food,
the pleasures of golf, and our mutual enjoyment of a new reality TV show.”
The concept of Survivor – one of Christine and Jane’s
favorite programs – entails throwing complete strangers into stressful
situations under which they must provide for themselves, compete and adapt to
an ever-changing environment. Jane remarked how the show could be a metaphor
for business. Christine agreed and added that playing in this golf tournament
felt a little like Survivor, too.
They hadn’t broken through with any meaningful conversation with their male
teammates, and the two women felt some pressure to perform.
A couple cups of
strong coffee shifted the momentum.
“On the third or fourth hole, our games woke up,”
Christine said. “We started relaxing and stopped trying to play someone else’s
game. We pulled out our drivers and both hit long, straight drives down the
fairway. Our playing partners had both hit wayward drives. We continued to hit
good shots, almost a complete turnaround from the initial few holes. That’s
when our playing partners turned and said, ‘Ladies, next time we’re paired
together, we are so buying you
espressos from the start!’ We all roared with laughter. The conversation flowed
among the four of us from that point on.”
They didn’t win the
tournament, but the day was a rousing success. They had all made new friends.
Jane and Christine also quickly became business allies. Jane hired Christine’s
agency to redo her firm’s website and provide marketing support. When it came
time for Hollinden Marketers + Strategists to make a hire for a key position,
Christine sought Jane’s counsel on interview questions and hiring best
practices. Jane’s guidance encouraged Christine to become certified in both the
Kolbe and Personalysis Assessments – tools she uses to this day.
“Golf didn’t give us a tournament win that day, but it sure did give me
a winner of a professional and personal relationship,” said Jane, who is a
prolific blogger on a variety of topics. “And isn’t that what golf and life are
As the face of Hollinden and
one of the foremost experts in professional services marketing, Christine
travels the country delivering more than 20 presentations each year to various
industry and professional organizations. She regularly cross-promotes Jane’s
company during her speaking engagements.
“Jane is an outstanding
leader, communicator and writer,” Christine said. “I often use The Alexander
Group’s blog as a great example of how to communicate effectively and build
lasting relationships. I frequently pull up their blog and read excerpts to give
a real-life example of how to better market their firms.”
Today, Jane and Christine
are still as passionate about golf as they are about their businesses. Jane was
featured in a 2006 Golf Digest story
after she played all of their Top 100 courses in a single year.
regularly plays and competes, as her firm continues to receive national
accolades, the latest being a design award from the Association of Accounting
Marketing. The two entrepreneurs remain close friends. They travel together
with their husbands and have played golf in places such as Utah, California, Mexico
and Las Vegas.
“Jane and I have never
forgotten that tournament. That day started out with two strangers
uncertain about their golf games and ended with entrepreneurial women forging a
friendship as strong as our businesses,” Christine said. “Jane has been a
mentor and a dear friend. Together, we have shared numerous meals, laughs,
rounds of golf, and watched our share of Survivor
together. We’ve had so many great conversations, and none of them ever would’ve
happened if not for the game of golf and an arbitrary pairing some 18 years ago.”
Look for “Family Ties,”
Part 3 of The Game’s Inherent Bond series in the December issue of
Lone Star Golf.