Golf Seminar a Slice of Real World Northern Illinois University Professor Calls Class Big Deal

Article excerpt

BLOOMINGDALE, Ill. -- When Professor Dan Weilbaker dons a golf cap and glove and grabs a putter for a lecture, he doesn't have to yell "Fore!" to get attention.

Business Golf 101, as he calls it, goes over like a hole-in-one among his sales students at Northern Illinois University.

Critics of American education might sneer about a college class on the dos and don'ts of behavior on the links. But this once-a-year seminar is no gimmick, insists the 51-year-old educator, who views a day on the links as a golden opportunity for a four-hour sales call.

A duffer with an MBA and a Ph.D. in marketing, Weilbaker says his one-day seminar provides a slice of the real world undergraduates don't usually get in the classroom.

"Academe often gets knocked for not providing students with real-world training," he said before the seminar last week at Indian Lakes Conference and Resort Center in this Chicago suburb.

"Well, this is as `real world' as it gets if you want to pursue a career in sales," he added.

Students start off in the classroom learning such musts as: Replace your divots. No wheelies in the golf cart. Don't let the customer win. And don't talk business -- for the first six holes.

Then they grab their clubs and practice with executives who work with Weilbaker -- and who sometimes are looking to hire.

Surveys have shown business in America is conducted frequently on the golf course. Still, when Weilbaker -- a one-time pharmaceuticals salesman and admitted golf fanatic -- had the brainstorm three years ago to offer Business Golf 101, a few eyebrows shot up around the campus in DeKalb.

Skepticism dissipated when word leaked that some of Weilbaker's students had been hired by the sales execs he enlisted to play with them.

Besides, what college student could resist a day of free golf, free food and a day in the sun -- all in the name of education?

"If this was listed in the syllabus, there'd be a lot more people here," grinned Sean Kenney, a 22-year-old senior, nursing a beer during his round with recruiters from Eli Lilly and Co.

Many students didn't know a wedge from a hedge when they showed up. But initial jitters dissolved by the time they shook hands with their playing partners from the business world.

Students at the classroom lecture learned everything from the difference between a "nassau" and a "bingo bango bongo" -- golf wagers -- to when to make their sales pitch (not before the final six holes).

Most of all, though, they were advised to try to strike up friendships that may come in handy later. …