Golf: A Way of Life for a Practicing Accountant

By Barnett, Susan | The National Public Accountant, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Golf: A Way of Life for a Practicing Accountant


Barnett, Susan, The National Public Accountant


When Patrick (Pat) Houlihan, CPA, is not working at his Fort Wayne, Ind. accounting firm, his clients know where to find him. He's on the golf course, working to maintain his 2.0 handicap. Despite the demands of being a principal in Houlihan Asset Management and a partner in his full-service accounting firm, Pat still finds time to relax with his family and friends away from the office.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pat's father, James Houlihan Sr., founded the firm in 1952 as a sole proprietorship, and passed on both his profession and his passion for golf to three of his sons. Pat and his brother, Jim, are partners in the nine-person accounting firm, and brother Dennis manages the day-to-day operations of Houlihan Asset Management. The three are partners at the office, but heated competitors on the golf course.

"Jim was always much better than I was when we were kids," says Pat. "He had a scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington, and I was a walk-on for a couple of years. My game didn't really mature until after college. Dennis is younger and doesn't yet have kids, so he has more time to play now."

Pat doesn't recall a time when he wasn't holding a golf club. The family home was adjacent to a Ft. Wayne park where the kids would go to hit golf balls back into their yard. The boys also dug small holes around the perimeter of the park with a garden spade. They had a junior set of clubs that consisted of 5-, 7- and 9-irons, and they played around their homemade "course" from the time they were five or six years old until they were in their teens.

Jim Sr. was an outstanding golfer, and Jim Jr. and Pat took turns caddying for him. Monday was caddy day at the club, so the boys were dropped off in the morning and played until dark. "Caddying for my dad was a great way to learn the game," says Pat. "He used to tell me that I was going to appreciate golf more as I went through life. That didn't mean much to a 15-year-old boy, but I've grown to realize how true those words were." Jim, Sr., at age 81, still comes to the office every day, and carries a 12 handicap. "It's great to visit with your dad any time, but it's a lot more fun to play golf with him," says Pat.

Since Pat must balance the demands of family and golf (he is married with three young children), he plays less often now and feels fortunate if he manages a couple of rounds per week. "The more days you have a club in your hand, the better you play. You develop a better feel, so that it becomes a game of touch rather than thought." A past regular at the State Amateur and State Open tournaments, Pat now plays with friends most of the time, although he still comperes in the Fort Wayne City Championship.

"Tournament golf keeps your game sharp; it exposes your weaknesses and helps you work through them," he says. "It also establishes confidence. I think you get to the point where you can play your best golf under pressure. For most accomplished players, I would guess that their best rounds have occurred during competition." He obviously misses competing at a high level, but he is quick to add, "I have a family now. I love the game, but my priorities are a little different from my single days."

Pat considers himself fortunate to play at Sycamore Hills, a Jack Nicklaus signature course rated among the top 100 in the United States by Golf Digest. "That's where I lose a lot of balls when I'm not playing well," he jokes. Pat is not a big gambler, playing mostly $2 or $5 Nassaus, or bets on a series of holes. "I find that excessive betting dampens the atmosphere. Regardless of how much money someone has, they can feel bad when they lose. If $25 changes hands, no one cares. Still, I don't enjoy taking money from my friends."

Playing with clients is a pleasure for Pat. "It's a great way to spend quality time together--anything else can feel contrived. …

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