Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Four!!!

Here's a delightful piece by Kevin Maney, author and tech journalist who writes a weekly piece for USA Today. I think Kevin is one of the best tech writers in the world. He often has keen insights and his sense of humor is off the charts. Enjoy!
(steve)


What I learned from golfing in China

BEIJING — Golf is always more interesting when there's donkey on the menu.

I'm on the links at Beijing Taiwei Golf Club with about 40 Chinese tech CEOs, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. It's a slice of life among a generation that has risen out of a business void to start growing companies such as chipmaker SMIC, Web portal Sohu.com and job search site 51Job. All have gone public on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange in the past year.

Who knew you could golf near the Great Wall? Well, other than at a putt-putt course on the Jersey shore.

As we play, I even learn that the SARS flu outbreak did, in fact, have an upside for the Chinese. Since just about every office building in Asia was shut for six weeks, China's nouveau riche spent the time improving their handicaps. At least that's what the guys in my foursome say.

And this, to me, sounds like as good an explanation as any for why they are kicking my butt all over the course.

Golf, in fact, must be a sign that China is reaching a new level of capitalism and comfort — a level that's certain to be accompanied by a wave of BMWs, nail salons and plastic surgery.

China's People's Daily newspaper reports there are 176 golf courses in the country, and that doesn't count the bootleg golf courses. It seems that because of excessive water use and other concerns, licenses to operate golf courses are quite hard to come by. But that doesn't mean you can't open a "park" that looks a heck of a lot like a golf course and happens to be peppered with 18 little holes with flags in them.

Anyway, pulling into the 2-year-old, legitimate Beijing Taiwei resort — where membership costs $70,000 a year — we drive up to an angular Scandinavian-style structure that contrasts with the rounded, mystical mountains all around. Instantly, half a dozen young women in matching yellow jackets surround the car like a NASCAR pit crew, opening doors and the trunk, pulling out bags and people.

One thing China has in abundance is labor, and it's on display everywhere. At this place, it means personal service SWAT teams that won't let customers carry anything heavier than a wallet.

In the locker room, it means there are so many attendants that one guy stands right next to me while I strip for a shower, neatly folding each piece of clothing as I take it off.

How, exactly, does one handle that gracefully?

In some ways, this could be a golf outing anywhere. As the group mills around before starting, hats have Nike swooshes and Callaway insignias. The shoes are FootJoy. Balls are Titleist.

One woman wears a retro outfit, looking as though she wants to be Katharine Hepburn in the 1952 golf movie Pat and Mike. Cell phones go off all day long, playing chirpy tunes in the middle of someone's backswing.

My partners are pretty representative of the group. Michael Yang is CEO of Primeton, which makes software tools that help companies write specialized applications.

He started the company a couple of years ago, after learning the business working in China for San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems. Turns out a number of the golfers had learned by working for the likes of Intel, Microsoft and IBM before becoming entrepreneurs.

I'm also golfing with Tang Chuan Long, managing director of Beijing Huaguang Medical Electronic Equipment, and Calvin Quek, Beijing rep for Silicon Valley VC firm Global Catalyst Partners.

All three speak English to some degree, as do most of the others in the tech group. It's Quek's first language. He was born in London.

Like a lot of Chinese tech companies, Yang's Primeton and Tang's medical company sell only inside China. But over golf, they and other tech CEOs talk about how they want to go global. It's funny, but U.S. companies constantly say they want to get into China, with its 1.2 billion people and an economy on turbo thrusters. Yet Chinese companies say they want to prove they're good enough to break outof China and sell to markets globally.

For the most part, though, the day stays social, not about business or dealmaking. Most of those in the golf group know each other pretty well. The Beijing tech community is still relatively small. Playing golf with some of them is not unlike playing golf with any group anywhere. Same style and approach to the game. Same etiquette. Same curses — sometimes in English — when a shot lands in the water.

Sand traps — bunkers — apparently don't have a Chinese equivalent word, so they're called "bunk." I'm hearing this word many times during the day, usually in sympathy as my Chinese partners are describing where my ball has landed. "Ohhhh. Bunk."

After nine holes, we duck into the clubhouse for a quick lunch. The restaurant offers American-style meals (burger, club sandwich), Japanese meals and Chinese meals. And yes, one of the options on the Chinese side of the menu is donkey. I choose not to go there, thinking, for some reason, of Eeyore.

Yang orders an American meal, which comes with a salad — lettuce, tomato, a dab of Thousand Island dressing.

"You want that?" Yang says to me, pointing to his salad with a trace of revulsion. "I don't like such things."

Well, hey, if golf and business can be universal among Americans and Chinese, and the biggest point of contention is whether donkey or a tossed salad is disgusting — that seems like progress.

37 Comments:

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9:17 PM  
Blogger golfing-girls said...

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5:04 PM  
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11:40 PM  
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2:21 AM  
Blogger cmeltifa said...

Hi Steve your blog is really great! Wow :-) As I was out blog surfing and surfing the web for detailed info on golf equipment company I stumbled across your blog. Obviously my search landed me here and it is a little off subject compared to Four!!!, but I am certainly glad I did come across your blog. Did I already tell you I like it! If you would not mind, I would like to add your link to my "favorites" page to come back and read again sometime. Should you ever need it, there's lots of information on this site about golf equipment company. Again, great blog and keep up the great work!
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8:13 PM  
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12:58 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

I love your blog Steve. How long has it been on-line? Reason I ask is I am doing a ton of work in the area of golf testing equipment and will probably end up starting a blog of my own. Funny how the internet brought me here when I was doing searches on golf testing equipment. Oh well, I am glad it did. Keep up the great blogging and I am sure I will visit Four!!! again!!

2:01 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Hey Steve. Very nice blog :0) I just got inside from washing and waxing my truck. It is my baby. Took me 2 hours though. So I settled down into my basement and started doing some web surfing. Anyways I am in the process of grabbing my masters degree and have spent the last 6 months researching golf equipment repairs. In the midst of my surfing I landed smack dab in the middle of your blog. I hope you do not think I am intruding but I must say it is great blog. Even though Four!!! is way off base from golf equipment repairs I found myself cruising through your blog archives for the last half hour :0) You have some nice blogging friends. Anyways, I need to get back to my mission. I wrote don’t your url and feel free to visit me here at golf equipment repairs. I am so busy so I can only update my site monthly. Keep up the great work.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

Sad to say I just got back from a bowling tournament and decided to log in and do some websurfing. Steve I love your blog. I had some very good laughs. I am doing a paper on custom golf equipment and have been downloading information for the last hour. I don’t know how I came across Four!!! but I am glad I did. It has set me back a little because I have spent the last hour reading your archives. If you don’t mind I would like to add you to my favorites so I can back again and read some more. Well I need to get back to custom golf equipment . I am almost finished with it. Great job.
p.s some very good points on your blog

7:18 PM  
Blogger hplauze said...

Sad to say I just got back from a bowling tournament and decided to log in and do some websurfing. Steve I love your blog. I had some very good laughs. I am doing a paper on ben hogans golf equipment and have been downloading information for the last hour. I don’t know how I came across Four!!! but I am glad I did. It has set me back a little because I have spent the last hour reading your archives. If you don’t mind I would like to add you to my favorites so I can back again and read some more. Well I need to get back to ben hogans golf equipment . I am almost finished with it. Great job.
p.s some very good points on your blog

3:39 AM  
Blogger cmeltifa said...

I have been on-line searching for hours for information regarding seattle golf equipment and stumbled across your blog during my journey :-) Steve your blog is really amazing! Keep up the great work. Obviously my search on seattle golf equipment was way off when compared to Four!!! and find it funny how it landed me here. The internet is a funny thing. Anyways, great job on your blogging and keep up the good work! I been searching for seattle golf equipment for over 2 hours and needed a break from it. I started reading your blog and really started getting into it.
P.S I will add you to my favorites so I can come back and visit later
P.S.S If you want to bookmark my site I am at seattle golf equipment . You never know you may find some good deals!

8:50 PM  
Blogger cmeltifa said...

What up Steve! I just finished up a ten hour work day and decided to kick back and do some surfing. So I grabbed myself a drink and stumbled across your blog while doing some research on ben hogans golf equipment for a upcoming project I am doing. Well even though Four!!! isn’t what I was looking for I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your doing a great job and please keep up the good work. Lots of people do not keep their blogs up to date :0) There are some very interesting view points stated here. Anyways I am going to grab the bull by the horns and continue to plug away at ben hogans golf equipment . I have already bookmarked your blog. You many want to visit me at ben hogans golf equipment . You never know you might see something you like! Again great job.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Marky said...

Sad to say I just got back from a bowling tournament and decided to log in and do some websurfing. Steve I love your blog. I had some very good laughs. I am doing a paper on golf equipment retailers and have been downloading information for the last hour. I don’t know how I came across Four!!! but I am glad I did. It has set me back a little because I have spent the last hour reading your archives. If you don’t mind I would like to add you to my favorites so I can back again and read some more. Well I need to get back to golf equipment retailers. I am almost finished with it. Great job.
p.s some very good points on your blog

9:10 PM  
Blogger Marky said...

Sad to say I just got back from a bowling tournament and decided to log in and do some websurfing. Steve I love your blog. I had some very good laughs. I am doing a paper on golf equipment forums and have been downloading information for the last hour. I don’t know how I came across Four!!! but I am glad I did. It has set me back a little because I have spent the last hour reading your archives. If you don’t mind I would like to add you to my favorites so I can back again and read some more. Well I need to get back to golf equipment forums. I am almost finished with it. Great job.
p.s some very good points on your blog

10:14 PM  
Blogger Rebek said...

Well I just got back from the gym and I am beat. I am currently doing some research on custom golf equipment and stumbled across your blog. Which cracks me up really. The internet can certainly land you off base sometimes. Even though Four!!! is not completely related I think it is a cool blog. I have read back through the archives and lots of people make some very good points. Well I have been on-line forever it seems. I need to continue to plug away at custom golf equipment . If you have the energy swing by custom golf equipment . I try to update my site weekly and maybe you will see something you like. I already snagged your URL and put it in my favorites. If you do not mind I will be back again. Great job!

12:03 AM  
Blogger Rebek said...

I love your blog Steve. How long has it been on-line? Reason I ask is I am doing a ton of work in the area of custom golf equipment and will probably end up starting a blog of my own. Funny how the internet brought me here when I was doing searches on custom golf equipment . Oh well, I am glad it did. Keep up the great blogging and I am sure I will visit Four!!! again!!

1:49 AM  
Blogger cmeltifa said...

Well I just got back from the gym and I am beat. I am currently doing some research on golf equipment forums and stumbled across your blog. Which cracks me up really. The internet can certainly land you off base sometimes. Even though Four!!! is not completely related I think it is a cool blog. I have read back through the archives and lots of people make some very good points. Well I have been on-line forever it seems. I need to continue to plug away at golf equipment forums. If you have the energy swing by golf equipment forums. I try to update my site weekly and maybe you will see something you like. I already snagged your URL and put it in my favorites. If you do not mind I will be back again. Great job!

9:05 PM  
Blogger cmeltifa said...

What up Steve! I just finished up a ten hour work day and decided to kick back and do some surfing. So I grabbed myself a drink and stumbled across your blog while doing some research on golf equipment trends for a upcoming project I am doing. Well even though Four!!! isn’t what I was looking for I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your doing a great job and please keep up the good work. Lots of people do not keep their blogs up to date :0) There are some very interesting view points stated here. Anyways I am going to grab the bull by the horns and continue to plug away at golf equipment trends. I have already bookmarked your blog. You many want to visit me at golf equipment trends. You never know you might see something you like! Again great job.

9:49 PM  
Blogger hplauze said...

What up Steve! I just finished up a ten hour work day and decided to kick back and do some surfing. So I grabbed myself a drink and stumbled across your blog while doing some research on left handed golf equipment for a upcoming project I am doing. Well even though Four!!! isn’t what I was looking for I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your doing a great job and please keep up the good work. Lots of people do not keep their blogs up to date :0) There are some very interesting view points stated here. Anyways I am going to grab the bull by the horns and continue to plug away at left handed golf equipment. I have already bookmarked your blog. You many want to visit me at left handed golf equipment. You never know you might see something you like! Again great job.

1:57 PM  
Blogger hplauze said...

Hey this blog is not about golf equipment forums. Silly internet bringing me here :-) Funny I have been doing hours of research on golf equipment forums and it brought me to your blog on Four!!!. The web plays funny games sometimes. Anyways, I was reading your blog Steve and I think it is really cool. Keep up the great work.
If you do not mind I will snag your blog and put it in my favorites. I read a ton of stuff on here that interested me. Keep blogging away :-)

2:30 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hey Steve. Very nice blog :0) I just got inside from washing and waxing my truck. It is my baby. Took me 2 hours though. So I settled down into my basement and started doing some web surfing. Anyways I am in the process of grabbing my masters degree and have spent the last 6 months researching ben hogans golf equipment . In the midst of my surfing I landed smack dab in the middle of your blog. I hope you do not think I am intruding but I must say it is great blog. Even though Four!!! is way off base from ben hogans golf equipment I found myself cruising through your blog archives for the last half hour :0) You have some nice blogging friends. Anyways, I need to get back to my mission. I wrote don’t your url and feel free to visit me here at ben hogans golf equipment . I am so busy so I can only update my site monthly. Keep up the great work.

2:56 AM  
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Blogger thomas said...

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6:29 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Well I just got back from the gym and I am beat. I am currently doing some research on discount golf equipment and stumbled across your blog. Which cracks me up really. The internet can certainly land you off base sometimes. Even though your blog is not completely related I think it is a cool blog. I have read back through the archives and lots of people make some very good points. Well I have been on-line forever it seems. I need to continue to plug away at discount golf equipment. If you have the energy swing by http://www.golf-equipment-deals.com. I try to update my site weekly and maybe you will see something you like. I already snagged your URL and put it in my favorites. If you do not mind I will be back again. Great job!

2:16 AM  
Blogger Investment Center said...

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4:13 PM  
Blogger David said...

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Blogger D.C. Bowns said...

What are these blogs all about anyway? I was surfing looking for building club equipment golf when I ended up here. Back to the relentless searching for building club equipment golf.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

Hello! Have you seen any ads or information on equipment golf turf used? One day I will find what I am looking for on the first try. While I am here, I just wanted to drop a quick note to comment your blog...now to move on and continue my search for equipment golf turf used. Thanks for the post.

11:17 AM  
Blogger All about Golf said...

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Blogger gregger said...

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9:54 AM  
Blogger TomP said...

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7:20 PM  
Blogger lijialefw said...

Why was there no follow on bankruptcy then? The bailout of AIG FP went to (wow power leveling) hedge funds that bound credit swaps on Lehman failing or others betting on rating (wow power leveling) declines. AIG has drained over 100 billion from the government. Which had to go to (wow power leveling) those who bet on failures and downgrades. Many of whom (power leveling)were hedge funds. I-banks that had offsetting swaps needed the money from the AIG bailout or they would have been caught. Its an (wow powerleveling) insiders game and it takes just a little bit too much time for most people to think (wow gold) through where the AIG 100 billion bailout money went to, hedge funds and players, many of whom hire from the top ranks of DOJ, Fed, Treasury, CAOBO

2:22 AM  

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