President and CEO, Golfballs.com
Education: Acadiana High School, Bachelor's Degree in Political Science at University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Family: Wife, Susan
Mentor: Morris Miller, co-founder of Rackspace Hosting and founder of Sequel Ventures
In 1995, Tom Cox, a manager at a golf course near Lafayette, met with a web developer to discuss starting a website to promote club memberships. That same week he contracted divers to fish golf balls out of the ponds around the course. As he watched the divers, a lightbulb went off in his head.
He started the website Golfballs.com the following year with web developer Rob Greer. The idea was to sell used golf balls – like the ones taken out of ponds – to the public for about half the price of new ones. It was the first e-business to be licensed in Louisiana and was an immediate hit with golfers around the country.
Fifteen years later, Golfballs.com generates $13 million per year in revenue and has 50 employees. While used golf balls are no longer sold on the site, there is an extensive supply of golf equipment, apparel and even customized golf balls that can include photos.
What did people think of your idea at first? My parents said, 'Why would anyone buy balls online when you can go to the store?' But that's the reason it was appealing. Back then, you couldn't find a good selection of used balls.
Do you have a favorite golf ball color? Yellow. There is a colored ball trend that started in Asia a few years back that is finally becoming mainstream in the US. Don't be surprised if Titleist introduces a yellow tour ball in 2012.
Where have you recently played? I played an amazing course called Santiburi in Ko Samui, an island off the coast of Thailand. It is situated at the top of the tropical island with incredible views.
Have you always liked golfing? I didn't really pick up the game until I was in my 20s. I am an avid mediocre golfer. I can tell you with certainty that being in the golf business does not make you a good golfer.
How many golf balls end up in ponds? Most of mine do.
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