G&E Magazine aims to deconstruct the journey that golfers and entrepreneurs alike take on their road to success. Their achievements – as well as their trials and tribulations – serve to inspire us, and our goal is to pass that inspiration along to our readers.

This week, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Sam Froggatte of EyeLine Golf.  Sam’s story is a good one – you won’t want to miss it!

Sam – thanks for joining G&E to share your story!  Before getting into Eyeline Golf, let’s start by getting a little bit of background on you.  Tell us about yourself.

Thanks, Matt.  A little background…  Well, I was born in Garden City Kansas.  It was a little town where my dad was a pastor.  I played any sport that had a ball and was pretty good at most of them.

There were two nine hole golf courses.  The country club had grass greens, and the “Airlinks”  had sand greens.  Of course, we couldn’t afford the country club.  My mom would drop me off as soon as it was daylight with PB&J’s and twenty-five cents in hand.  I would drop my quarter in the box and play all day. I proceeded to play golf throughout high school and was an Evans Scholar at the University of Colorado.  My caddy career was at the Broadmoor – a five star resort in Colorado Springs.

But, the critical point in my life came in my high school years when I worked at Patty Jewett golf club, also in Colorado Springs.  I exchanged my work for lessons from the pro.  He said he would teach me under one condition:  I had to spend three afternoons per week on the practice green in the short game area.  It was on this remote green that I invented a zillion games to keep my interest.  Many of those games still exist on our website.  Who knew that would be valuable?

Then, my first real job after college was with IBM.  I spent 12 years in Kansas selling small computers.  I was a pretty good player and competed in local and statewide events.  I practiced anywhere and any time I could.  A lot of times it would be a remote ball field in western Kansas.  I had no choice but to create targets; I was always equipped with several towels and sticks!

Wow!  That is some background you have.  My brother actually got married at the Broadmoor – small world!  So, let’s get into EyeLine Golf – what made you want to start it?

Well, I have two sons.  They’re both accomplished players.  Throughout their high school years, we worked together every day at the golf course.  I was their teacher and competitor.  Naturally, we created many games on the driving range, short game area, and on the putting green.  

We had a head cover that we got at the Masters.  It became the traveling trophy for the competitions we had.  Every game we had was for the head cover.  It was awesome!

As they competed, I had aspirations of playing on the senior tour.  I was working diligently on my game, and they were working hard on their high school and college playing careers.  I read everything I could find on golf training.  I was always a fan of mirrors.  The first putting mirror I created was an actual glass mirror.  It was dangerous but effective.  It taught me things I couldn’t see without it.

To be honest, I never really intended to start a company.  I just needed some tools to help me get better.

The first product I created was what we now call the practice tee.  This needed to be designed because when the boys were practicing, they could never get lined up correctly.  I spent most of my time trying to get them aimed and not hitting balls myself.  I created it so they could get in the right position and stay there for twenty swings or so.  It was useful, and I figured if it works for us, it will work for others.

The second product was the putting mirror.  I found the company that made acrylic mirrors for prisons.  They were safer than glass!  I had to buy a 4′ x 8′ sheet to create a mirror that was 18 inches by 10 inches.  I still have the remaining part of that sheet… I drew a few lines on it with the magic marker to check my alignment.  I taped down some metal rails to give me a path for the putter, and I saw instant improvement.

By this time, I had ended my career with IBM, and I became a golf equipment rep.  I began selling the mirror to some of my accounts.  Very slowly…  One at a time – $30 apiece.  I had a garage full of units we had assembled and boxed with lots of small pieces and the rails.  Every day, I was reminded that our whole financial life was in that garage.

My oldest son Grant, my wife Cindy, and I were the operations.  I emailed everyone I knew.  We tried sales reps, which was pretty tough with a few products.

I ended up taking the units to the Colorado Open and sold them on the putting green.  I still remember the first person who gave me $30 cash.  I was shocked.  It proved, however, the product’s value.

We had started the EyeLine business.

Incredible!  That had to take some grit to stick with it.  What would you say is the mission of EyeLine Golf?

We have always focused our attention on helping people improve.  I don’t think people buy training aids so they can own a training aid.  They buy a training aid so they can improve their game.  That has always been the focus.

Our stated mission is:  helping players experience the fun of improvement in pursuit of their personal best.

The keywords are experience, fun, improvement, and personal best.  Those four words guide everything we do.

That’s great – straight to the point.  So in case, we haven’t already gathered this, what do you think sets EyeLine Golf apart?

There are a few things that make us different.

First, we have created every product we sell.  I have gotten several ideas from prominent teachers that we have developed into products, but every product on our site is an EyeLine Golf product.  They are unique to the market.  We manufacture, market, sell and support our ideas.

Since our goal is to help people improve, we back every product with the support needed to use the product to improve.  When you call us, you will talk to someone who knows the game and is eager to help you.  We understand how difficult it can be.

Our “voice” is critical to us.  We always want to communicate as if we are talking to an individual golfer – even if goes to hundreds of thousands.  Most of our videos are in first person wording, and we focus on training, not the product.

We have three rules for new products:

  1.  They have to be fundamentally sound.  No tricks or gimmicks.  Solid training.
  2.  They have to be simple.  No “tin cup” bells and whistles.  Open the bag and start training.
  3.  They have to be “un-embarrassing” to use.  If people would laugh at you when are using it, we don’t make it.

Every new product starts on the Tour.  If it works for them, then it will work for the average player.  Tour players and coaches are not shy about their opinions, so I can always improve the product before it goes to the public.

We have a rep on the Tour every week – Arnie Cunningham.  He has been out there for 35 years and is the friend of every player looking for some tools.  

You’ve really managed to articulate how you differentiate yourselves in the marketplace.  That is no small task.  What have you learned most since starting EyeLine Golf?

That’s a huge question!  There have been a few fundamental principles that have surfaced.

My best idea is yet to come.  When I put my focus on trying to protect what I’ve already created, I find that I take my eyes off of the creative thoughts that allow me to do something better.  That is a death spiral.  I spent enough time on the tour to know that it is dangerous to look backward.  To combat that, I look for exposure to new ideas, experiences, and conversations with thought leaders and engineers.

I have also put all my time and energy into helping people.  When I think about helping people, ideas come to me.  When I think about creating products for the sake of creating something new, I have no ideas.  My best ideas come from giving lessons to people who are really passionate and struggling.  I can’t help but find ways to help them.

Another thing I’ve learned is that ideas keep showing up.  When we went to our first PGA show in 2002, we had a 10×10 booth, and we were across the aisle from the Callaway structure that was a two-story booth conglomerate.  I remember thinking, “why would anybody come to see us?”  That was a great question.  The answer was fairly simple.  They would come because they thought we were fun and we cared about them.  Every customer became a friend.  And we kept showing up every year to see our friends.  A lot of companies have come and gone.  I think we were just too afraid to quit.

Finally, family is awesome.  When you go through the dark valleys of adversity – and you will – you have a chance to succeed if your family is in the game with you.  I never worried about loyalty, commitment, diligence, or encouragement.  There is always someone in that group that said:  “you got this!” As we hired people, they just became family to us.  I love these people!

Certainly some relatable lessons learned.  I have one more question for you before we get into some rapid-fire questions.  What is your vision for EyeLine Golf?

I recently read a statement that really summarizes my point of view:  “When you know who you are, you will know what to do.”

We will continue to create products, ideas, programs, information, and training that help people experience the fun of improvement.  The way we deliver, it will probably change because the whole world is changing.  But our objective remains the same.

I want to stay in touch with cultural and global trends while effectively communicating with our audience so we can deliver information in the best possible way.

Golf is a global game.  We recently shipped to 62 countries in a single month.  We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the number of people we can help.  We will need to get new and fresh ideas, methods, and systems to do this better.  And we will.

Your passion for helping others is truly uplifting.  I’m going to give you a few rapid fire questions now.  Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

My wife, kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids.  They believe in EyeLine and me and are relentlessly encouraging.

And that should never be taken for granted.  If you could play 18 with anyone, who would it be?

My sons.  Grant, Garrett, and Jerad (son-in-law).  No one else in history can compare to what we would experience together.  The fun would be crazy, and the wisdom gained would be life-changing.  It always is.

That’s awesome, Sam.  Thank you for your time and for sharing your story.  We learned a lot and really appreciate the opportunity to get to know more about you and EyeLine Golf.