Golf has often been described as a gift to anyone who plays it.
Perhaps the greatest blessing he gave me and many others was an introduction to my dear friend David Baum.
David was a relative laggard in the game, but when he fell for the trap, he fell hard. After a mid-career change, David became a golf entrepreneur, Golf Channel Special Advisor, GOLF Magazine Top 100 panelist and a beloved and respected figure in the industry.
His death Thursday, at age 57, in a car accident near his home in Short Hills, NJ, will leave a painful void.
A former investment banker, David left this career in 2003 to make his personal passion for golf his new profession. From finding and marrying his soul mate, Andrea, raising his wonderful children, to ultimately becoming a partner in his business, he was determined to find similar success in the golf industry. Shortly after retiring from Wall Street, David bought Golf Odyssey and, in his role as chairman and editor, transformed the once sleepy golf and travel newsletter into a freshly honest broker and voice of leading in the industry. He then merged Golf Odyssey with golf media company Revolution Golf, eventually selling both to Golf Channel/NBC Universal.
David was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and despite being a die-hard Buckeye fan, he chose to pursue a degree at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. In addition to his Midwestern sensibility and modest manners, David brought a sharp wit and a creative spirit to his life and work. He was the last rare, ever so modest person in the room who you would have identified as a former partner of Goldman Sachs, the rabid New York Yankees or a peaceful Grateful Dead fan. There was no inherent contradiction in his personality, just an extremely humble and genuine warmth that was unmistakably connected to those he encountered.
Justin Tupper, who worked with David to develop Revolution Golf, and who is now senior vice president of content and strategy for NBC Sports Next, says David has combined strong business acumen with a deep sense of compassion.
“I’ve never met anyone who can solve problems so creatively and fairly,” says Tupper. “I will never play a round of golf again without thinking of him.”
When I first met David some 20 years ago, he had recently refocused on acting. He was drawn to it by the beauty of his background, but even more for the camaraderie offered and the window it opened on the world. Like many of us, David took lessons and worked on his swing, but his goal wasn’t so much to shoot a lower score as it was to share a good walk, leave others comfortable and help them savor the benefits and joys of the game. .
David was President of Vineyard Golf Club, on Martha’s Vineyard, and a member of Mountain Ridge CC and Baltusrol Golf Club, both located in New Jersey. He didn’t collect memberships like some. He just wanted a convenient and welcoming place to play golf with his wife, children and friends. He also saw gaming as a portal to adventure and discovery. He led annual trips around the world with a group of longtime local friends.
Last summer, when lockdowns were lifted, he and I hosted a swing for four of GOLF magazine’s Top 100 panelists in his former home state of Ohio. Our itinerary included stops at a number of the state’s top courses, but for David, golf was secondary to revisiting historic culinary favorites — and testing whether Graeter’s local ice cream could appeal to a few visiting skeptics.
During our travels in Ohio, we made a brief detour to David’s childhood home, a house almost the size of a shoebox in a humble neighborhood of Columbus. When we arrived an elderly man in a wheelchair was sitting in front. David struck up a conversation, and within minutes the man and his wife were smiling while showing David around the residence where he grew up. He spent more time asking them questions about their lives than openly reminiscing about his own.
This was David: an incredible success by any measure, but he always walked slowly with his accomplishments, connecting with everyone he met. He was humble, brilliant, generous, and unfailingly kind to all, traits that made him as welcome in the boardroom as on the links. For those who were lucky enough to know him well, he was one of the finest humans we have ever known.
David is survived by his wife, Andrea, his daughter, Alyssa, and his sons, Jeffrey and Josh. He will be greatly missed.
Steve Lapper has been a course evaluator for GOLF Magazine since 2009.