Par for the course

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Mark Twain once observed that "golf is a good walk spoiled."

Don Upson, Virginia's former secretary of technology, shares Twain's disdain for the game. "I don't know how it happened, but everybody thinks golf is good for business," said Upson, also founder and partner of ICG Government, an information solutions consulting firm. "You drive around in a cart all day with one person. But you might not like that person. You can't talk because you have to be quiet while they hit the ball."

But not everyone agrees with him. For some in the federal market, golf has become a mandatory skill for information technology professionals. Although few deals are consummated on the golf course, the game is a fundamental part of the federal IT market. And you don't have to be golf superstar Tiger Woods or 14-year-old phenom Michelle Wie to play.

But some folks in the IT community don't know the difference between a birdie and a bogey.

Upson started a club in Virginia called "We don't golf and we're doing all right," which once included Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. As many such clubs are apt to do, Upson and company kicked Davis out for defying the club's heritage — Davis started to play golf.

"If you've got that much time, you might as well drive to Annapolis [Md.] and sail for a few hours," Upson said. "You can put all those people on the boat and talk."

Alan Balutis, president of Veridyne Inc., explains that not only does he not play golf but he also sees "the game as largely an excuse to wear clothes that don't match."

Making links

Mention golf in the federal IT world and everybody has a story, even those who do not play. But is golf really an essential skill to get to know your partners and do business in this $59 billion-a-year market? The answer

depends on your networking skills, not how well you play the game.

"Golf is like life, and you learn a lot about a person when you play golf with them," said Charles Self, former deputy commissioner of the Federal Technology Service who now runs a consulting business. Since he retired from government last July, Self hasn't played much golf, but he says you cannot underestimate its importance in the business world because many people do play.

"The pace of golf is such that you can play and talk and get to know each other," said Jeff Lesher, an expert in organizational management at Novations Group Inc., a human resources consulting firm that helps companies improve their performances. "In an increasing number of professional environments where personal relationships are important,

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