By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
On the fairways of the Vermont National Country Club every August, you can spot Gary H. Osborne, president of the independent captive management risk company USA Risk Group Inc. He's the one with the shock of white hair motoring around in the golf cart.
When we say "motoring," we mean it. Whether driving or pushing the golf cart, or even walking on his own two feet, Osborne's the golfer most likely to be butting up against the next foursome playing directly ahead.
Drive, hit, pitch and putt; drive, hit, hit again, pitch and putt; drive, hit, hit again, hit some more, pitch and put. Drive, hit, hit again, hit yet again ... oh, never mind, get back in the cart and off we go, to the next tee box. That describes the Osborne schedule on the links.
Never looking back, Osborne's always pushing forward to the next shot, the next fairway, the next green.
"Gary on a golf course is a very interesting character," said Jeff Kenneson, senior vice president of USA Risk and one of the captive insurance industry's most accomplished golfers. "He goes 100 mph, but golf isn't played well at 100 mph."
Sometimes it's a wonder that Osborne even plays golf, really. His is a rapid, agile mind. That mental speed is translated into his lightning-quick actions and reactions, which are not the kind of attributes one normally associates with the pace of a sport so beloved by the insurance industry.
Osborne is a 15-handicap player. Asked if his was a "hard or squishy 15," Osborne replied that 15 was his "official handicap." Golfers who take a fast, hard swing at the ball sooner or later hit the sweet spot, and when that happens, the ball flies deep onto the fairway.
Even that may not be good enough to outdrive the competition ... and in the case of Osborne, keep his emotions in check.
"When he does that and then hits a good one and I outdrive him, then he gets pissed off," Kenneson said.
For someone as competitive as Osborne, at least for the time being, the ball's kind of slid backward, so to speak, compared with the preceding generation.
His father, Osborne said, had a handicap as low as four. He tried to pass on the love of the sport to his son when Gary was only 11. Osborne, a former competitive rugby player, went his own way instead.
Osborne admitted he has "struggled" with the sport all his life but acknowledged that he's slowly getting better.
"(I've) actually shown a little improvement as I age and no longer try and kill the ball every time I swing at it," said Osborne, in an email to Risk & Insurance®.
Whether Osborne's growing or mellowing on golf, or whether the sport is growing on him, learning to relax is perhaps the most important and difficult skill in all of golf, as any long-time player will tell you.
Osborne's known for his impatience around the greens and doesn't suffer the lengthy ball address of some players lightly, particularly during a game that can last anywhere from three to five hours per round.
Players who have golfed with and around him attest to hearing a giant "whooshing sound," in the distance as Osborne drives through the ball and smacks it off the tee or fairway.
Dave Provost, deputy commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division with the Vermont Dept. of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration, called Osborne's swing "Barkley-esque," referring to former NBA great Charles Barkley.
"If you should see Gary Osborne lumbering down the eighth fairway toward you, give him a minute. He's looking for his tee shot from the 6th hole," said Provost, in an email. "With his Charles Barkely-esque swing, watching Gary Osborne play golf is like listening to your kid's first violin lesson."
Despite the rough spots and the hours spent whacking his iron through the rough looking for his ball, golf's offered Osborne may happy returns. He concedes that the unparalleled professional networking events, both for him personally and for the company he's led for more than a decade, are among the perks offered those who can play the game no matter how well.
For now, Osborne shows no sign of slowing down, either in his hectic professional life or while motoring through fairways.
Golf, he said, "is a chance to spend four hours with people and truly get to know them and their character and temperament."
For others, the links offer them a chance to get to know Osborne, that is, if they don't already.
August 1, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications