For most of Bob Kain’s adult life, the weekend after Labor Day was always about tennis. That’s when the finals of the U.S. Open was played in New York, and as the longtime head of the tennis division at the International Management Group, and as the agent for Billie Jean King, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras among others, Kain was there. Seeing to the needs of his players. Schmoozing with current IMG customers and developing new ones. Hammering out deals that involved the opening of tennis academies in Asia, perhaps, or the staging of tennis tournaments in Africa.
But this year, Kain had other things to do. Rather than worrying about tennis, he was focused on golf, because he was competing in the U.S. Senior Amateur.
It seems ironic that a person who was one of the most powerful in racquet sports is now so completely engrossed in golf that he would forget tennis during the biggest tennis weekend of the year. And it is also remarkable that a man who came to tournament golf relatively late in life, and did not tee it up in anything more competitive than a club championship until he was 56, would be good enough to qualify for something as big as a U.S. Senior Am.
“I never thought I could get to this level,” Kain says. “But I started working pretty hard on my game in my 50s, and I’ve been having a lot of fun.”
He has also been having some success. For example, this year marked the third time Kain qualified for the Senior Am. It also was when he won his biggest tournament, the Senior Club Championship at Pine Valley.
“I’ve managed to keep getting a little better each year, and that makes it all that much more enjoyable,” he says. “I shot my best scores at the three clubs I belong to this past year, including a 66 at Pine Valley. Now, what other sport gives you the chance to get better in your 60s?”
For many years, golf was the “other” sport as far as Kain was concerned. First and foremost, he was a tennis player, good enough to compete on the men’s team at the University of Virginia. Then, tennis became his business specialty when he joined IMG in 1976. In time, Kain became one of the top executives of that company, eventually becoming president and co-CEO. But professionally, Bob spent very little time around golf. That was the realm of his colleague – and fellow co-chief executive – Alistair Johnston, who was also the longtime agent for Arnold Palmer.
Though both his grandfather and father played golf regularly and were members at Pine Valley, Kain only began to tee it up recreationally in the late 1970s, at the urging of his fellow IMGer Hughes Norton, who was Tiger Woods’ first agent. “I was a lefty in tennis,” Kain explains. “But I learned to play my golf from the right side. Like I was hitting a backhand.”
But even as he started teeing it up a bit, Kain didn’t have very much time for golf. The work and travel that IMG demanded for most of his time there simply didn’t allow it. He did seem to have a natural affinity for the game, however, and when he started to play a bit more in his 50s, Kain got his handicap down to the low single digits. The father of two sons, he began practicing and playing more, at Pine Valley and also at the Country Club in Pepper Pike, Ohio, which is next to his home.
Kain and his wife, Rosalyn Summers, the three-time U.S. figure skating champion and Olympic silver medalist, also began spending their winters at The Quarry in La Quinta, which gave him even more time to work on his game. He got so good that he qualified for his first U.S. Senior Amateur in 2005, when he was 56. And he found himself even more deeply involved in the competitive game when he left IMG the following year, simply because he had more time to devote to it.
Kain now plays in as many as 20 events a year. Nearly half of those are national competitions, and while he could certainly compete more, he does not because he prefers not to travel like he used to. He plays several rounds a week and as a rule sets aside a coupe of days for practice.
“I am still learning how to be a better player, how to play on courses I do not know and how to play at this level,” he says.
He is also still enjoying it. Especially when he competes in national championships or gets his name on one of those prestigious boards in the dining room at Pine Valley. In fact, he likes it so much so that he doesn’t even mind missing what used to be the can’t-miss weekend at the U.S. Open.