Two decades ago, Robert Herjavec took a $30 million payout and invested his free time in golf. Now, he tees up dreamers (and duffers) on TV.
Robert Herjavec: Hi Chris, from my favorite magazine in the world.
GOLF: I bet you say that to all the magazines. All right, what if I walked into the Shark Tank and said, “I’ve come up with a proven method that can shave 10 strokes off your golf game”?
I’m in. Don’t need to hear anymore. How much money do you need?
Your family emigrated from Croatia to Canada when you were eight. Growing up, did a sport like golf seem closed off to you?
It was not something that a lot of Eastern European immigrants did. My dad wasn’t out golfing. We never watched it. But when I was 28, a customer I was trying to get a meeting with, his secretary called and said, “He has a cancellation in his foursome if you’d like to join him.” I was like, “We’re talking golf, right?” I’d never played, so for the next three weeks I went out to the range and taught myself to play golf. That was it.
Did you land a deal with this guy?
I landed the deal. But the minute I went out, I fell in love with the game. The problem was, I was okay at it right away. I literally picked up a golf club, went to the range, had never played, looked at the other people on the range, figured it out and I was okay at it. If I’d sucked, I would have taken lessons, and I’d be better than an 11 handicap now.
I’m sure you’ve played with some very wealthy people. Does that translate into larger wagers on the course?
I’ve played with a lot of billionaires and found that the size of the bet doesn’t really matter. It’s the winning that counts — even for 20 bucks.
Over the years, there’ve been some golf-related products pitched on Shark Tank. There was a urologist who invented a golf club — the Uro Club — you could relieve yourself into while on the course.
That was my favorite pitch. The pee-pee pole.
Did you invest in it?
I didn’t, but there was a shark named Kevin Harrington who bought 20,000 units. Made a small fortune on them.
You collect rare cars. Which do you prize most?
A 1995 Cadillac Sedan DeVille.
Huh? That’s not quite the answer I was expecting.
When I came to Canada as an immigrant, my dad and I — I’m an only child — are walking down the street and we see this car coming toward us. We’d never seen anything like it. I look at my dad and say, “What’s that?” He says, “That Cadillac.” I say, “What’s a Cadillac?” He says, “You no mind. Cadillac for rich people.” Years later, when I made a little money, I buy a Corvette. My dad said, “Is nice. Is no Cadillac.”
Chris Nashawaty has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire and Sports Illustrated, and is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story.