Golf has often been described as a gift to anyone who plays it.
Perhaps the greatest blessing it gave me and many others was an introduction to my dear friend David Baum.
David was a relative latecomer to the game, but when he fell for it, he fell hard. After a mid-career change, David became a golf entrepreneur, a special advisor to Golf Channel, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 panelist and a beloved and respected figure in the industry.
His death on Thursday, at age 57, in a car accident near his home in Short Hills, N.J., will leave a painful void.
A former investment banker, David left that career behind in 2003 to turn his personal passion for golf into his new profession. Like finding and marrying his soul mate, Andrea, raising his wonderful kids or ultimately making partner at his firm, he was determined to find similar success in the golf industry. Not long after retiring from Wall Street, David bought Golf Odyssey, and, in his role as president and editor-in-chief, transformed the once-sleepy golf and travel newsletter into a freshly honest broker and leading industry voice. He later merged Golf Odyssey with the golf media company Revolution Golf, ultimately selling both to the Golf Channel/NBC Universal.
David was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and although a diehard Buckeye fan, opted to earn a degree at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Along with his Midwestern sensibility and unassuming manner, David brought a sharp wit and creative mind to his life and work. He was the rare, ever-so-modest, last person in the room you would have pegged as a former partner at Goldman Sachs, rabid New York Yankees or peaceful Grateful Dead fan. There wasn’t any inherent contradiction to his personality, instead just an expansively humble and genuine warmth that was undeniably connective with those whom he crossed paths.
Justin Tupper, who worked with David to grow Revolution Golf, and who is now senior vice president of content and strategy for NBC Sports Next, says that David combined a keen sense for business with a deep sense of compassion.
“I have never met anyone with the ability to solve problems in such a creative and fair way,” Tupper says. “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 the game. He was drawn to it for the beauty of its courses, but even more for the camaraderie it offered and the window it opened onto the world. Like so many of us, David took lessons and worked on his swing, yet his goal wasn’t as much to shoot a lower score as it was to share a good walk, leave others at ease and help them savor the game’s benefits and joys.
David was the president of the Vineyard Golf Club, on Martha’s Vineyard, and a member at Mountain Ridge CC and Baltusrol Golf Club, both in New Jersey. He didn’t collect memberships like some. He just wanted a convenient and welcoming place to play golf with his wife, kids and friends. He also saw the game as a portal to adventure and discovery. He led annual trips all over the world with a group of local, long-time friends.
Last summer, as lockdowns lifted, he and I organized a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Panelist foursome swing through his old home state of Ohio. Our itinerary included stops at a number of the state’s finest courses, yet for David, the golf was secondary to revisiting historic culinary favorites — and testing out if the local Graeter’s ice cream could win over a few visiting skeptics.
During our travels in Ohio, we made a brief detour to David’s childhood home, a near-shoebox-size house in a modest Columbus neighborhood. When we arrived, an elderly man in a wheelchair was sitting out front. David struck up a conversation, and within minutes, the man and his wife were grinning while giving David a tour of the residence where he was raised. He spent more time asking them about their lives than overtly reminiscing about his.
That was David: astoundingly successful by any measure, yet he always walked softly 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 he was on the links. For those who were lucky enough to know him well, he was one of the finest humans we might ever know.
David is survived by his wife, Andrea, his daughter, Alyssa, and his sons, Jeffrey and Josh. He will be sorely missed.
Steve Lapper has been a GOLF Magazine course rater since 2009.