During a press event in Augusta, Georgia, for Textron Specialized Vehicles, a golf outing was held at the Sage Valley Golf Club in nearby Graniteville, South Carolina. One of the golfers, Kevin Blanton, stood out from the rest. The guy had game – really good game.
Blanton shot a 66 at Sage Valley on a hot, humid and rainy August day. He hit the ball long and straight. He reached greens in regulation. He putted like a champion.
So it was no surprise to hear that Blanton, the national utility vehicle manager for Textron’s E-Z-GO and Cushman brands, was a former professional golfer for about eight years. And he was pretty darn good.
In 2001, Blanton, playing on the National Golf Association’s Hooters Tour, finished in the top 40 in 18 of 20 events. He had three tour victories and seven top 15 finishes. He also played in the PGA Tour’s BellSouth Classic that year on the TPC at Sugarloaf in Augusta, Georgia.
The golf bug bit Blanton when he was kid, and Blanton worked hard to reduce his handicap from a 10 to a 1 when he was 16.
“I had a competitive drive for the game,” he says.
After a stellar high school career at Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Georgia, where he still lives, Blanton attended Troy University in Troy, Alabama, on a partial scholarship. During his senior year, Blanton won several tournaments competing against Division 1 players. He knew at the time he had a chance to play professionally.
Blanton came close to getting his PGA Tour card on two occasions, but just missed. And then in 2002, Blanton’s wife, Rhonda, was in a serious car accident that nearly took her life. Blanton left golf for several months to take care of his wife and young daughter.
When Rhonda regained her health, Blanton returned to the circuit. But it just wasn’t the same. Blanton, now in his early 30s, felt like his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. And with the younger players coming up, Blanton wondered if he still had a future.
“I was spinning my wheels,” the now 45-year-old says.
In 2003, Blanton told his wife that he was done playing golf, but he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He decided to phone a friend who worked for E-Z-GO. His friend told Blanton, who has a bachelor’s degree in business from Troy, to send him his résumé, and he would see if were any openings.
Three weeks later, Blanton’s friend contacted him to tell him that the company was creating two new sales positions in Georgia to sell golf cars.
“They wanted someone young with name recognition to get his foot in the door, and who could be trained on how to sell,” Blanton says.
Blanton, who was known in Georgia for his golf game, turned out to be the perfect choice for the job.
In his 13 years selling E-Z-GO and Cushman vehicles, Blanton has moved up the proverbial corporate ladder. He was promoted to his current position about nine months ago.
“This is not anything unlike golf,” Blanton says. “It’s kind of where your talent will take you. I know I will never be the company president, but I certainly can continue to see myself moving forward.
“Hopefully, my talent will take me to the age of about 65,” he says with a laugh.