After a fruitless internet search for golf-themed T-shirts he found cool and funny, something beyond the sophomoric humor the permeates the web, Joe Coonick had an idea on how to fill that void, and so birthgolfdeath.com was born.
The images he creates go beyond the usual scatological golf humor, and at times require a little knowledge of topics like film and religion. A slightly dark sense of humor is helpful.
The company logo is a cigar-smoking skull with soft cap perched on top and sitting on a tee. Underneath it reads “birth.golf.death.”
One of his images is the likeness of Marilyn Monroe clutching golf clubs and the words, “Irons Are A Girls Best Friend,” a riff on a song Monroe sang in the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
But wait, there’s more!
A few months ago Coonick had an idea. “I was thinking about how much I miss working on a course and it popped in my head.”
Coonick had spent nearly 20 years in golf maintenance, and what had gone through his mind that day was rolling greens. It hit him: There are no course maintenance-themed anything. It was then that he came up with the idea of a drawing of a man on a greens roller. Underneath the image it reads, “That’s How I Roll.”
He gave it a test release.
“I posted the design in a GCM group on Facebook and the response was overwhelmingly positive,” he wrote in an email, “but it was the number of requests from other (non)members to order the shirt that surprised me and forced my hand to create a few other designs and offer a collection on my website.”
Coonick had come to course maintenance after spending four years in the Army starting at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, New York, home of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, a Champions Tour event, and the former host of the PGA Tour’s B.C. Open.
He applied and was hired and nearly immediately, as Coonick tells it, fell in love with the work. Not much later he enrolled at State University of New York-Delhi where he earned a two-year degree in agronomy. In 1996, the summer after his freshman year, he interned at the Broadmore Resort East Course in Colorado, which hosted the 50th U.S. Women’s Open won by Annika Sorenstam.
After graduating, he returned to Colorado to work as a second assistant at Lakewood Country Club, but then family history caught up with him. Both of his parents had skin problems related to sun exposure, and he developed the same condition. His full-time career taking care of golf courses was over, although he would work in a part-time capacity for a number of years. He stepped away altogether about six years ago.
Coonick still talks of his favorite task, cutting cups, and how he loved being out on the course in the early morning away from the other workers, the only sounds provided by nature and him as he carved out a new hole.
To honor that endeavor, Coonick chose an esoteric design. It is an old-school cutter, the kind that needs pounding from a heavy rubber mallet to pierce the earth. There are no accompanying words. You either know what you are looking at or you don’t.
For his ode to the Stimpmeter, Coonick went even more obscure – so abstract that the actual device is not even shown. Instead it is a diagram detailing the precise angles and measurements that are required to create the optimal results with the Stimp.
According to Coonick, he’s looking to expand on his idea of acknowledging and attiring those who care for golf turf.
“I wanted to create fun and hip graphic designs for fellow members of the industry to show their love of their job away from the course.”