Category: Sports

Golf Lessons: Maximizing Distance off the Tee


Benjamin Barrone is an experienced accounting and finance professional from Chicago, IL.  As Director of Finance for Vital Proteins, Mr. Barrone recently led the Chicago-based startup in their efforts to secure a $19 million Series A financing round.  Benjamin was the first finance hire at Vital Proteins and built the department to scale with the significant growth the company is experiencing.  In his spare time, Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer and enjoys playing many of the great Chicago courses.

Mr. Barrone carries a single digit handicap and is a fairly long hitter off the tee.  While Benjamin acknowledges accuracy is far more important than distance, maximizing distance is very helpful in scoring well on Par 5s and short Par 4s.

Getting a driver that is properly fitted to your swing is of paramount importance in the quest for distance.  Driver technology continues to evolve so if you’re carrying a driver that is more than five years old it is very likely you could stand to gain at least 10 yards off the tee simply by upgrading to a more recent model that is properly fit.

When considering the proper fit it is vitally important to use current technology like Trackman to find the right combination of ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate.  As technology has evolved, one of the lingering misconceptions is that golfers should seek to maximize launch angle and minimize spin rate.  While this may be true for some golfers, the reality is that every swing is unique and one needs to find the right launch angle and spin rate for the ball speed you generate.

For example, professional golfers generate a ball speed of 165 mph or greater and optimize their distance by achieving average launch angles around 11 degrees with average spin rates of approximately 2700 rpm.  In contrast, a weekend golfer with a ball speed of 140 mph would benefit from a higher launch angle of 13 to 15 degrees.  However, when it comes to spin rate, the conventional wisdom of “less is more” falls short here.  The reason is the lower ball speed.  In this scenario, the golfer probably needs more spin than 2700 rpm to optimize carry and total distance because it is needed to keep the golf ball airborne longer.

Another common scenario is the low-ball hitter.  Say, for example, your ball speed is fairly high at 155 mph – just a bit slower than a professional.  However, you are a low ball hitter with a launch angle of 7 degrees.  This golfer would also want to have a higher spin rate of approximately 3000 rpm to maximize total distance.  The reason is the same – they too need that spin to keep the ball in the air longer.

Of course, there are many factors in play when it comes to driver fitting.  These examples focus on spin rate.  Both of the golfers described above could also benefit from finding equipment that further optimizes their launch angle, given their ball speed.  When the two are taken in combination, it is likely that finding the proper fit could result in an additional 10-20 yards off the tee if their existing equipment is dated and/or not properly fit to their swing.

Those 10-20 yards are quite often the difference between making a par 5 reachable in two or in getting a wedge into a short par 4, making for great scoring opportunities.  Of course, this is all for naught if accuracy is compromised but who doesn’t want a “free” 15 yards without making any swing changes?


Golf Lessons: Driver Tips


Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer from Chicago, IL.  Professionally, Mr. Barrone recently helped a local Chicago startup complete their Series A financing round.  Benjamin (Ben) has become passionate for the growing startup culture in Chicago and is looking to build on his recent success.  Ben currently carries a USGA handicap index of 7.9 and is looking to improve upon that during the 2018 golf season.

Mr. Barrone admits that driving accuracy is not a great strength of his game and is looking to improve that for the 2018 season.  The following are tips which may improve overall driving:

  1. Shorter length shafts in driver and 3 wood.  Benjamin is a fairly long hitter and is primarily concerned with accuracy.  Traditional shaft lengths have crept in recent years and may compromise accuracy.  Shortening the shaft lengths by an inch or more may help you hit more fairways.
  2. Commit to a shot shape.  Mr. Barrone can generally work the ball left-to-right (fade) or right-to-left (draw) when he chooses.  By always committing to one shot shape there is a much greater probability of hitting the fairway.  To start pick the opposite side of the fairway you expect the shot shape to move to (left side for fade, right side for draw).  If the shot stays straight, it should stay in the fairway.  If it moves as expected, it has more fairway available to hit.
  3. Slow down tempo – often times golfers with try to “kill it”.  As a result, the transition at the top may be jerky and load the shaft too soon.  The ironic result is a golf shot that not only is likely to be further offline, but also loses ball speed and distance.

Mr. Barrone is hoping that following these tips will help improve his driving accuracy and lower his handicap in 2018.

A Look at the Finest Golf Courses in Chicago


Chicago Golf Club pic

Chicago Golf Club

Benjamin Barrone serves Vital Proteins in Chicago, Illinois, as Director of Finance. When he is not overseeing the company’s accounting and financial activities, Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer. He has played since age 4, and frequently enjoys a number of Chicago-area courses.

Golf Digest has announced The Best Golf Courses in Illinois for 2017-2018, and once again the top honor belongs to Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. The club, ranked No. 14 in the United States, was first designed by C.B. Macdonald in 1897 and has required only two renovations over the course of 120 years. In fact, Macdonald’s course in Wheaton and a similarly titled course in Downers Grove both lay claim to the title of America’s first 18-hole golf course.

In 1923, longtime Macdonald associate Seth Raynor updated the Wheaton course, with each of the 18 holes drawing inspiration from famous holes at other notable courses. Raynor maintained aspects of Macdonald’s original vision, including a unique routing system that features all out-of-bounds areas to the left of the holes.

Other top-ranking courses in Illinois include Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, Medinah Country Club, Marshall’s Canyata Country Club, and Shoreacres at Lake Bluff.

How to Calculate Your Golf Handicap


Golf Handicap pic

Golf Handicap

Leveraging over eight years of experience as an auditor and accounting professional, Benjamin Barrone serves as Director of Finance at Chicago’s Vital Proteins. Outside of his professional responsibilities, Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer who regularly plays at Heritage Bluffs, which is just outside of Chicago. His official handicap is 5.3 and he hopes to improve it to under five in the next year.

A golfer’s handicap is an approximate measure of the number of strokes he or she shoots above or below par on an average round of golf. The purpose of a handicap is to allow players of varying skill levels to play together in a competitive manner. By knowing your handicap index (your average handicap), you can determine your handicap for a specific course based on its degree of difficulty. To determine your handicap, you need to collect your overall scores from recent rounds. Five rounds should be enough, but using scores from the past 20 rounds will generate a more accurate handicap.

For each round played, subtract the course rating from your score and multiply the resulting figure by 113, and then take that number and divide it by the slope rating. This will give you your handicap differential. For instance, if you scored a 90 on a course with a difficulty rating of 73.2 and a slope rating of 112, your resulting handicap differential from that one round would be 16.95. Complete the same equation for at least five rounds and multiply your lowest handicap differential by 0.96 to produce your handicap. A 16.95 handicap differential, for example, results in a handicap of 16.3.

Top-Rated Golf Courses in the Chicagoland Region


Cog Hill Golf and Country Club pic

Cog Hill Golf and Country Club

As Director of Finance with Vital Proteins, Benjamin Barrone enjoys playing golf in his free time. As a resident of Chicago, Benjamin Barrone lives in close proximity to a number of highly rated courses. Below are three of the best.

1. Chicago Golf Club: Some say the Chicago Golf Club opened the first 18-hole course in the United States. Actually located in nearby Wheaton, the historic 6,846-yard, par-70 venue garnered recognition as both the top-rated course in Illinois and the 14th-best course in the United States in Golf Digest’s 2017-2018 rankings.

2. Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, No. 4: The fourth course at this public-access club challenges golfers with tight landing areas and a heavily bunkered green. Located southwest of downtown Chicago in Lemont, “Dubsdread,” as it is known, has hosted 19 PGA Tour events, including several in the last decade.

3. Medinah Country Club, No. 3: Most recently the host of the 2012 Ryder Cup, the third course at Medinah has undergone significant renovations since opening in 1928. Today, it welcomes golfers who are willing to navigate vicious doglegs while avoiding such water hazards as Lake Kadijah.

Three Ways to Prevent Common Running Injuries

Running Injuries pic

Running Injuries

Benjamin Barrone is an Accounting Manager with Vital Proteins, am ingestible collagen company located in Chicago, Illinois. An avid golfer and runner, Benjamin Barrone has completed two half-marathons with his wife and youngest sister.

When it comes to running, repetition of the same motions for long periods of time exposes runners to a unique set of overuse injuries. Here are three ways to prevent some of the most common running injuries.

1. Take time to stretch. As with any physical activity, flexibility helps reduce abnormal strain on the joints, tendons, and ligaments. Always warm up before you stretch, and be sure to devote at least 30 seconds to each stretch. High knee skips and pigeon pose are especially useful in preventing quad/hamstring and IT band injuries.

2. Incorporate strength training. Strengthening your muscles enables you to reduce strain on tendons and ligaments when you become fatigued. Common strength training exercises for runners include hill running, plyometrics, and lifting weights.

3. Wear proper shoes. Running shoes are the body’s point of contact with the ground, meaning that all force is transferred at the sole of the shoe. Even the slightest misalignment can cause long-term issues with the ankles, knees, or hips. Consider visiting a store that specializes in running apparel, where experts can help you find the shoe that best fits your foot.

Improving Your Golf Handicap


 Golf Handicap pic

Golf Handicap

As a certified public accountant, Benjamin Barrone creates budgets, reports, and forecasts for Vital Proteins in Chicago. Outside of work, Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer who has been playing since childhood and has a handicap under five.

A common goal of golfers is reducing their handicap. Practice is always the most important thing to do to lower the handicap. Regularly set aside some time to hit at the range, and spend roughly 15 minutes completing putting drills before and after each round you play.

Another way to raise your game is to improve your own physical fitness. Stretching before a golf game is important, but you should spend some time off the course increasing your strength and flexibility. In turn, you will be able to hit the ball farther and more accurately.

Finally, check your golf equipment. Old, worn clubs may be difficult to grip and are less likely to hit the ball in the direction you want. New golf club materials and designs may help you make more accurate shots, so replace your equipment when it starts aging.