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Rock Bottom Golf

Brothers Tom and Todd Rath have turned their version of the childhood lemonade stand into a multimillion-dollar business.

When Tom Rath was a poor high school kid, at night he’d sneak onto the golf course of the local country club. Wearing scuba gear, he’d dive into the course’s ponds and lakes and rescue lost golf balls from water traps. Eventually, Rath recruited friends to help him with his midnight dives. He sold the “white pearls” they harvested from the lake to other golfers. The shady venture helped pay for six years of college for Rath. Or so goes the cheeky company history on Rock Bottom Golf’s web site.

After graduation, Rath went legit. He started buying used and demonstration equipment from the very same country clubs whose lakes he had raided as a teenager. While still working as a consultant designing supply chain software for big companies like IBM, Rath moonlighted on the weekends, selling the used golf equipment at flea markets and at golf trade shows with his brother, Todd. They toured the Northeast, crisscrossing from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, and from Washington, D.C., to Boston, hitting some 14 trade shows a year.

The Rath brothers never made quite enough money at the flea markets and trade shows to turn their golf dealing into a full-time business, until they discovered eBay.

Five years ago, the brothers launched Rock Bottom Golf under the eBay user ID “rockbottomgolf,” becoming one of the first sellers to specialize in sporting ...

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