Danny Ortega was 9 the first time he picked up a golf club. He used to spend summers at his grandparents’ home in Sonoma, Ca. Down the street was a 9-hole golf course and driving range. Danny used to pick up balls from the side of the range for a Snickers bar and the chance to hit golf balls.
Fast forward to high school: Danny had caught the baseball bug and that was his one and only. Golf was in the rear view until he was 22 and some of his buddies on a baseball trip wanted to go to the local course. He joined them and was hooked all over again.
When he came home from that trip, he would go to the local range with three clubs at a time, learning how to use each to its full potential before he’d try another three. From the tee to the green, just like Tiger told him. As Danny improved, he started playing a local course. He vowed he would not play anywhere else until he broke 90.
Less than a year later, he was playing courses all over the U.S.
Chris Eckhardt doesn’t remember exactly when he first picked up a club - probably when he was 6 or so. His dad played every now and again, and always let Chris mess around with his clubs. When he was 10, Papa, Uncle Tim, and Chris’s little brother played at Carmel Valley Ranch. All 9 holes - or so the grown-ups said.
Fast-forward a little more, to summer after a sophomore year at the University of Arizona. Tucson was 120 degrees in the shade, and Chris’ fraternity brother said he was going out to hit some balls. Chris asked to tag along. If you enjoy playing golf in the Arizona summer, you know it’s for you.
Chris’ friends let him play rounds with them, so long as he didn’t hold up their game. Not one to be left behind, Chris was determined to be able to beat all of them one day.
Now, Chris still wants to win, no matter who he’s on the course with. He also wants to play each game better than his last.
When Danny moved to San Ramon, Ca., he had some friends who were members at some exclusive country clubs. “When I got my first taste of that style of golf and lifestyle, I was hooked,” Danny remembers.
Chris remembers visiting a club his uncle belonged to in La Quinta, Ca. “It was an unreal experience seeing the clubhouse, playing the course, and seeing the hospitality and how people were treated,” Chris recalls.
The pair first met at a semi-private club in 2009, called The Bridges. They were paired up randomly in a two-man golf event. They won, and the dynamic duo was formed. They had many common interests, but the glue was always golf. And the country club lifestyle.
The personal attention, exclusivity, and feeling of being surrounded by like-minded individuals appealed to both of them.
“A place where you can grow your personal network in friendships, business and sport is amazing,” Danny says.
“I also love the recognition as a member when staff knows who I am, mix me ‘my drink’,” Chris says. “It’s very comforting.”
Finding a club with the right course quality (after all, golf is Danny & Chris’ glue!) and the right membership is key - and a plus if that membership includes a friend.
If there is one thing that frustrates both Danny and Chris, it’s not being able to get to know more members in the club. A random encounter is great - after all, that’s what led to 18TH&MAIN - but having a way to meet more members and maybe even get to know them before an IRL event would make the country club experience even better.
You never know - your perfect fourth might be heading out just before you get there.
Many rounds of golf, perhaps a few cocktails at the club, and a bunch of actual cocktail napkins serving as a sketchpad served as the origin story for what is now 18TH&MAIN.
Danny and Chris came up with the idea of Corporate Camouflage - clothes that could be worn at the office, out to dinner, and on the course. Finding that perfect mesh of comfort, style and class proved hard. Finding the right vendors, learning the clothing business and figuring out logistics were snags in the road on the way to Corporate Camouflage.
But as the pair sat down with club executives, members and staff to discuss the idea, they soon realized the opportunity in front of them was far beyond a virtual pro shop.
Fast-forward through years of persistence, perseverance and tough decisions, and 18TH&MAIN is on the cusp of recognizing that vision of a platform that helps clubs, staff, and members alike get to know one another better and have a more valuable experience.
“Success is when two friends meet through the app and create a business that changes the world,” Danny says. “Success is when we create the blueprints for hunting, biking, tennis and more because we’ve shown the world how to really build a digital - and IRL - community.”
“Success is making each employee’s life easier and a making each job at a club a more enjoyable experience,” Chris says. “Success is offering all the best clothing and equipment in the industry.”
18TH&MAIN is a place to turn a country club into a community. The Connected Country Club means being able to golf at multiple clubs, especially when traveling. It means expanding your network - both personal and professional. It’s about sharing a lifestyle with like-minded friends across the world.
Our goal is to assist our partners to better serve their membership while instilling a more efficient way to connect and get to know their valued members.
Our goal is to allow the members to enhance their current membership by introducing a new way to connect to their clubs and fellow members.
Our goal is to offer a platform where they can sell their goods, even if the members’ clubs don’t stock it in their pro shops.
In short, the goal is to forever change how private clubs operate and how they interact with members - and how members interact with each other.
“If we can connect just one member to another and create a long-term business partner, golf buddy, workout friend and just someone to better their internal network,” Danny says, “we have won!”
“18TH&MAIN is a real social place to actually interact through sport and business - not the fake social interactions and highlight reels that substitute for it now,” Chris says.
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