Bill Cawley, CEO of Cawley Partners, is passionate about golf. The Dallas real estate developer and investor has been playing the game since he was 10 years old, growing up in a small town south of Chicago. “During the summer, my parents would drop my brother and me off at the golf course in the morning and pick us up at night,” Cawley says. “It was like our daycare. We golfed all day long, five days a week.”
Besides the appeal of being outdoors and the social aspects of the game, you can learn a lot about people by playing golf with them, Cawley says, and it’s a sport you can play until late in life. At Preston Trail Golf Club, he tees off against—and sometimes loses to—members in their 80s. Cawley counts his membership at the über-exclusive club as his most-prized possession. “My office is near Preston Trail, and there’s a reason for that,” he says.
Cawley’s interest in golf has bled into his professional life. A few years ago, he was looking at buying some land in Tyler. When he learned that a golf course in the area was in trouble, he snapped it up. One of the finest courses in East Texas, The Cascades sits on 300 acres of rolling terrain and has a private marina on Lake Bellwood.
Being an owner-operator is a little different from being an investor, Cawley says: “I get a lot of pleasure out of it, but I quickly realized that playing golf is a lot more fun than owning a golf course.”
During the financial meltdown, when the real estate market was dead, Cawley would play golf four or five times a week. Today, the market has dramatically improved, and Cawley has several projects under way—including two large office buildings along the Dallas North Tollway. “My golf game has suffered,” Cawley says. “My handicap has gone from a 9 to 12. It’s frustrating when I’m on the course, but I’ll take the busy real estate market any day.”