The Business of Golf

One of the things that helps Tour pros concentrate on their game is their agent. When your life is consumed with hour after hour of hitting balls on the range, with playing quality practice rounds that can’t be rushed, indeed, with fitness and appearances and, and, and, everything, you have to have an agent.

You have to have an agent, to negotiate your endorsement contracts, to help manage your financial affairs, to coordinate your appearances and charity work. You have to have an agent because you don’t have the time or experience to do it. A company comes to you with an endorsement idea, a term, your obligations under the contract and an amount. How do you evaluate that?  You don’t. Your agent does. He knows how long the normal contract is. He knows the going rate for a player of your status, but even more, he is always abreast of market changes.

One of the biggest agencies in the game of golf had always been IMG, International Management Group.

When Mark McCormack founded International Management Group in 1960, the agency was small but packed with potential, having signed Arnold Palmer as its first client. In the ensuing years, many of golf’s greats – Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods among them – have been represented by the Cleveland-based firm.

So reports Alex Miceli at golfweek.com, in “Mass exodus, court issues show the fall of IMG.” And he neatly details, oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Being an agent has always been a relationship business. When McCormack signed Arnold Palmer as that first client, it was famously done on a mere handshake. As IMG grew, players wanted to be an IMG client because they weren’t just putting endorsement deals together anymore. They had expanded into golf events, some the year-end “silly season” made-for-television shows. So if you were a player who wanted to be guaranteed some easy money at the end of the year, you wanted to be with IMG. Not only did you gain peace of mind so you could focus on your golf, you were getting in on what felt like a piece of the action.

Miceli does a good job of laying out the history of the company and how the U.S. staff went from 40 to 13 over the last 12 years. It’s a good read that offers a peek behind the curtain at how the business of golf is conducted…and frees the minds of its players in the process.

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