Golf Digest editors picks

My Shot: Chubby Chandler

Golf's newest kingmaker gives his take on common sense, 'golf perverts' and the fine art of doing a deal

October 2011

Note: Chandler split with Rory McIlroy on Friday, October 21.

Jinx and a blessing are never far apart. When Graeme McDowell, who is no longer with us [International Sports Management], won the 2010 U.S. Open, I couldn't help but feel we were jinxed. Our players had never won a major, you see. I felt happy for Graeme, but what about our lads? When Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Championship a month later, I thought, OK, we're fine now. After Charl Schwartzel won the Masters and then Rory McIlroy the U.S. Open, I went from feeling jinxed in the majors to blessed. After what happened to Darren Clarke at the Open Championship, I wonder if jinxes even exist.

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I did not go to university, or what you in America call college. I was smart but lazy. But I earned a degree in common sense. When I went into business in 1989, I knew I had no formal acumen and that mistakes were inevitable. We lost Graeme a few years ago because he wasn't getting the attention he needed or deserved. That was a massive mistake, and the only upside is that Graeme and I are still good mates.

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My playing career: I turned pro in 1974 and played the European Tour until 1983, when I lost my card. I played only a few local tournaments in 1984. I decided to come back. I won a tournament in Brazil in 1985, my only victory. I played all right for a couple of years after that, but in 1989 I lost interest and packed it up. I liked the lifestyle, but I got tired of being average. No regrets, of course. In the end, it was a fun way to spend my life between the ages of 21 and 36.

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When Darren decided to turn pro in 1989 he asked if I would handle all of the financial stuff so he could be free to just play. I said, "Sure." When the subject of a contract came up, I mentioned that Arnold Palmer and Mark McCormack didn't have a contract, only a handshake agreement. That was good enough for Darren, and that's how we've done it ever since. Slowly but surely, that's how it worked as I added more players. When Graeme left, that very day he paid off every ounce of commission he owed on deals that had been active when he was with me. Whether a handshake agreement would be possible in the U.S., where lawyers and contracts rule the world, I can't say. But starting out, we'd sure try.

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I don't know if I'm the best player representative in golf, for the simple reason I have no basis for comparison. I never had representation when I was a player. I don't know what happens between other managers and their players, because of our 35 players, only Ernie Els has ever been handled by anyone else. The vast majority of our client list were brought in straight from amateur golf to us. We don't poach players, and I don't pry into their affairs. I know the business, but not other people's business.

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I'm known as a people person, and I am that, but I don't have many true friends. We all refer to people we know casually or do business with as "friends," but how many do we have, really? In my case I'd put the number at four or five. One of my true friends happens to be a client. That would be Lee Westwood. I bonded with Lee in 1993. We've been through the ups and the downs. What he went through, I had gone through. Crises in confidence. Looking in the wrong place for the answers.

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American colleges came after Rory through his father, Gerry, beginning when Rory was 16. Rory's dad and I had formed a good relationship, and he asked me what I thought. I said, "He's too good for college. There's no point in it. He isn't going to improve there; he's going to get better by playing in tournaments." It's interesting to note, if Rory had gone to college, he'd just now be getting out. So the decision for him to turn pro instead of going to university was a good one.

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I don't condemn American college golf. It all depends on how good a lad is. Like I say, if a young amateur is outstanding already, like Rory was, they aren't going to get better in college. The really good amateur is treated like a pro anyway and sort of lives the life of one. Now if the player is not as gifted, college golf can help, but even then, four years might not be what's best for them. Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Tiger Woods left school early. Phil Mickelson went all the way through, but Sean O'Hair didn't go. So each case is different.

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I call them "golf perverts." We've all met them. They're the people so engrossed in the game they rarely talk about anything else. Golf is their great love and only hobby. Golf perverts assume that everyone shares their level of enthusiasm at all times. They're important because they love the game and help drive it. But people who work in the game or play it professionally all day often don't want to be consumed by it at breakfast and dinner.

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There is no greater responsibility for me than ensuring that Rory does not get burned out. I've been in the game many years now, and he is the first person I've ever looked at where I've seen burnout as a very serious threat. He is a 22-year-old person having things thrown at him that a 35-year-old would find very challenging. His weeks are much longer than those of other people his age, each day of those weeks more intense.

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You suggest that the measure of success in golf has changed nowadays, that new eras of guys winning eight or nine majors is finished and that players will have to settle for less because the talent pool is so large. Well, I don't think that's true. I wouldn't be surprised if Rory won eight or nine majors, or Charl five or six, or Lee three or four. We've come through the Tiger era, and the majors have been shared around a bit.

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The character of our stable is different than the character of most others. I mentored Darren and Lee, who in turn have mentored the fellows who have come up behind them. Darren will gladly bring along a young player to an outing in Asia to show him how it's done. Our young players looking for a practice round with Ernie are not going to have a problem. That builds friendships and a camaraderie that is beneficial for everyone. We're a team.

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At the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, I decided to rent out the Jigger Inn, a well-known pub next to the 17th hole of the Old Course. The idea was simply to give our players, their families and some friends a place to go so they didn't have to make dinner reservations. The Jigger Inn was sort of a one-off, and it got a lot of attention because it's a public place. But what we did at Turnberry in 2009 was even more special. I rented out a big house and brought in three chefs, who during the week put on an Italian Evening, Indian Evening and Chinese Evening. We had 16 players in the Cham-pionship that year, and at one point all 16 players and their families were there at one time. I wasn't trying to create a family situation, but in effect that's what happened. It brought us together. It was magical.

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