By John Strege
Jeff King is a tour caddie by trade and an entrepreneur by accident, a beef jerky legend of sorts in professional golf circles who has started a company, Kingmade Beef Jerky.
King, who caddies for Luke List (and has worked for Cristie Kerr, among others), enjoyed beef jerky, but generally was unimpressed with the quality he found on his travels, so, out of boredom, he said, he bought a dehydrator and began making his own jerky in his kitchen at home in McKinney, Texas, on his off weeks.
Through trial and error ("my first couple runs at it, it was fairly inedible," he said), he developed a recipe that proved so good that demand via word of mouth from PGA and LPGA players exploded and they began ordering it and buying it from him.
"I'd check bags in at the airport with beef jerky," he said. "The Honda Classic, I took 60 pounds of beef jerky on an airplane. The Byron Nelson, everybody knew I was going home the week prior. I had 170 pounds of orders just for players and caddies."
Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker, Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel are among his customers. "Matt Kuchar was the main reason that this whole thing is going," King said. "He said, 'come on, King, let's see this stuff in stores, get it on shelves.'"
The thought had never occurred to King, who had no business experience or aspirations of becoming a businessman. Then one day during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, King was visiting with an old friend, Adam Papazian, and told him about his beef jerky and how popular it had become among tour players.
"You know what I do?" Papazian asked King. "I take products from people's kitchens and get them to market. I know how to do all that stuff. I've been doing this my. whole life. Do you want to start a business?"
Papazian took it from there, and now Kingmade Beef Jerky, in three flavors, is available at the website, at 30 golf courses and maybe 15 local markets, King said.
About 70 tour players continue to request it and eat it for its nutritional value during the course of tournament rounds. "It's the healthiest thing going. Unintentionally," he said, citing the protein, plus the fact that his jerky contains less than one-third the amount of sodium that competitors use. "I had no idea. Graeme McDowell asked me, 'what's in the stuff?' I said, 'it's just 100 percent meat and spices. No preservatives, no nitrates, no nothing.' He said, 'I want some.'
"Whether it succeeds or fails, I've already won. It's been a blast so far. This is cool when Davis Love comes up to you and says, 'can I get some beef jerky?'"