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‘The LIV Offer Sounded Phenomenal’: James Piot's journey from 'no sponsors' to LIV Golf

January 31, 2023
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JAMES PIOT (“PIE-OT”), LIV GOLF, AGE 24, FROM Canton, Michigan

Chris Trotman/LIV Golf

Driving back to Michigan State after missing cuts at the Masters and RBC, I was bummed. Then my phone rang. My agent was calling with an offer from LIV Golf.

My dad is a good player. He took me to a range when I was little. I knew immediately this is what I wanted to do.

My older brother, Glenn, and I spent all of our time at Fox Hills golf course in Plymouth, Mich. A bunch of us would bet every day for golf balls, $5, a hot dog. I was the youngest, so I played with a chip on my shoulder. They stopped including putts inside 10 feet in putting contests because I made them all. I love chasing perfection in golf even though it’s impossible.

I played college golf at Michigan State. We would play intramural basketball in the offseason. Coach worried about injuries, but we loved it. Working together as a team is what makes college golf so fun. Competition sharpened my game. I thought, How can I win? instead of What’s my scoring average this week? Short game was the answer. I tightened up the skills I’d developed from those contests as a kid to become consistent in a way other guys weren’t.

At the 2021 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, my goal was to qualify for match play. Never did I think I’d be holding that trophy. When the winning putt fell, my college and high school golf buddies, coach Casey Lubahn from Michigan State, my family, everyone was there. It felt like it was too perfect to have actually happened.

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Photograph by Alfonso Duran

My agent set up a call. Ten people from LIV were on it. They couldn’t tell me who they had signed or were pursuing, but they said it would be a team format. I loved the PGA Tour events I played in, but every guy did his thing and then vanished. To be part of a team with a big-name pro mentoring me sounded like the right way to start my career. For a guy about to finish school with no sponsors who wasn’t among the top-ranked college golfers and had just missed two PGA Tour cuts, the LIV offer sounded phenomenal.

I talked it over with my family, my swing instructor for over a decade, Brian Cairns, and my college coaches. There were a lot of unknowns about LIV, and I had the U.S. Open and sponsor ’s exemptions at Memorial and Colonial. I could earn more PGA Tour starts—or I could miss more cuts.

If you’re thinking about your legacy, you want to play the PGA Tour. But this is a great opportunity for a guy out of college with no financial security. As I thought about the political side, I realized it’s a golf decision. I signed a two-year contract. My agent wouldn’t be happy if I told you for how much.

I bought a GCQuad launch monitor, but otherwise I’m kind of cheap. I live at home with my parents, though I’m looking to rent a place in Jupiter. Half my clothes are Michigan State gear. I still practice at the two public courses I grew up on.

Week 1 at LIV Golf, I didn’t know who would be there, if I would be the only young guy, whose team I would be on. Sergio picked me. He texted our group chat that night: “Hey, who wants to have dinner?” Sergio Garcia’s offering to have dinner with me?

I haven’t lost any friendships over joining LIV. I’ll get chirps from random people on Twitter, but I only care about what my inner circle thinks. LIV criticism is less heated overseas. I’ve gotten to travel places I never thought I’d go, but I don’t fly private. I fly Delta. I like getting the points.

At every hotel they have a room for food, and each night there are at least 12 guys hanging out. Harold Varner III helped me feel like I belong. We bet every practice round, and he points out where I need work. I’ll be spending the offseason getting bigger and adding speed. He also taught me the attitude you have to carry out here: You have to think you can win. People say we’re in it only for the money, but that’s not true.

I’ve talked to Majed al Sorour, CEO of Saudi Golf, a few times. He wants to see younger guys win. That’s big for me, seeing how much he believes in us.

When LIV started signing more guys, people tweeted, “James Piot’s going to be bumped out.” But from what I’ve heard, LIV has stayed true to the contracts we’ve signed.

I don’t want to miss out on playing the majors. I’ve avoided debates about whether LIV players should. Playing the Masters was the coolest week of my life. I’m not exempt, so I’m putting my energy toward qualifying. My goal is to try to get into a major and see what I can do. I just want to win golf tournaments. —With Keely Levins