Introducing The Undercover Pro

By Max Adler Illustrations by Ben Wiseman
September 03, 2013

I've never won on the PGA Tour, but I've had some close calls. I'm in my mid-30s. Serious golf fans know my name, but when I walk into a restaurant, it's rare I get noticed. Maybe I should grow my hair out like Charley Hoffman.

I'm not the player you'll see with an entourage hovering around him. Besides my caddie, I have a fitness trainer, a mental coach, a swing coach and a short-game coach, but it's rare I'm ever with more than two of them. Not that it would be a big deal if we were ever all together. From outside the ropes, it might seem some golfers have a mini-corporation in their wake at all times, but no one cares. You'll never hear a player in the locker room say anything like, "Did you see so and so with all those people? Who does he think he is?" As long as the entourage isn't crashing player dining, it's a non-issue.

The range is always the most crowded on Tuesday. "Be Seen Tuesday," I've heard it called. Monday is a travel day, Wednesday is the pro-am, a lot of people leave once the tournament starts on Thursday, so Tuesday is the prime window for gurus—the trainers, nutritionists, psychologists, agents, yogis—to be noticed. They stand on the range, shake hands and slap a few backs, and maybe make their pitch. It might look like a zoo, but there's really not that much solicitation. It's only a slight distraction compared to the other days.

Truth is, I feel for the guys trying to break into the circus. No one is born a five-year veteran of the PGA Tour. Everyone has to start somewhere. If a guy approaches me, I'm cordial and listen to how he says he can help me, though I'm not really shopping. Sometimes a guy will introduce himself with a name other than what's on the credential clipped to his belt, which he obviously borrowed to sneak inside the practice areas. Once a guy like this asked me to register him with the tour so he could get a legitimate credential, but that's moving a bit fast. I told him he'd have better luck contacting players on off weeks away from tournaments.

My fitness trainer and I are old friends. He writes my programs and emails them to me gratis while I'm on the road. At the end of each year I write him a check for a couple grand to say thank you. Most players pay their trainers an annual salary of about 50 grand, but that's for full-time, hands-on work. I pay my swing coach $200 an hour, plus expenses if he comes on the road. This is pretty standard. My short-game coach gets 1 percent of my tournament winnings, and my mental coach gets five grand per quarter and 5 percent of all my top-25 finishes.

Half a shot in scoring average in a season might mean half a million dollars, or more. If a full-time support crew makes that difference, all power to a guy. Same thing goes for logos. More guys have their own logo nowadays, whether it's for their hat or clothes or just a Twitter handle. Even if you haven't done much, I don't begrudge anyone thinking big. If you're a rookie and see yourself winning three majors down the road, get a logo. If you want to have a charity, or even your own charity tournament someday, it's important to start creating an image that's bigger than yourself.

Which isn't to say there aren't some questionable logos out there. If you ask me, I think Ian Poulter's logo looks like a part of the male anatomy. I mean, seriously, look at that thing sometime and tell me you're not seeing what I'm seeing.