"ABC's Challenge Golf, the new television series that we are filming now," says McCormack, "has been called the most lucrative TV contract ever entered into by a sports personality. In addition to the prize money that Arnie receives, Worldwide Productions, an Arnold Palmer-controlled corporation, is co-producer and part owner of the show. The Arnold Palmer Putting Courses, Inc. should be the most profitable golf venture per dollar investment ever conceived. The Palmer-Player world tour is a gold mine; it's promoted and sponsored by Palmer-Player Productions, Inc.
"Arnie has just signed a contract with Sunstate Slacks, a Florida firm, to turn out a line of Arnold Palmer clothing, a venture that will run for at least 10 years, may run for 30 and should produce more than $1 million for Palmer. As you may know, we tried to buy up Arnie's contract with Wilson, which doesn't run out until October 31, 1963. We offered them substantially more money than they could possibly expect to realize from the association, but they turned us down. The reason we were anxious to get out of this contract was because of our desire to get the Arnold Palmer Company rolling right away. The Arnold Palmer Company will introduce a line of clubs and related golf equipment that—well, the financial returns from this venture arc going to be fantastic."
McCormack has also made certain that Palmer receives adequate compensation—deferred, when possible—from a list of manufacturers, publishers and sponsors as long as Arnie's muscular right arm, ranging spectacularly from Lincoln-Mercury to Coca-Cola. But more than that, McCormack has found ways to make money where only space existed before.
He has, for example, formed Palmac Associates, Inc., an insurance agency designed to service the insurance needs of those companies and corporations which are formed in Palmer's name or with which Palmer becomes affiliated. "Sunstate Slacks, for example," says McCormack, "has to buy insurance from someone—why not Arnie? The Sunstate commission alone should mean $5,000 per year." There is also Palmco, an investment company set up as a receptacle for any overflow funds and, perhaps best of all, All*Star Industries Corp. "A wealthy New York golf fan, a member of the garment industry, wanted to do something for Arnie," says McCormack. "He asked where Sunstate was going to get its material. We didn't know. 'Well, let's sell them an Arnold Palmer fabric,' the man said. So he put up $250, Arnie put up $187.50 and I put up $62.50, and we incorporated. He took 50% of the initial stock, Arnie took 37�% and I got 12�%. Sometime later additional stock was sold for over $100,000, leaving the initial investors owning slightly over two-thirds of the company. Arnie, the garment manufacturer and I had an equity of $75,000—and we hadn't produced a yard of fabric. The entire deal was fantastic."
Although the fabric business did not prove to be terribly profitable, the association did. All*Star Industries Corp. turned to selling and distributing a line of golf gloves now worn by 90% of the pros on the PGA tour.
Fantastic is the word for Mark McCormack. Few people have actually seen him in the past two years, including his wife and kids back in Pepper Pike, Ohio, and there is some danger that without ever really materializing he will vanish into legend in a puff of smoke, probably formed by burning federal reserve notes.
McCormack is, ostensibly, a junior member of a very large and respected Cleveland law firm, Arter, Hadden, Wykoff & Van Duzer, but troubled souls seeking to rid themselves of creditors, wives, or neighbors who dump crab-grass clippings across the fence seldom find him in. Operating out of a suitcase and a telephone booth, subsisting on six hours of sleep a night and a diet of coffee, cantaloupe and shrimp, McCormack has traveled to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and 33 U.S. cities, including Honolulu once and Manhattan 28 times, in a little less than a year. A trip to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia lies just ahead. The result has not only ensured the solvency of Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and United Airlines, it threatens to project McCormack himself into a tax bracket formerly occupied only by Cary Grant and U.S. Steel. At the time he took over the affairs of Palmer, McCormack was earning less than $10,000 a year, driving a 1954 Ford and living in a $130-a-month apartment. Today by virtue of the minimum 10% he extracts from every Palmer-Player-Nicklaus deal—and sometimes his interest is much higher—McCormack drives a Lincoln Continental convertible, lives in a $100,000 home, and can anticipate an increase in his net worth of approximately a quarter of a million dollars in 1962. "This is only the beginning," he says. "I keep expecting the Continental to turn back into a pumpkin," says his wife, Nancy.
McCormack was touched by the magic wand in the spring of 1960. Until then, by his own admission, he was a golf nut who happened to be trying to practice a little law on the side. He had met Palmer, briefly, while a member of the William and Mary golf team in 1951. "We had a match with Wake Forest," says McCormack, "but fortunately someone else had to play Arnie that day. At the end of five holes, our man was even par—and three down." The two didn't meet again until McCormack had finished Yale law school, spent two years teaching military law to MP officers in Augusta, Ga., and gone to work for Arter, Hadden, etc.
"I was playing a lot of golf," says McCormack, "and a friend and I formed this booking agency to help some of the pros line up exhibitions. I guess Fred Corcoran was looking after Snead but most of the others were on their own. It worked out pretty well and after a while some of the players began to come around and ask for advice. 'Look, Mark, you're a lawyer,' they would say, 'how about helping us with some of these endorsement contracts?' There wasn't much to it; I was amazed that no one had been performing this service before. Anyway, one of the golfers was Palmer. One day, early in 1960, before he won any of his big tournaments that year, he asked me if I would be interested in representing him on an overall basis. So I went to the law firm and asked them if that would be all right. They were hesitant, but eventually they said O.K. It meant quite a bit in legal fees to them, of course. And that's the way it began."
Once the possibilities began to open up, McCormack was off, and all that first Palmer, then Player and finally Nicklaus have had to do is keep swinging—and watch the money pour in. Originally McCormack's agreement was to handle Palmer exclusively, but he is a man with an acquisitive instinct—it makes him nervous to see money just lying around when clients could be earning it. Spotting the potential in Player long before anyone else, he couldn't resist. McCormack received permission from Palmer to add another to the stable, and in the fall of 1960 he moved in. At the time the little South African was virtually unknown in America despite his second-place finish at the U.S. Open in Tulsa in 1958 (he had won the 1959 British Open but the British Open is important to Americans only when an American wins). Soon after signing with McCormack, Gary Player won the 1961 Masters; in '62 he won the PGA and tied for the Masters.