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Best Man
MICHAEL BAMBERGER
April 04, 2011
With a growing stable of stars that includes Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, the hottest agent abroad is Chubby Chandler, a straight-shooting Englishman who doesn't believe in contracts or letting his business relationships get in the way of a jolly good time
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April 04, 2011

Best Man

With a growing stable of stars that includes Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, the hottest agent abroad is Chubby Chandler, a straight-shooting Englishman who doesn't believe in contracts or letting his business relationships get in the way of a jolly good time

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If you walk into a clubhouse lounge at any of your better golf tournaments these days, anywhere in the world, there's a chance you're going to smell the player agent Andrew (Chubby) Chandler. Chandler is partial to a cologne called Jo Malone, which he slaps on, Chandler says in his particular and broad accent, "about three times the usual dose." Salesmen—even an Englishman selling rare golf talent—often find it useful to stand out, or at least that's how Chandler feels about it.

Chandler, 58, from Bolton, England, is selling an excellent line. He's the founder and managing director of a company called International Sports Management (ISM), which represents the South African Ernie Els, the Englishman Lee Westwood, the Irishman Rory McIlroy, the Indian Jeev Milka Singh, the Californian Christina Kim and a bunch of others you've heard of or most likely will. The company, with 30 employees, represents about 40 golfers, 25 soccer players, 10 cricketers and one Paralympic swimmer.

ISM is international, all right. IMG—International Management Group—is too. But Chandler is not using IMG as a model for ISM, and the two global companies could not be more different. IMG, based in Cleveland, is a monolith with hundreds of employees, a vast reach and no face. Chubby's cologne is on the contract of every endorsement deal he negotiates, and he doesn't want it any other way. As for his players, they have no contract with him.

Curiously, that's a practice Chandler picked up from the founder of IMG, Mark McCormack, who had a handshake deal with his first client, Arnold Palmer. In 1989 Chandler was winding down his 15-year, one-win career as a player on the European tour and looking to become an agent. He had a reputation for knowing the hotels in greater Madrid that actually welcomed players. Irishman Darren Clarke, then a promising young golfer, similar to Chandler in meaningful ways, became Chandler's first client.

"What'll we do for a contract?" Clarke asked.

Chandler explained the McCormackPalmer handshake.

"Then we'll do that," Clarke said.

Pretty much everyone who has followed Clarke into Chandler's fold since then has done the same. Westwood had a contract for a time, but he didn't like how it felt and had it torn up.

As late as 2007, Chandler managed Graeme McDowell, last year's U.S. Open winner and Ryder Cup star. "The one who got away," Chandler says. "We weren't giving him the attention he needed. I learned something there. Won't be making that mistake again." A candid man in the golf biz—how refreshing! Is there some way to propagate him?

The business side of golf has become maddeningly bureaucratic and impersonal. At a press conference in February, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, a high priest of control, would not even say how he feels about the issue of spitting on the golf course. (Chubby says it's "unacceptable.") Watching Tiger Woods interviews while blending a daiquiri, you wouldn't know if Tiger's talking about breaking up with his putter or his wife. (Chubby believes that Woods's "mind is not there, not focused on the golf.") Chandler's whole manner reminds you that modern tournament golf was made by men who dared to be different: McCormack, Frank Chirkinian, Clifford Roberts, Deane Beman, Pete Dye. (Check out their Hall of Fame bios if you don't know those names.) Chubby at least comes out of that tradition. He's an original.

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