Golf's Super Agent
Chubby Chandler’s clients include four major tournament winners and a solid cast of golf’s biggest stars
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“Things come along that no one can prepare for,” says Chandler. “Darren lost a good six years of his career during her illness and the grieving period. All you can do is be there for him, when he wanted to talk, wanted to cry. There were still things that had to been done for his career, but they were very much on the back burner. I just had to be a friend. It was all I could be.”
“He would get unbelievably down on himself. In September of 2009 he called me and he was definitely depressed about his whole situation. I said give me 24 hours and I will come up with a plan. I called him and said you should 50 percent make a move back to Northern Ireland [from his estate in Surrey near London], 50 percent make a move to Manchester near me and 0 percent stay where you are. Within two days he was making plans to move back to Ireland.”
That move back to his homeland, near his father Godfrey and mother Hettie, put Clarke on the road to recovery, of both his career and his life. He was introduced by McDowell to Alison Campbell, a former Miss Northern Ireland, and they are now engaged. It was Campbell on whom he planted a kiss after winning the British Open, and Chubby Chandler was nearby for the requisite hug and a pint of Guinness or two later.
“He has five more years of a career now,” says Chandler, referring to the five-year exemptions Clarke earned to the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship and entry into many more high profile tournaments.
Clarke carried on his celebrations overnight, but Chandler got back to the business of managing his players the next day, in particular the majorless but oft-contending Lee Westwood. Chandler was working on the “Chubby Slam.”
“Last week you might have thought that I would be celebrating with Darren, but I was working with Lee, working on a plan for him to win a major,” says Chandler at the Irish Open. “We had four, five people sitting around a table, everybody very honest about their feelings and opinions. We have a plan for the U.S. PGA. I’m not going to say what it is. But it’s a plan.” Westwood finished eighth, another good show, but another trip home without the trophy.
The seeds of Schwartzel’s victory might well have been sown at the British Open at St. Andrews in 2010, at the Jigger Inn. The Jigger is a well-known little bar just off the course, that Chandler had rented for the week. Invited guests needed to know a password each evening to get it. After Oosthuizen had completed his convincing victory, Schwartzel spent time with Chandler in the Jigger.
“Louis winning the Open last year was amazing,” says Chandler, who just before the start of that tournament had sold 75 percent of his company to a consortium of investors, while remaining its managing director and a partner. “I sat in the Jigger on Sunday night with him and his wife, Hennie Otto and Charl Schwartzel.
“At some point I said to Charl, ‘I know you think that it should be you holding that trophy. If Louis can win a major, it proves that you can win a major.’ Charl then wins the Masters. Charl was a consequence of Louis. Rory wins the Open. Rory was a consequence of Graeme McDowell, of Charl and of Louis.”
All, it seems, a consequence of Chandler’s robustly familial approach to his job, which really isn’t his job. There is no real dividing line between his personal and professional lives, a fact that likely caused his divorce six years ago, though the marriage did produce two teenage sons of which he is immensely proud, Tom and Romey.
To promote togetherness among his players, Chandler will rent a bunch of houses for them at major tournament venues. At Augusta last April, he took 22 houses in one area of town, using one of them as a central location for parties and get-togethers. His cadre of rental homes became known as Chubbyville.
Though his business and his life tend to melt together, he does allow himself the occasional getaway where he switches the mobile phone, which is constantly ringing and is filled with messages, back to the office. And he does allow himself the diversionary vice of horse racing and says he owns 16 horses along with Westwood. One of them, Hoof It, won a big stakes at Goodwood this year.
What Chandler has learned over his 22 years as an agent is that the discipline, the work ethic he lacked as a player, is essential to the success of the players he represents. He has consultants for physical and mental well-being, a sharp contrast to his playing days and his first years as an agent.
“I played well enough to the age of about 34. But I didn’t work as hard as I should, wasn’t as disciplined,” says Chandler, who realized that he, and his players, needed to dedicate themselves to the game. “I should think that maybe up to five years ago we would have been looked at as a bunch of guys who were better in the bar than on the golf course,” said Chandler. “We have changed to a group of guys who are dedicated and disciplined.”
Oh, about that nickname, Chubby. He got it when he was anything but chubby. He was short of his 18th birthday, thin as a 2-iron, when a friend pinched his cheeks and referred to him as Chubby Cheeks, a name that somehow stuck to him and later became just Chubby. He’s tried to stick to a diet lately but without visible success. The man loves a good meal and a fine claret.
“Even my mum, she’s 88, has started calling me Chubby over the last three or four years,” says Chandler.
Everyone knows Chubby, and it doesn’t hurt that he is the most available agent on the planet to the media. He’s the only agent who regularly makes the media rounds and has plenty of good things to say. He does it, he says, because he was afraid that when his players became successful that they would be swallowed into the maw of IMG, the biggest sports representation company. He wanted everyone to know that his players were his players, that they were International Sports Management folk, that they were part of the family.
But he’s not the ruler of the flock, according to Jeev Milkha Singh, India’s most successful player who signed up with Chandler in 2006.
“The thing I like about Chubby is that you can always get ahold of him and talk with him. He’s very personal that way. He always has time for you,” says Singh. “He gives you the options and you decide. He’s not telling you that you have to do something. He gives you all the information and his opinion and you decide.”
Chandler can tell you why, in all likelihood, he makes a good agent.
“As a player and as an agent I have made all the mistakes, usually twice,” says Chandler. “You learn from there and get on with it. No time for regret.”
Jeff Williams is a contributing editor for Cigar Aficionado.