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The most lucrative non-paid job in golf

Peter Alliss gave an intriguing interview to Derek Lawrenson in the Daily Mail recently.

There was a poignant bit at the end, when The Voice was asked about regrets. ‘I’d like to have won The Open, naturally, and been Ryder Cup captain,’ said Alliss. ‘There were captains who were no more distinguished than myself. One of the committee who decided it in those days told me they thought I was too commercial. That’s a laugh when you see what has happened. The last five or six captains have all made a million quid on the back of it.’

Talking with Tony Jacklin a couple of years ago, I asked him a similar question relating to the commercial value of the captaincy, then and now. Despite the huge income growth from the Ryder Cup, the players and the captain do not receive a fee for their appearance, beyond ‘all reasonable expenses’.

We met at the home of Jacklin’s parents in law when he was on a visit from his home in Florida. Money it seemed, was a source of some regret.

“The length and breadth of my commercial involvement was with Johnny Walker (the whiskey company was the title sponsor of the Ryder Cup) who wanted to make some of their lesser markets in Europe aware of what the Ryder Cup was. They said, would I get on an aeroplane and go to Italy and talk about it. But I never got any other commercial opportunities for the whole four times I did it. I might have made £20,000 pounds from Johnny Walker, and they probably sent me a case of whisky, but nothing else was available at the time. It was a case of people couldn’t believe what was going on and how important the Ryder Cup was becoming and by the time they did believe it I had finished. How has that changed, I wondered. He laughed mirthlessly.

“I would think there’s a million pounds in it for anyone doing it now. Where it’s all gone is mind boggling.”

Since then, I’ve become a bit of a student on this topic and make a point of asking about the commercial value of the captaincy, whenever the opportunity arises. Before the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, I met with Guy Kinnings, head of IMG’s golf division and long time manager of Colin Montgomerie.

“We don’t excessively work on maximising the opportunity,” said Kinnings. “Colin wants to do a good job and win, for personal reasons. People will always want to meet the captain so the opportunity for personal appearances is there, and we ensure he takes advantage of the merchandising opportunities available during his tenure.”

Put another way, win the thing and the captaincy is the gift that keeps on giving. Anyone seeking further evidence of this statement only has to turn on Sky Sport.

Monty’s face is an ever present on the station’s golf coverage in the run up to this September’s tussle in America. All of which brings us to the man in the hot seat for this year’s match, Jose Maria Olazabal. There are a number of reasons that Olly has always seemed like a man apart and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is something to do with his relationship with money.

My favourite Olly quote relates to Mark McCormack, the American founder of IMG, who knew a thing or two about making money from sporting talent. McCormack once said dismissively of Olazábal: “Strange guy. Doesn’t seem interested at all in the money he could be making.”

The American didn’t understand why Olazábal refused to ditch his manager, Sergio Gómez, a long time friend of the golfer, for the Jerry Maguire style equivalent on offer elsewhere.

The other anecdote that helps raise Olazabal in my estimation also relates to money. In 1997, a year blighted by injury, the player returned a large cheque from his ball sponsor, Titleist, with an explanatory note: “I have not played all season. I cannot accept your money when I have not earned it.”

When asked about this episode years later, Olazábal said: “It's not hard to give up something which does not matter much to you.”

This is just a small storyline among many to play out this September: what will the least greedy man in golf make of the most lucrative non paid job in sport?

July 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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