The function of agents and managers is largely dictated by their clients. For some, the job is about maximizing sponsorship opportunities. For others, it’s little more than a glorified travel agent. But whatever the varying demands, every management team shares – or ought to share – one basic responsibility: protect the client, sometimes from themselves.
If they succeed in keeping clients out of situations that could make them look like fools or jerks – even if they’re both – their most valuable work goes unseen. Fail and the world notices.
There have surely been lots of those unseen successes in golf this year, but the glaring failures have been plentiful too.
Take Matt Kuchar’s caddie kerfuffle. The alleged stiffing of a bagman in Mexico came to light in early January. It was put to rest with a statement and payment 35 days later. Thirty-five days during which Kuchar’s once-pristine reputation was spit-roasted over the fires of social media until it was a charred ruin. Thirty-five days that did little to alter the perception that there is no crisis management situation that Mark Steinberg – agent for Kuchar and Tiger Woods, among others – can’t bungle.
Now, Steinberg may well have urged a timely resolution. The caddie admitted that Steinberg had offered him more money, though far short of what he felt entitled to. A caddie who won’t accept less, plus a client who won’t pay more, equals an agent in the middle with people wondering if he’s offering good advice that is being ignored or bad advice that is being heeded. Neither is good if you’re Mark Steinberg.
Even skilled managers can’t help clients who can’t help themselves. There wasn’t much Sergio Garcia’s team could do when their man was found guilty of such unsporting conduct that he was considered unfit to remain in a tournament being staged to flatter a murderous regime. Sergio’s ensuing image rehabilitation effort – Instagram posts in which he greets fans and kisses babies with the enthusiasm of a presidential candidate – mostly reminds us of the Saudi antics he wants us to forget.
Sergio’s campaign moved into parody last week with a Tour-aided cover shoot for Nobleman magazine, which markets itself as offering “Style & Substance for the Modern Gentleman.” His team could have halted that one, and while they’re at it share with him the old adage that a gentleman who expectorates (especially into the cup) should not expect to rate as a gentleman.
The latest case to come before the court of public opinion involves Carly Booth, who stands accused of lacking sensitivity, a worldview and perhaps even a moral compass.
What reputation Booth enjoys owes more to her appearance in ESPN’s 2013 Body issue than to her play on the Ladies European Tour. Her world rank is 351st. But posts on her social media accounts on April 24 left her more exposed to scrutiny than that ESPN shoot.
Alongside a photo of Booth sporting a new logo on her bag was this message: “I am honored to represent @Golf_Saudi as they acknowledge that women in sport is of paramount importance. Although culturally they are in a different place to some countries, they are doing everything they can to introduce girls and women into sport and lead healthy lifestyles.”
“Culturally they are in a different place…” Rarely has immoral money-grubbing been window-dressed with such banality. Something else that could be described as being in a different place: the heads and torsos of the 37 people the Saudi regime beheaded one day before Booth’s cheery announcement. The reaction was swift and savage, and the posts were soon deleted.
Booth may feel “honored.” She may now even feel embarrassed. But if the endorsement deal continues (there’s no indication that it won’t) then she ought to be ashamed. Male golfers who competed in February’s Saudi International ignored atrocities when cash was wheelbarrowed out. Booth is no less deserving of scorn for being a willing fig-leaf for the regime and parroting such fetid agitprop on its behalf.
One can mount a defense for Booth, but it’s unflattering: devotion to her craft leaves little time to study geopolitics and human rights; women golfers, and particularly those in Europe, subsist on vapors so deals aren’t easily rejected, no matter how morally questionable the source.
But no exculpatory defense exists for the fatuous pillocks on her management team, who devised the deal, who displayed a mesmerizing disregard for the risk to her reputation, who presumably helped author the social posts, who thoroughly failed at their most basic function: they left their client looking like both a fool and a jerk.