SBJ/September 19-25, 2011/Labor and Agents

Crown’s golfers put the ‘athlete’ in athlete representation

Liz Mullen
Like many successful sports agents, Jimmy Johnston, president of Crown Sports Management, a boutique golf player representation firm, was himself an athlete. He competed for eight years professionally as a golfer, starting in the early 1990s.

Back then, Johnson recalls, there were good players on the tour who had beer guts. “The big joke was,” he said, “‘You are not really an athlete.’”

Mac Barnhardt, who was formerly Johnston’s agent, is now Johnston’s partner and the CEO of Crown Sports. He, too, remembers how different golf — and golfers — were in the 1990s, noting that the average PGA Tour player back then was about 5-foot-10.

Today, golf’s top prospects come from a different mold.

GETTY IMAGES
Crown Sports client and Walker Cup competitor Harris English stands 6 feet 4 inches.
“It used to be for the guys coming out, it was golf or nothing,” Barnhardt said. “Now, you are seeing athletes that could have played other sports. They have the size, the athletic ability; they have the power. You are starting to see people with options.”

Among the players who fit what Barnhardt calls this “new wave” of golfers is recently signed Crown Sports client Harris English, who turned pro after competing for the United States in the Walker Cup earlier this month. English, who is 6-foot-4, was a four-time All-American at Georgia, where he graduated in May. He was the third-youngest winner of the Georgia Amateur when he won that event at age 18, and earlier this summer, he become the third amateur golfer ever to win a Nationwide Tour event, winning the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.

English has signed an endorsement deal with Ping in which he will wear the Ping logo on his hat, use Ping equipment and carry a Ping golf bag, Johnston said. He did not disclose financial details.

Chance Cozby, Ping director of tournament player relations, said, in a statement, “Ping started working with Harris when he was 15 years old as we felt he was a special talent. So it has been both exciting and rewarding to watch him develop through his college and amateur career.”

English is not the only big, so to speak, signing for Crown. The agency signed English’s teammate at Georgia, Hudson Swafford, who also turned pro earlier this summer and won an eGolf Tour event. Like English, Swafford is 6-4. Crown Sports also represents 6-foot-3 Chris Kirk, another former Georgia golfer who turned pro in 2007 and won this year’s PGA Tour Viking Classic.

Based in Sea Island, Ga., the agency represents longtime pro Davis Love III among its 16 golfers, as well.
 
APSE PARTNERS BREAK UP: All Pro Sports and Entertainment founders and partners Lamont Smith and Peter Schaffer have parted ways after 23 years, with Schaffer starting a new agency, Authentic Athletix. Both All Pro and Authentic Athletix are based in Denver.

“I wish him well, and All Pro will go on and continue to flourish,” Smith said in a brief telephone interview last week. “We had a great run.” He declined to comment further.

Said Schaffer, “I wish All Pro Sports all the best of luck in the future and I enjoyed every moment of my association.” All Pro represented 60 to 70 players in the NFL. It was not clear last week which players would stay with All Pro and which would join Schaffer in his new venture.
 
SIGNINGS FOR ROSENHAUS, CAA SPORTS: Rosenhaus Sports, the NFL player rep firm owned by brothers and agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, signed New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller for representation on and off the field. He was formerly represented by Maximum Sports Management. … CAA Sports has signed Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher for representation on and off the field. He will be represented by a team of agents led by CAA Football co-head Ben Dogra. Fletcher was formerly represented by Drew Rosenhaus. CAA Sports also has signed first-year Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin. He will be represented by a team of agents led by coaches agent Trace Armstrong and was previously represented by NC Sports.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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