SBJ/June 25-July 1, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sponsors showing interest in young golfers

Patrick Cantlay, the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world before he turned pro last week, expects to announce an equipment deal and, perhaps, a non-golf endorsement deal early this week, according to his new agent, Mark Steinberg.

Golf industry sources said Titleist and Callaway Golf were the front-runners to sponsor Cantlay, who signed with Steinberg, a partner at Excel Sports Management and Tiger Woods’ agent, with two years of eligibility left at UCLA.

“We are in discussions with a number of companies,” Steinberg said last week. “No decisions have been made. There are a number of equipment companies that have been extremely interested and passionate with their offers.”

Steinberg said he has been in talks with non-golf companies about an endorsement deal for Cantlay as well. “The interest level in Patrick has exceeded what I had originally thought,” he said.

Steinberg would not name any of the companies in the discussions.

A Titleist official declined to comment.

Nick Raffaele, vice president of sports marketing for Callaway, said the company made an offer to endorse Cantlay and said he believed the golfer’s decision is down to Callaway and Titleist. Raffaele said Callaway only signs players who agree to wear the Callaway logo on their headwear, and the decision could come down to whether Cantlay gets a club deal and a separate corporate sponsor for headwear.

“The thing about Callaway, we don’t carpet bomb,” Raffaele said of Callaway’s philosophy of signing golfers to endorsement deals. “We shoot birds with a rifle, not a shotgun. This year, we think a lot of Dylan Frittelli, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth, as well as five others, but I don’t think the five others are coming out.”

Frittelli, a senior out of the University of Texas, signed with IMG agent Duncan Reid, who negotiated a deal with Nike Golf last week after talking to Callaway. (Raffaele spoke to SportsBusiness Journal before the Nike deal was officially announced.) Raffaele did not name the other five golfers he was interested in, but underclassmen Justin Thomas of Alabama and Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, along with Spieth, the low amateur in this month’s U.S. Open — and who took over Cantlay’s No. 1 amateur ranking last week — are expected to garner a lot of interest from agents and equipment companies if they turn pro.

The players’ decisions come as changes to PGA Tour rules are ahead. This year is the last year players can go directly to the tour from qualifying school. Next year, under new tour rules, the vast majority of top players will have to spend time on the developmental Nationwide Tour before making it to the PGA Tour.

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