For Simpson, home life trumps off-course cash
Webb Simpson heard all the talk that winning a major championship would change his life.
A year after claiming the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Simpson might be the exception.
“My life hasn’t really changed,” Simpson said. “It’s made me a more confident golfer, but my wife holds me accountable and makes sure that I’m the same guy. She makes sure that I’m not any more important than I really am. But for me, I just want to be the same dad, the same friend, the same son as I’ve always been.
“But staying under the radar after winning the U.S. Open isn’t easy.”
Before Simpson ever won a U.S. Open, or any kind of professional golf tournament, he already knew that he’d take a minimalist approach to chasing the off-course revenue that comes from endorsements and corporate golf outings. Endorsements can range from the low to high six figures, while one-day outings pay $50,000 to $75,000.
Whatever level of success he achieved, Simpson committed to keeping his wife, Dowd, and two kids front and center. If that resulted in leaving money on the table because he didn’t take up every sponsor offer or corporate outing, so be it.
“I like to think of myself as a family man,” Simpson said, when asked how he wants to be branded. “I want to be viewed as a gentleman, a guy who represents great companies that have impact in the U.S. and around the world.”
The most noticeable change after the U.S. Open came in the form of his apparel deal. He left Ralph Lauren after last season and signed with Izod, a brand making a big push into golf this year, for what industry insiders said was $750,000 a year.
He also continued a couple of deals that he already had — General Electric for space on his shirt and Chase Sapphire for four golf outings a year. FTI Consulting also has a sleeve, and his equipment deal is with Titleist, same as they were before he won the U.S. Open.
Jim Kenyon, a vice president at Intersport, the Chicago agency that runs Chase Sapphire’s golf outings, said competing credit cards made a run at Simpson after he won a major.
“He made it clear that he wanted to make it work with Chase first,” Kenyon said. “We feel like he was loyal to Chase and that means a lot. He really is that good guy who finished first. … We just had a photo shoot with him. It was 10 days before the U.S. Open, he’s got a lot on his mind, I’m sure, but he was early to the shoot and stayed later than he had to. He’s that approachable guy who clients really enjoy hanging out with.”
The increase in purses on the PGA Tour is another reason Simpson can be so selective, even if it means bypassing opportunities that could extend his brand and make him more of a household name. For example, he passed on an offer to appear on “The Tonight Show” after winning the Open so he could have an extra day at home before the next tournament.
Since turning pro in 2008, Simpson has made nearly $14 million, so the urgency to make the most of his fame hasn’t prevailed in his thinking. Simpson said he collaborates with his wife, his parents and his manager, Thomas Parker, to decide what opportunities to pursue.
Simpson has been with Parker — they’re both former Wake Forest golfers — since he turned pro and says they get along because they both prefer to stay under the radar.
Mac Barnhardt, CEO of Crown Sports Management and a veteran golf agent, said Simpson in many ways reminds him of Davis Love III.
“Davis, with all of his success, never changed,” said Barnhardt, whose firm represents Love. “His family always came first. That probably cost him a lot of money, but we always tell our guys, money equals time. A guy like Webb, he can be very selective.”
Simpson said he still doesn’t have all the answers for how to best use his time. His fellow pros have told him to travel when his children are young because it will be harder to be away when they’re school-aged.
“It’s tough because I sometimes think I should be capitalizing on the opportunities I have from winning the Open, but I don’t want to look back and realize that I was gone too much,” he said. “It’s hard to find the middle ground.”