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Volume 21 No. 30
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Second U.S. Open win perfect timing for Koepka, Hambric

Brooks Koepka had no club deal and his agents were in talks with non-golf companies about endorsements when he became the first back-to-back winner of the U.S. Open in 29 years.

“From a marketing standpoint, his timing couldn’t be much better,” said Rocky Hambric, CEO, chairman and founder of Hambric Sports, which represents Koepka, who won the major held at Shinnecock Hills in Long Island, N.Y., this month. He won the U.S. Open last year when it was held at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., becoming the first golfer to win that major consecutively since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and 1989.

“For Brooks, it is a great confirmation of last year’s win,” Hambric said. “He is an incredible golfer and a very driven one.”

Koepka is a Nike guy, wears the swoosh on the front of his cap and earned a nice incentive bonus for winning the 2018 U.S. Open, Hambric said, though he would not reveal the amount. But Nike went out of the club business in 2016, which leaves Koepka free to sign with another clubmaker now.

Koepka has endorsements with Rolex and NetJets and has been the face of Michelob Ultra for all of its golf-related sponsorships since early 2017, said Blake Smith, Hambric Sports executive vice president, who is Koepka’s manager. Those sponsorships give him time and flexibility in deciding on a club deal, Smith said.

Brooks Koepka secured his second straight U.S. Open title at a time when Hambric Sports is shopping endorsement deals for him, while 2016 champion Dustin Johnson (below) gave the agency two clients atop the leaderboard.
Photo: getty images

“He has four different equipment companies in his bag right now,” Smith said. “Given his current partnerships, he is fortunate to take his time and not rush into anything.”

In addition to his current sponsors, Smith said, Koepka had been in talks with several non-golf companies about a sponsorship prior to his second U.S. Open win.

Hambric Sports was in the enviable position last week of having two players vying for the U.S. Open title. The agency also represents Dustin Johnson, who finished third in the tournament. Hambric Sports President David Winkle is his manager.

Photo: getty images

The second-place finisher, Tommy Fleetwood, is a former Hambric Sports client. His manager, his wife Clare Craig, was formerly a manager for Hambric Sports in Europe, but both Craig and Fleetwood parted ways with the agency in 2016.

Rocky Hambric has been an agent for 40 years and has been in the position of having more than one client at the top of the leaderboard in the last round of a golf major multiple times. “The first time I can remember was the 1987 U.S. Open when Larry Mize and Scott Simpson were atop the leaderboard,” he said. Simpson won that tournament, while Mize tied for fourth. 

For agents, there are positives and negatives about being in such a position, Hambric said. “It is actually a little bit nerve-racking,” he admitted. But at the same time, he said, “It’s a little bit reassuring, because you have more than a little bit of an opportunity.”

Both Koepka and Johnson are known for being great athletes as well as great golfers. The two were featured on the cover of this month’s Golf magazine under the headline “Bash Brothers” with a story about their “gritty” workout routines. “They’re almost best friends,” Hambric said.

Koepka’s world ranking shot up from No. 9 to No. 4 as a result of his victory, while Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in the Pittsburgh area, solidified his No. 1 world ranking that he had recently recaptured.

Hambric Sports has concentrated its recruiting efforts on golfers who are great athletes in recent years and has recently signed two young golfers who fit that mold. The firm signed Patrick Fishburn, who played at BYU, and Scottie Scheffler, who played at the University of Texas and was one of two amateurs who made the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Smith represents Scheffler. Hambric and Walker Huddy represent Fishburn. 

TLA SIGNS 3 GOLFERS: TLA Worldwide has signed three of the top young golfers turning professional, including Doug Ghim, the Ben Hogan Award winner from the University of Texas who was No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

TLA also signed Norman Xiong, a 19-year-old from the University of Oregon, who won the two other major college golf awards, the Jack Nicklaus Award and the Haskins Award, as well as Theo Humphrey, who was the SEC Player of the Year.

TLA agents Andrew Witlieb, Brett Augenstein, Mike Creasy and Brett Falkoff are representing the golfers. 

WASSERMAN SIGNING: Wasserman has signed University of Illinois golfer and Big Ten champion Nick Hardy. Wasserman agent Brad Buffoni is representing Hardy.

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