THIS IS the time of year when agents scour the corporate landscape for sponsorship deals. Over the years I've negotiated contracts on behalf of sponsors with Chip Beck, David Berganio, Ben Crenshaw, Steve Elkington, J.J. Henry and others. There's actually a kind of unofficial scale a player can expect to be paid depending on the placement of the logo (headgear, chest, bag or sleeve), the player's celebrity and his finish on the money list. At Buick we needed guys who could glad-hand dealers during corporate appearances and who wouldn't get in trouble off the course, so we insisted on face-to-face meetings to get a feel for the person. These usually went fine, but occasionally we would meet players who were clueless. These guys knew nothing about GM, Buick or the car business in general. They would ramble on about their personal lives or talk about other companies or products. One player we met spent 45 minutes bemoaning the state of the Tour's pension program. We hadn't said a word the entire time, yet when he finished he said, "So, what do you think, do we have a deal?" It was astonishing.
THIS IS also the time of year I think about Payne Stewart (below), who died on Oct. 25, 1999. On my desk sits a bottle of wine from the 1999 Skins Game, which took place only a month after Stewart's death. Fred Couples, David Duval, Sergio García and Mark O'Meara played, and their names are etched on the bottle along with a dedication to Payne. It's special to me because I played with Stewart in a pro-am at the 1997 Buick Open. He introduced himself to our group on the 1st tee and asked if we wanted to win, then said that he did because he needed the money. (The purse was $10,000.) We agreed that we wanted to win too, and he explained his two pro-am rules. "Number 1," he said, "is when you take off your glove, always put the open end in the pocket and let the fingers hang out the back. I'm a professional, and if you're going to play with me, you have to look like a pro. Second, I don't care if you just hit the three-wood of your life 265 yards over water to three inches—when we get to the green, the applause is for me, got that?" I think I'll open that wine next year, on the 10th anniversary of his death. I'm pretty sure Payne wouldn't want it to go to waste.
Jim McGovern ran Buick's golf program from 1998 to 2005 and consults for title sponsors of PGA Tour events.