by Jeff Skinner
Golf Digest gave Rocco Mediate a little birthday present in their January issue. Guy Yocum focuses on Roc in “Rocco at 50” as he celebrated his fiftieth and a possible move to the Champions Tour. Rocco got more mileage out of taking Tiger to a playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open than anyone could imagine.
Rocco covers plenty of ground: from Q-School to Arnie to the young bucks to making bucks. It’s classic Rocco, straight from the hip.
In 1996, I decided I wanted to play Callaway clubs. I made an appointment to see Ely Callaway and showed up by myself — no agent. I told him I loved his clubs, and that I wanted to play them.
“Fine,” he said. “What do you want in the way of compensation?”
“Nothing. Just golf clubs.”
“No money?” he said. “Everybody asks me for money.”
“I don’t want anything except free clubs,” I said. “The company I’m with is dumping me, and I like your stuff better anyway, so that’s it. No money, just free clubs.”
Ely was skeptical that’s all I wanted. He said, “You do realize that if I pay you, you aren’t going to sell that many golf clubs for me, right?”
“I just . . . want . . . golf clubs,” I said.
He looked at me for a long time and said, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn you down.” I thanked Ely for his time and walked out the door. When I got a little ways down the hall, one of his guys grabbed me and pulled me back into Ely’s office. Ely was still behind his desk.
“Rocco, I’m going to pay you $100,000 to play my clubs next year,” he said. He laughed and shook his head. “I want to see what a guy like you can do.”
After I thanked him and we shook hands, I told him,
“Do me a favor. Next year, when a new hot-shot young gun comes in and asks you for a million-dollar contract, ask him to write a three-page essay on why Callaway should pay him one dollar for his services.
I doubt Ely took my advice. But my point was — and is — there’s little correlation in my mind between a player using a company’s clubs, and the company selling enough clubs to justify the big contracts.