Interview with Paul McDonnell: Golf Agent for Excel Sports Management.

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GolfNation: “You recently made the transition from being a tour rep to being a manager, how did this come about and was it an easy transition to make”?

Paul McDonnell: “I worked at Taylormade for fourteen years on tour as a tour rep, and through working on tour I always wanted to be a manager”. “Being out on tour every week with the players, getting to know them, building trusts with them, I always thought being a manager was my next step”.

“I was lucky enough to be at the USPGA in 2013 and Mark Steinberg (who previously worked for IMG and now runs Excel) approached me about setting up a European business and it was really a no-brainer”. “It was exactly what I wanted to do, I was obviously aware of what Mark had done with Tiger, so it was an easy decision to make and a challenge I was looking forward to”.

GolfNation: “Now you represent Excel, can you give me a brief overview of the company and the kind of sportsmen it represents”?

Paul McDonnell: “Excel is an elite and innovative full-service management and marketing agency that represents professional athletes across four divisions, basketball, baseball, golf and talent”. “We have over two-hundred clients in basketball and baseball, in golf we have eighteen”. “We’re a very boutique company in golf, clients we have include Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Gary Woodland, Justin Thomas, and Daniel Berger”.

“Over in Europe we have Thomas Pieters, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Levy and Pablo Larrazabal”.

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GolfNation: “What does the day-to-day role of being a manager on tour involve, and what do the players expect from you”?

Paul McDonnell: “The day-to-day role varies, one day your booking flights, the next day you could be in a meeting with a sponsor to complete a deal for a player”. “There’s no set day-to-day pattern, every day is different, and every player wants something different from you”.

GolfNation: “Typically in the modern game, how many players is it possible for one manager to manage”?

Paul McDonnell: “It’s difficult to put a precise number on it, in Europe I have four players on tour and two challenge tour players, that’s a nice number, but there’s only me in Europe”. “If we grew the business to ten players I think that would be more of a struggle”. “Excel/Mark Steinberg has instilled in us that the level of service we give to our clients is impeccable”. “There’s a balance to what you can do and what you can’t do before you’d need a bit of help, but four guys on tour is a nice number to have”. “Some weeks I might have six players, if guys are coming over from America, for example Justin Rose or Matt Kuchar”.  “Some companies might manage thirty players but they will have seven guys looking after them”.

GolfNation: “Has the role of a manger on tour changed much from the Faldo/Seve/Woosnam era to the modern day Spieth/McIlroy/Rose era”?

Paul McDonnell: “The most obvious difference nowadays is the number people in their teams, for example, caddy, personal trainer, physio, manager, swing coach, putting coach, sports psychologists, nutritionist etc”.

“If we use “Team Rose” as an example, there could be five people there at one event”. “I think the role of a manager has changed in the modern game, there’s definitely a bigger team of people to look after”.

 

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GolfNation: “During the week of a “major” how different is it for you as a manager compared to a regular week on tour”?

Paul McDonnell: “Yeah, it’s completely different, the Masters is the hardest major to work at, just because it’s very strict, it’s hard to get into places, for example, you can’t get into the clubhouse to see the players”. “At the Open Championship for example, you can go into the clubhouse/locker room and do everything you need to do”.

“Each major is different some players prefer to rent a house, instead of staying at a player hotel”. “So I source a house for them, I’ve been up to Troon already and looked at ten houses for our guys that want to have a house rather than stay in a hotel”. “You start preparing for majors very early and preparations are more thorough”. “Some players will take more family and friends with them to a “major”, some guys don’t and prefer to treat it like a normal week”. “So the main differences for me as a manager at a “major” are preparation and access”.

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GolfNation: “Is travelling around the world harder than people imagine it to be”?

Paul McDonnell: “If you like travelling it’s easy, but when you say to people your going to Paris for example, they think you’re going to see the Eiffel Tower and doing the tourist thing”. “It’s not like that, you see the airport, the hotel, the golf course and that’s it, you don’t really see anything else”. “Unless for example you’re in Hong Kong where you’d stay right in the town, you can go and do things with the players in the evenings and experience the culture a bit more”.  “Travelling around the world is fun, you see some amazing places, and if you’re the sort of person who likes airports and hotels, you’d definitely enjoy it”.

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GolfNation: “Can you explain the logistics aspect of life on tour? By that I mean how the travel/transport arrangements are made for the players week in and week out? How do the players get the necessary clothing/equipment support when out on tour during a four-week stretch?

Paul McDonnell: “The equipment manufacturers travel to tournaments every week, so everything equipment related is catered for there”. “If there’s an event without a truck, for example an event in somewhere like Malaysia, then all the equipment will be shipped out there in advance, so all the gear the players require will be at the event”.

“The clothing manufacturers send the players their clothing for the year so they always have enough clothing for each week”. “The travel we book through European Tour travel they always have an official player hotel each week, courtesy cars are done through the tour”. “I have to make sure there’s a car at the airport to pick the players up, sometimes a player might prefer to drive himself”.

“This week for example (BMW PGA Championship) Thomas Pieters has driven himself from Belgium, he likes to travel in his own car, it’s a five-hour drive from Belgium, and he’s staying in a house this week with a few friends”.  “If it’s a player’s home event they might prefer to stay at home and drive themselves to the tournament, each week is different, we have players travelling from different countries with different requirements”.  “I’m always looking three weeks in advance for what arrangements I need to make for the players”.

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GolfNation: “What’s the best thing about being a manager on tour”?

Paul McDonnell: “I guess it’s working with the best player’s in the world. Working along side them day-to-day with Excel…it’s pretty cool”.

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GolfNation: “Is it difficult finding sponsors/endorsement contracts for players or do most sponsors approach you”?

Paul McDonnell: “It’s pretty 50/50 really, it depends on the profile of the player, obviously a higher ranked player would get more offers than a lower ranked player”. “We’re always out there looking for new potential sponsors, but we’re always looking for a sponsor we think will fit the player”. “We want the right sponsor for the right player to suit their image and profile; it’s a key factor”. “Also the player will have to do company days, so I don’t want my players at a company day knowing they don’t want to be there”.

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GolfNation: “What are the main differences between managing a player on the European Tour compared to managing a player on the Challenge Tour”?

Paul McDonnell: “Managing a player on the European Tour is easier because we have a travel company on tour to help with the travel arrangements”. “European Tour events are generally held in bigger cities so there are more flights available”. “On the Challenge Tour the events are generally held in smaller cities with less flights and you could also face a long drive when you land at an airport to get to the event”. “More logistics go into the Challenge Tour events because you have to make all the arrangements yourself as apposed to the European Tour where we have the European Tour travel out here every week”.

GolfNation: “At the absolute top level we hear in the media about a players “team” is it part of a mangers role to advise/piece the members of a team together or does this solely come down to the players own preferences”?

Paul McDonnell: “At the end of the day it comes down to the player, because he’s got to feel comfortable working with a guy, whether it’s a personal trainer, swing coach or whoever”. “If a player asked me for advice/help I would make a suggestion, but ultimately it comes down to the player to make the final call”.

“Caddies are always pretty hard to find, matching a player with the right caddy can be difficult”. “There are plenty of coaches and trainers out on tour so the players get to know them and know which ones they want to work with”.

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GolfNation:   “When you attend a tournament, how many days are you usually there for and how long do you spend at the course each day”?

Paul McDonnell: “It varies; this week (BMW PGA Championship) it’s a premier event so I’m here every day from 7am – 7pm. Tonight we’ve got a BMW event to attend and then a meal with our clients, so it’ll probably be 11pm tonight when I finish”.

“At a smaller tournament I might only be there Mon, Tue, Wed, it solely depends on the tournament and how hands-on you are”. “For example, the week of a major is really busy so I’ll be there like here (BMW PGA Championship) every day 7am-7pm”.

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GolfNation: “Have you enjoyed your time as a manger so far, and has it been easier or harder than you expected it to be”?

Paul McDonnell: “I’ve really enjoyed my time with Excel, I’m only three years in now, and learning from whom I would say is the best person in Mark Steinberg”. “He’s looked after Tiger his whole career, he worked for IMG for nineteen years, so yes, I’m with a great company and I’m enjoying it”.  “I’d say the job has probably been a little bit harder than I expected, just because it’s a completely different role to what I’ve been used to”.

 

You can follow Paul McDonnell on the following social media platforms:

Twitter: @PaulMac69  

Instagram: paulmac69

 

Rob Brooks @GolfNation_

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