Chris Armstrong is the current Executive Vice President, Golf for Wasserman. He opened the agency’s Canadian practice in 2010 and has received many career accolades, including: named one of the “5 to Watch” as one of the top executives under age-40 in the Canadian sports industry (2013), the youngest executive named to the Globe and Mail’s 2011 Sports Power 50 list and was the youngest individual to make the National Post’s list of Top 25 Most Influential People in Canadian Golf (2009).
In his current role, he manages the day-to-day and marketing business for professional golfers and instructors. His client, PGA TOUR professional Tony Finau, made headlines during the Par 3 Tournament of The Masters’ in which he dislocated his ankle celebrating a hole in one. After the rather gruesome injury, Finau defied odds and rallied to a T10 finish in the year’s first major tournament. His momentum has been on the rise since then
We were fortunate to ask Chris a few questions about his background, representing professional golfers and the industry as a whole. Check out the interview below:
How did you get started representing professional golfers?
I started my career with an internship in the athlete representation business about 15 years ago. During the early days of my internship, the company sold all of its team sports businesses (hockey, basketball, football and baseball) and reestablished a core focus on golf and tennis. Hockey was my first sport through college and so naturally, I thought it was going to be the sport I would end up making my career in. But, by process of elimination, golf was the sport where the opportunity was presented. I learned the ins and outs of the business very quickly, was hired and assigned to work with some athlete clients, effectively recruited some others, and the rest is history. It has been a great personal challenge and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
How does the process for getting certified differ from that of the NFL, NBA, etc.?
There isn’t a certification process for agents in professional golf per se. Agents are registered and credentialed by the various tours per the specific players they represent; provided their relationship with those players remains in good standing.
When signing new clients, how do you decide which brands to target for endorsements?
My belief in building a brand for an athlete is that you need to effectively tell a true, credible, consistent story that is compelling, memorable, and relatable for people. It’s important to partner with brands that will help to tell that story in a way that resonates well with the target audience. Otherwise, you’re basically working through a series of transactional relationships and not partnerships at all; and that doesn’t establish a brand for the athlete. Our philosophy is to find partners that can help to build the narrative around the player and do so in a way that highlights both parties’ shared core values and interests.
After the Masters’ Par 3 Tournament, how did Tony Finau’s sponsors react to his injury?
Tony’s sponsors were overwhelmingly supportive through and after the injury. Naturally, they were primarily concerned for his overall well-being, but also the possibility that he may not be able to compete at the Masters’ – something they knew meant the world to him. Tony’s resilience and perseverance during the tournament made his sponsors proud to be associated with him; I have no doubt about that.
Do you help or advise clients which tournament to enter?
Yes, prior to every season we map out the tournament schedule and strategically consider a number of factors when deciding which events to play – notably balancing both personal and professional commitments throughout the year while maintaining the main focus on peak performance.
What is the standard representation fee agents collect on tournament winnings/endorsements?
We don’t charge a fee on prize money; marketing and endorsement fees are commensurate with industry standards.
Do most agents have high-level playing experience?
We have a wide range of agents with different backgrounds – from former professionals, elite college players, to recreational golfers and everything in between. While I don’t have high-level playing experience in golf myself, it goes without saying that I enjoy being around the game and the business of golf a great deal.
If someone wanted to become an agent, what would you say to them?
I think people understand the basic requirements of a strong business acumen and the ability to negotiate and advocate effectively on behalf of a client – skills you can acquire through academics and practical experience. More importantly, I believe you have to be able to think strategically and anticipate where the business is moving and evolving to.
Today, for example, it is understanding revenue creation in a social and digital world. What will it be tomorrow? It is about being comfortable with what you don’t know and the continued willingness to learn, expand and grow your knowledge. It’s imperative to have the ability to build strong, trusting and enduring relationships – and that really comes down to how you communicate and follow through on what you say you are going to do.
What are you most looking forward to as Tony continues to grow and play?
The world is just beginning to see Tony’s full potential. He is an extremely talented player and competitor; but he is an even greater person than he is a great athlete. He has the value system and tools to handle success – one of the many reasons we think he will ultimately be a star for years to come.
After his Masters’ injury and subsequent success, Finau has been on the rise this year. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his five 2018 PGA events, continuing his momentum from 2017 in which he finished in the top 10 in seven out of eight events. The current world number 28 golfer is back in action this weekend at the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.