Management thoughts of a player manager

By SHIV DAS

If manners maketh a man, then attitude, surely, maketh the job.

And the man who reflects the latter is Louis Martin, with a chequered past, but now coasting along as player manager with a central motivation (attitude) — to ensure the ones he manages have only one thought on their mind when they play — get the ball in the hole in as few shots as they can.

Leave everything else to him. So, he’s there hovering nearby on the practice range as early as 6.30am as the player(s) he’s looking after go through their warm-ups. His latest appearance, the 2018 CIMB Classic held at TPC Kuala Lumpur (TPCKL).

He explains: “It’s possible they may have forgotten something and all they have to do is tell me.” Consider it done. It makes him feel good, doing what he does best at this stage in his life.

At 73, still running round, travelling around the world across time zones hasn’t exactly been without a price on his health — he has four stents to keep his heart ticking well enough.

Since he owes it to himself, he watches his diet, but not overly, and makes it a point to spend one night in an otherwise hectic tournament week by himself, putting his legs up, watching a movie, fall asleep, or whatever.

The players under his watch give him the time and space. They call him “uncle”, “grandad” or “gramps”, and surprise him with outlandish birthday presents, such as the time when he turned 70.

It was the week of The Open Championship and Louis Oosthuizen, the South African under his wing, handed him a bottle of champagne and told him to hang on a second, while he went behind a marquee and reappeared with a hired ride-on-cart with red and yellow ribbons and a big birthday card for the “old man”.

At the 2018 CIMB Classic he had come in on the Monday before the tournament and after spending time at TPCKL, the tournament venue, he had dozed off in the front seat of the car taking Oosthuizen back to the hotel.

The player took a video of him and sent it to several people, among them Oosthuizen’s caddie, who called him on his cell phone, apologising for waking him up. How did he know that, asked Martin, before the truth was spelt out.

Oosthuizen takes the “mickey” out of him “all the time”, but, if anything, theirs is a mindful and comfortable relationship.

Martin had only Oosthuizen to manage at the CIMB Classic. But, among others, he still has Darren Clarke, long time on his list and more recently, Matt Wallace…“watch that name”, he says. “He’s up and coming. He’s had a great year, winning three times.”

Add Austrian Matthias Schwab, one of the world’s top amateurs, who turned pro last year. They all keep him busy.

Him being in the golf business spans all of 35 years. And to think, he had initially gone to South Africa and made his mark as an enterprising 22-year-old mechanical engineer and, a few years on, he had set up his own company that went against all the rules of Apartheid in dealing with Black workers.

He gave them work out of compassion, treated them right and somehow didn’t run foul of the authorities.

He was instrumental in getting Black caddies onto the European Tour. Then came a time when the South African economy had a meltdown and with his business failing, together with his marriage, he set up his own sports marketing company, ran events, but then went back to the UK for three years, before returning to South Africa.

He had the wherewithal to run the pro circuit, the Sunshine Tour, for five years, then the European Tour for a short spell, before joining the Asian Tour with a five-year business plan. He quit in year three in 2006 when he encountered difficulty pushing his plan forward.

He went to Singapore to work with Ernie Els Design, a company building signature golf courses, for all of eight years, before Chubby Chandler welcomed him aboard International Sports Management (ISM) and based him in Manchester, seven years ago.

He thinks nothing about the rigours of travelling, mainly with Oosthuizen for the Majors. Helping someone in need works wonders for him. “I don’t want to slow down. I will keep going until I drop,” he added
stoically. He’s seen what idleness has done to some of his friends.

What was it like dealing with the players? No two players were the same and they needed different things. The top players had “an entourage” — swing coach, putting coach, physio, and it was the philosophy of ISM that all a player should be thinking about…is shot making.

He was off to the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges after the CIMB Classic, before heading for Istanbul for the Turkish Open later. Then he was back to South Africa and Dubai. He finds the energy “because I love what I do”.

Life has lessons for him every day. “The main thing is we have to remain positive.” If there’s a 60% chance of rain, he focuses on the 40% chance of no rain.

“I turn every negative into a positive. I tell every youngster who comes out on Tour and moan about playing badly. I tell them golf is the only business in the world that every week there’s opportunity to change your life.”

In the case of a businessman, life isn’t going to change overnight, unless he wins a lottery.

“But talk to all top players. They can play rubbish every week, but win once and it changes everything. They have opportunity every time they play to do that.”

The biggest mistake golfers make is the constant drive for perfection. “Nobody is ever perfect. Even machines are not perfect, they break down. You can’t expect to hit the ball perfectly every time,” stressed Martin.

“For the top players, it’s how they handle the bad shots that makes the difference.”

He understands that anyone wanting to be the best has to be driven. They have to be selfish and not be bothered about other people. With that kind of understanding, it’s not surprising that he’s sought-after as a speaker on sports panels and even business circles. 

He doesn’t waste time on regrets, because he believes everything happens for a reason and his has been a life of challenges he’s taken on to the best of his ability.

That’s all that matters to him in the end.