Andrew "Chubby" Chandler is a big and usually beaming presence, a man who says what he thinks and does not seem to mind if his players do the same.
When, for instance, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy exchanged notes on Twitter saying they would not be going to this year’s Players Championship, he would have looked on with interest rather than concern.
“Our main focus is to get the best out of our charges – and if we do that, the money follows,” says Chandler. All of which means that if such as Westwood and Mclroy want to keep the emphasis on playing in Europe rather than the States, that is fine by him. As he says, “Why would you want to change a winning formula?”
Chandler, 58, and the head of UK-based International Sports Management, sees himself as being less at the hub of a business than a family – a family that works hard and plays hard.
“It’s different to your usual management group because I look after everybody,” he volunteers, sounding a bit like some proud parent who does not want to own to having a few nursemaids in tow. “Stuart [Cage} does a great job running Rory’s affairs on a day-to-day basis but I look after Rory, I look after Lee (Westwood), I look after Ernie (Els), I look after Charl (Schwartzel), I look after Louis (Oosthuizen) and so it goes on.”
It was not too different during a 15- year playing career in which Chandler finished birdie-eagle-birdie to win the 1985 Sao Paulo International. Throughout that time, his peers would converge on him for advice on how they should travel from A to B and where they should stay when they got there. “All good experience,” he maintains.
The fact that his players seem to be friends as much as rivals is not something he tries to force, though he does admit to putting them in situations where they mix. “They’re all nice guys so it’s not surprising that they hit it off,” he says.
At the start of every BMW week at Wentworth, to cite just one example, he takes them to Ascot.
So how would it have worked had he opted for 10 loners like Nick Faldo?
“I wouldn’t have done,” he chuckles. “I mostly sign up my players before they reach the age of 20. That way, they’re easier to guide.”
As you would expect, he is as interesting as anyone on the sometimes prickly nature of the friendly rivalry between Westwood and McIlroy.
Firstly, he captured just how close the two of them are by recalling that they chose to eat together four nights of six in U.S. Open week – and breakfasted together on the final morning.
“Lee,” he continued, “is the senior partner. He needled Rory a bit at the start and it’s fair to say that Rory couldn’t handle it in his first year.” (In fairness, that still appeared to be the case when Westwood used his greater experience to “boss” his way past his young challenger at the 2009 Race to Dubai.)
The situation today, however, is that McIlroy gives as good as he gets. And when Westwood created a bit of stir with his comment on the eve of the last round at Congressional – namely, that McIlroy had squandered a lead before – McIlroy had the ultimate of ripostes.
He went out and won.
Westwood, who finished in a share of third place, is itching to hit back with a major of his own and Chandler does not doubt that this endlessly competitive soul will succeed.
“The relationship between the two of them has worked as well for Lee as it has for Rory,” he notes.
When he was speaking to Global Golf Post, Chandler had just opened a letter from a man who had suggested that ISM players at Congressional had looked “more focused, better conditioned and better prepared” than most.
“He’s right,” confirmed Chandler, who would never make the mistake for someone in his line of selling himself short. “Ten players went and played Congressional in the week before the U.S. Open and five of them were ours.”
He also prides himself on being good with his charges when they are off form. In which connection, he lit on Westwood’s well-documented struggles at the start of this century.
“I’ve got no set way of handling that kind of a situation,” he says. “I just do it by feel. I know when to commiserate, when to encourage and when to give a kick up the backside.”
Before Westwood went through his slump, the most dynamic relationship among the ISM men was that between Westwood and Darren Clarke. It was when Clarke faded and Westwood came back into prominence that the spark that had ignited the two shifted to Westwood and McIlroy.
Recently, Chandler has sensed that something similar is happening among the trio of David Horsey, Chris Wood and Joost Luiten. “They’re every bit as close and their relationship is just as positive.
“It’s always been the case that the players talk about winning at the dinner table but all that’s changed in the last few months. Today, they’re all talking about winning majors.”
Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free