Another Round With Jim Furyk
By: Roy Berger, MedjetAssist President/CEO
Long ago I came to grips with the realization I would never play golf for a living. When you are the second best golfer in a two-person household, playing on the professional tour isn’t even a fantasy. The stark reality is, you better find another career.
However over the past two years I’ve played in 42 events on the PGA Tour. Vicariously.
Ever since we signed Jim Furyk to a MedjetAssist endorsement agreement in January 2012, PGA tournaments have a different spin to me. Now I have a vested interest. You want to see your guy do well, which helps not only validate the partnership choice but also your brand.
Medjet had been looking for a national spokesperson for many years. We did some sector endorsements in the travel and hunting arenas in the past but never had the national person in place because we could never find the right fit until the fall of 2011.
In conversation with Medjet Managing Partner Harold Ripps, we spoke about taking the company in a new advertising/marketing direction at the first of the year. We decided golf was a good demographic fit with our membership model, especially our leisure travelers, as golf tends to attract an upscale and mobile fan and participant base, very similar to what our internal studies have shown to be our membership stronghold.
One morning at breakfast with Mr. Ripps and Medjet Director Mike Hallman, we started bandying about some names of golfers we thought might make a good spokesperson. Every time someone mentioned another name there was a reason to disqualify them: too young, too old, background less than stellar and then one bogey after another at each name. Until Ripps suggested Jim Furyk.
We all looked at each other and nobody could come up with a reason not to pursue Furyk. He had everything we were looking for in an endorser: a proven record on the golf course; winner of the 2003 US Open and 15 other PGA events; family man and advancing in PGA age (though only 41 at the time) where travel protection to return back to physician and family circle for a guy that travels the world would be paramount.
That morning I grabbed Medjet Senior Sales Director Thomas Brooks, who not only is our organization’s best golfer but a golf ‘lifeline’ in the time of need, told him what we were thinking and asked him to vet Mr. Furyk for us. It was a task Thomas readily accepted.
He did his research and reached out to Furyk’s agent, Andrew Witlieb with Legacy Agency in New York, to see if Furyk was not only available but if he had interest in Medjet. The timing for us was perfect as November and December are good months to get quick response from PGA golfers as that’s their off-season.
A couple of days passed and Witlieb contacted Brooks; said Furyk had done his due diligence on Medjet and likes the concept and the company. Neither Brooks nor myself have ever structured one of these deals and were at the point where we were soon to find out if this was something that might fit into our budget or bust it.
We quickly found out a logo endorsement deal- Furyk wearing the Medjet logo on his shirt or hat- was out of our price range. That particular real estate is costly. However the conversation turned into an endorsement arrangement where we would use Furyk’s likeness over all platforms of our advertising- print, electronic, consumer direct and the internet. We were very pleasantly surprised at the economics and the speed of the negotiations.
So now in January 2012, we had a 16 time PGA Tour winner and former US Open Champion representing our brand and had to figure out swiftly what to do with him. Our creative marketing team of Will McKee and Jennifer Tidmore went to work and devised different strategies which we forwarded to Furyk and Witlieb. Within days we were converting a hotel suite near Jacksonville, Fla. into a production studio to get our broadcast and print shots and sound bites with Jim and his wife, Tabitha. Furyk made his Medjet spokesperson debut with a series of magazine ads and TV commercials on The Golf Channel only a few weeks later, right before the Masters.
The relationship is now concluding its initial two year run and both sides have agreed to renew for another. From our standpoint he is everything we thought he would be and more with grace, ethics and respect topping the list.
I’ve had an opportunity to dine with Jim on multiple occasions, have been to his home and he has visited our offices in Birmingham, Ala. always wanting to know how business is going and is there “anything I can do to help.” He’s not a ‘take the check and run’ type of guy- he has gone above, beyond and out of the box for us on opportunities the past couple of years.
So when he gets to the 16th hole at The Olympic Club on June 18, 2012 with the US Open lead and puts a tee shot into the woods; or fails to convert a chip shot for victory at The Bridgestone some weeks later; or as recently as this past August took a one stroke lead into the final round of the PGA Championship only to play his heart out and fall short, it hurt me like it’s my personal round.
Every one of those losses, especially the two in 2012, was potentially crushing blows for a golfer on the back nine of his career. After each of those losses Furyk’s class and poise made everyone forget what just happened. I hurt for him but it seemed like my hurt was more painful than his. I know that’s not the case but that’s the way he made it seem.
Then Jim goes and puts that all behind him by shooting a 59 – the lowest PGA Tour round on record- on September 13, 2013 in Chicago during the BMW Championship. If there was any doubt about his Hall of Fame credentials, that round cinched his place among the greats.
You don’t have to win every Sunday to be a winner. Jim Furyk proves that every week.