During the 1959 Carling Open in Cleveland, Ohio, Mark McCormack and Arnold Palmer met again, this time with McCormack working at a local law firm and Palmer an established professional golfer.
McCormack informed Palmer that he was considering starting up a business wherein the company would serve as personal business managers (agents) to handle professional golfers’ personal affairs.
Palmer thought the idea was a valid one. He had heard that Clifford Roberts served as President Eisenhower’s “ultimate inner-circle man, adviser and protector, friend and counselor, through good times and bad, thick and thin, and President Eisenhower entrusted him implicitly.”
With that mutual understanding, McCormack and Palmer shook hands to consummate their relationship – no paperwork required.
“I’ll be your Clifford Roberts,” Palmer recalled McCormack saying.
The fact that no paperwork putting their “deal” in writing was ever required is testament to McCormack’s character. This handshake essentially formed IMG and the arena of sports marketing.
“There was no contract between us, because Mark knew my word was my bond and there would be no turning back on my part,” Palmer wrote in his book A Golfer’s Life. “The same was true of him, I knew, and those stories that you’ve heard about us never formalizing our business relationship in printed legalese are true. That handshake was the beginning of our relationship and pretty much all the contract either of us required to get down to business.”
Following the handshake “signing” of Arnold Palmer in 1960, McCormack signed South African Gary Player later that year, and then in 1961 inked a top amateur player, just turning professional, named Jack Nicklaus.