Founder of Medalist Management
Lawyer, agent, scratch golfer, and brother of Tom, Jim Lehman has combined his love for the game of golf with a most successful business career. For the past 25 years, Jim has represented professional golfers, starting in 1992 with one client—you guessed it—his brother Tom.
As Tom Lehman began his rise on the PGA Tour to World #1, Open Champion, and Player of the Year, Jim Lehman’s clientele list also expanded. Now with his Medalist Management firm that he founded in 2008, Jim is agent/manager for 15 professional golfers.
A resident of Minnesota, Jim is a superb amateur golfer, having participated in 11 USGA Championships, two British Senior Amateurs, countless Minnesota Golf Association (MGA) events (winning the Senior Amateur three times), and numerous prestigious invitationals around the country.
Jim, now 59, is a past president of the MGA and a member of Windsong Farm Golf Club in Maple Plain, Minnesota, and Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He has been married to Maureen for 32 years, and they have three children, Cate (28), Sarah (25), and Connor (22). Along with Tom (58), Michael (50) is the third sibling in the family.
Jim will be at the US Senior Open at Salem CC this summer to watch Tom play or to compete himself. I recently spoke with Tom at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton and asked him about his relationship with Jim.
Tom said, “All you can ask for is that the people you have around you are totally in your corner. I’m lucky to have a brother who is also my agent and who is absolutely in my corner. Always has been and always will be. The peace of mind that I have in working with him almost on a daily basis cannot be overstated. Jim always has my best interests in mind, and that is so important to me.”
I interviewed Jim at one of Florida’s oldest invitational tournaments, the Fox Club’s International 4-Ball in Palm City.
NEGM: How did you get into golf in the first place?
JL: My father, who has passed away, was a great athlete and sports enthusiast. He was a prominent running back in college and played pro football with the Baltimore Colts. When his football days were over, he turned to golf. He loved to practice, and as a result, so do I. My father really had no great expectations for us in golf and never pressured us. He did say that if we could make the Championship Flight in the local major tournament, The Resorters, he would be very proud of us. Tom and I have won The Resorters, and Michael has been a runner-up.
NEGM: When did you realize that high profile amateur golf, not the pro tour, was better for you?
JL: I went to St. John’s University [poli sci major] in Minnesota, same school as my dad. In fact, Tom had also enrolled at St. John’s but changed his mind and went to the University of Minnesota, where he made the golf team, and from where his golf career took off. Because I was in a Division III golf program, pro golf was never a priority for me. Then I went to law school [Mitchell Hamline Law School], started my career, and focused mainly on my law practice through my twenties and thirties. Frankly, it wasn’t until I got into my forties that I started to compete on a national level although I had played in some state events.
NEGM: What are your favorite amateur championships?
JL: Any USGA championship that I can get into! I’ve been fortunate to play in three US Senior Amateurs, and I was very proud to have played in the US Amateur at age 46. I made it to the Round of 16 in the US Mid-Amateur at the age of 49. And I’ve played in two British Senior Amateurs. Otherwise, playing in such events like the Crump Cup at Pine Valley or the Crane Cup at the Floridian or the International 4-Ball at the Fox Club is a huge honor. I always look forward to having the chance to play in our state’s tournaments: the Amateur, the Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Open are all important events that I love to be a part of.
NEGM: What made you and Tom decide to form your current working relationship?
JL: After I graduated from law school in 1983, I became a trial attorney for a firm in Minneapolis and later became a partner. During this time Tom was struggling somewhat in his pro career, but he would ask me to help him in his golf business affairs. In 1992, when Tom got back on the PGA Tour, he asked me to officially become his agent/manager. I still had the job as a trial lawyer, but I would visit Tom on the Tour, and I would meet players who wanted me to be their agent, too. Therefore, in 1993, I started Signature Sports to represent and manage professional golfers.
In 2001, I had an offer from a large public corporation called Clear Channel Communications to buy my business. They had a sports division called SFX at that time. I agreed and stayed with them until 2008 when I went back on my own again and started Medalist Management. So, I have been very blessed to have turned my passion in life—golf—into my career and have done so for the last 25 years.
NEGM: What are your responsibilities to your clients?
JL: My number one focus for my clients is to proactively search for business relationships in the form of sponsorships and endorsements. I manage about 15 players. Besides Tom, I have three Major champions: Larry Mize, Scott Simpson, and Rich Beem. Both Michael Allen (Senior PGA) and Don Pooley (US Senior Open) have won a Major on the Champions Tour. David Frost has not won a major but has won nine PGA Tour events. To name a few more, I also represent Gary Hallberg and Morris Hatalsky, Tom Hoge on the PGA Tour, and Chris Wilson on the Web.com Tour.
My job is to find opportunities to bring revenue to the table. I work with companies like Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade in the golf industry or with apparel manufacturers or with corporations. Tom, for example, is sponsored by Allianz, which has the Champions event in Boca Raton. David Frost is sponsored by Aetna.
I negotiate the deals and make sure the contracts are put together properly. I get them involved in corporate outings and charity events, organize media requests, and schedule them for international competitions. I will recommend both investment managers for their financial planning and CPA’s for their accounting and tax needs.
NEGM: How would you describe your brother Tom?
JL: Tom is such a great guy and a close friend. He’s a very generous man, too. Tom’s really super-smart and has always been very competitive. As kids, he was always the most competitive person. Tom and I both played high school football, basketball, and golf. In basketball, Tom would always have to guard the other team’s dominant player because Tom was the most aggressive defender on our team.
To this day, Tom just gets so excited over the Ryder Cup. When he was on the 1999 team at Brookline, he went crazy when Justin Leonard sunk that putt, and then he was uncorking the champagne bottles and celebrating afterwards. On the flip side, Tom got super-bummed out when he captained the team in 2006 and lost at the K Club in Ireland. Tom just loves team events, especially the Ryder Cup.
NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome of today? Of any time period?
JL: My two brothers and Larry Mize, who has become such a great friend of mine.
My father, Bobby Jones, and Arnold Palmer.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?