Pro Golfers Like Mickelson Hit Hole in One on Investing Tips

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Levi Brown meets with his financial advisor at least every two months to go over his investments, but he has never called him up and told him to buy or sell a stock, according to his money manager.

Brown, however, moves in a different world from Phil Mickelson, whose corporate sponsors include Barclays (BCS) and the accounting giant KPMG.

"You don't see many NFL players or NBA players with a KPMG endorsement. I think it's just a different line of business in golf," says Robert Luna, CEO of Phoenix-based SureVest Asset Management, which manages investments for Brown as well as several former pro athletes outside of golf.

Though initial reports linking pro golfer Phil Mickelson to an insider trading inquiry now appear to have exaggerated his involvement, pro golfers have access to senior corporate executives that is unique even in the rarefied world of professional sports, say money managers and agents with ties to top athletes.

On May 30, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both reported Mickelson was the focus of a federal insider trading investigation, along with investor Carl Icahn and professional sports gambler William Walters. On June 11, however, the Times backtracked, stating "Mickelson's ties to the investigation are weaker than previously reported." For example, Mickelson never traded shares of Clorox (CLX) as the Times had originally written. 

Mickelson nonetheless isn't totally in the clear, according to the Times, as investigators still have questions about trades he made in Dean Foods (DF).

One sports agent who represents several of the world's top golfers (not including Mickelson) tells TheStreet that Mickelson has a reputation as one of the sport's more active investors.

A representative for Mickelson forwarded a comment he made at a recent press conference

"With an investigation going on, I'm not going to comment any further on it. But I'll continue to say that I've done absolutely nothing wrong," the golfer told reporters.

Calls to Walters and Icahn placed Friday afternoon were not immediately returned.

Golfers run the gamut from those who take no interest at all in their investments to those who monitor them daily, according to this agent.

For golfers who do play the market, opportunities to get up close and personal with business leaders are frequent, notes Jon Najarian, a former pro football player and CNBC personality who co-owns a firm called Monster Asset Management of America, which invests on behalf of several current and former pro athletes.

Najarian suspects Mickelson's sponsorship deal with KPMG requires him to play golf with clients of the firm. KPMG declined to comment on the specifics of his contract, but one person familiar with the terms of corporate sponsorships says such an arrangement wouldn't be unusual.

"You and I know that the customers he's playing with aren't Joe Shmo. The customers he's playing with are the heads of very successful companies that KPMG is courting," Najarian says of Mickelson.

Indeed, evidence of pro golfers playing with senior corporate executives isn't difficult to find. And because golf is a leisurely sport that takes a long time to play, it affords plenty of opportunity for wide-ranging conversation.

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