For a professional golfer, losing a sponsor is a way of life -- or, perhaps more appropriately, sometimes a push into a different life.
Sponsors can bail on players who aren't getting it done, often in favor of better-performing peers. Sometimes, the sponsor doesn't see a fit between the player and their brand. But it's rare to hear of a player who is dropped by a sponsor because of their political beliefs.
Enter Jeff Cochran, who says that's precisely what happened to him.
The Blaze reported on Cochran's claim that his sponsor, Nebraska Golf Card, severed ties with him because of his steadfast support for the political views of the likes of Texas senator Ted Cruz and former Fox News host Glenn Beck.
Cochran says he was contacted by Brian McMahon, a Virginia-based businessman, in January about being sponsored by Nebraska Golf Card for the year. On Oct. 22, however, Cochran then had dinner with McMahon and his agent, David Reynolds. During the dinner, the conversation turned to politics, with Cochran proudly discussing his appreciation for the causes Cruz and Beck value.
McMahon reportedly askly Cochran flatly if he'd be willing to give up the support of Nebraska Golf Card to "stand with that wackjob" Beck. Cochran said he was, then was shocked to learn McMahon emailed his agent the very next day to terminate their relationship. McMahon demanded Cochran cease to use the bag donning the Nebraska Golf Card logo and return any promotional materials. Cochran and Reynolds say they complied in short order.
Emails from McMahon supplied to The Blaze by Reynolds supposedly belittled Cochran's political and religious beliefs, including that Cochran's bag alluded to Philippians 4:13.
The Blaze, investigating Cochran's claims, say they were then contacted on Nov. 21 via email by McMahon, from the same address used in the emails supplied to them by Cochran and Reynolds. In that correspondence, McMahon reportedly was heavily critical of their website and Beck.
McMahon reportedly concluded with a parting shot at Cochran, saying, “He is a lousy drunk who should be led to the nearest border, given a big toss and told to never return. And if he hates the government as much as he says, that should be a welcome event for him too.”
Wow. The situation sounds like it escalated very quickly.
However, reading the story, it was hard not to be skeptical of it -- not because of the outlet, but rather because of the way the story was told to the site.
It was time to do some digging.
Google Jeff Cochran, Nebraska Golf Card, David Reynolds and Brian McMahon. See what you get. Not much.
Cochran is a real person, having played six events on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series in 2013. He made one cut, finishing T-34 at the Texas Honing Open in April, making $300. Then you kind of hit a dead end, just the same as the other terms.
Nebraska Golf Card doesn't have a website or even a logo, which means sponsoring a nation-trotting golfer without any way for fans to connect with the business is wasting money.
There are no Google results for Brian McMahon related to that product, to golf, or even a Brian L. McMahon in Virginia. There's nothing on David Reynolds as an agent representing an athlete.
But, The Blaze piece did show a screen capture of Cochran in a YouTube video promoting something called "King of the Muni Golf Challenge". To YouTube I went. I found the video. In fact, there were two, asking for golfers to submit names of people who might want to take on Cochran on the pilot episode of this show.
The video was made in Vegas, meaning Cochran probably was in Sin City at some point in his life, so back to Google to see if there was any connection. Two things turned up.
The first: A Twitter account for Cochran that was abandonded in Oct. 2009. The final tweet said, "Thanks to all my students...You are wonderful...Keep working HARD and you can improve!!!! I love you all....Last tweet!"
Second was a mention of Cochran in a 2009 Las Vegas Review-Journal piece about triple-degree heat and playing golf. Both pages said Cochran was Director of Golf at Las Vegas Golf Club, the city's oldest municipal course.
With that info, I reached out to three places: the Adams Golf Pro Series, Las Vegas Golf Club and to the man that appeared with Cochran in the "King of the Muni" series.
It can be hard to get a hold of folks at a mini-tour. The staff is typically small, if full-time. So a voicemail was left for them.
Then a call was placed Tuesday to Las Vegas G.C. Speaking with the course's general manager, I asked if Cochran had been or was currently employed there. The G.M. said he had never heard of Cochran, and that he wasn't employed there right now.
Then Cochran's video co-star called me.
Dennis Silvers is a Las Vegas-based golf talk show host. I hear his "Dennis Silvers Golf Minute" every Wednesday morning as I wait on hold to make a radio appearance in New Mexico. I feel like I know the guy, even though I had never met him. He's been involved in golf media for decades.
"I was completely duped by this guy (Cochran)," Silvers said Tuesday. "He is a 100 percent phony."
Silvers met Cochran in 2009 at Las Vegas Golf Club, where he plays from time to time. The two played together, along with a mutual friend, and got to know each other. Silvers describes Cochran as "charming" and "affable."
The "King of the Muni" concept was one he thought was a "slam dunk," he said. After all, Cochran said he was a member of the PGA of America, had once obtained a European Tour card and had ties to current and former PGA Tour players.
It turns out that none of that was true.
Friends told Silvers that Cochran was someone not to be associated with, prompting Silvers to do a little digging of his own. Silvers said he caught Cochran in several lies, making him angry to be deceived.
Silvers also says Cochran had been reportedly having trouble at work, with pro shop merchandise unaccounted for and several female staffers complaining they had been approached by Cochran to invest in him and his professional endeavors.
For Silvers, his frustration grew to the point that he called the president of Eagle Golf, who, at the time, ran Las Vegas Golf Club. Silvers apprised the company of the situation and how Cochran was "giving them a bad reputation," threatening to reveal the truth about Cochran on the air. The mutual friend that played golf with Cochran and Silvers, the then-G.M. at Las Vegas G.C., was called by Eagle Golf headquarters and told to fire Cochran. He did.
Silvers said Cochran called him shortly after his termination, begging for Silvers to meet him for "30 minutes" to "show me who he really was." Silvers said Cochran told him, "I've been this way all my life," implying he had been living quite a lie. That meeting never happened and, at last check for Silvers, Cochran had moved to Florida, looking for a job.
A few weeks after our initial reporting, several people contacted Golf News Net with rather obvious pseudonyms, all suggesting the same thing: There's a lot more to know about Jeff Cochran.
The tipsters lent some insight into Cochran's demise at Las Vegas G.C., saying he swindled money out of several female employees at the club saying his family's farm was in trouble after being in their control for over a century. While that behavior unto itself is unscrupulous, the tipsters also each pointed us in the same direction, to Savannah, Ga., to learn more about him.
We reached out to several people within the Savannah golf community, all who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from Cochran.
It began with an email to the head golf coach at Savannah State University, according to a source close to the program.
The email, obtained by Golf News Net, was purportedly from former PGA Tour player Chris Riley. In the message, Riley vouched for Cochran, who Riley said would be moving to the Savannah area soon to be giving lessons, conveniently, at the team's home club. Riley said Cochran, who was the former Director of Golf at the Prairie Club and was rehabbing from an injury (all not true), asked him to reach out to the program while Cochran was on vacation in Ireland (again using the line Cochran was a European Tour player), saying Jeff would love to work with the program and could be a great asset. It was an alluring offer, immediately drawing a response from the program.
However, Cochran then initiated a conversation with the program, according to the source, picking up where Riley left off, speaking of how excited he was to get started.
As the Georgia Bureau of Investigation would later tell the program and the club, the emails came from the same computer: Cochran's.
In interviews with several people close to the situation, the same things were said. Cochran lied about everything, from his professional background to European Tour membership to his personal tragedies. They called him a scam artist. All of them suggested it was highly unlikely anything he told to The Blaze was true. Some even doubted if he actually had a wife in Nebraska, where he now lives.
The Savannah golf community dealt with Cochran for a short period, stemming March-December 2011, but all interviewed say they won't soon forget about what he did, even though they'd love to simply move on.
Cochran moved on, walking away with thousands of dollars from those who took him at his word.
"He scammed money out of myself and our community," one source said.
Cochran was running several scams at once, according to several sources.
- After a tornado tragically struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011, Cochran approached the home club about a special lesson package. The package would be 3 lessons for $300, with $200 of that going to charities to help the community. In total, the program netted $9,000-10,000. None of that money went to charity.
- In working with the Savannah State men's program, Cochran began to get close to a player, according to a source, whose parents were rather wealthy. Cochran approached the player and his parents, saying he would agree to be the player's coach on an exclusive basis in exchange for $10,000-20,000 per year, paid in installments. The family had given Cochran some $10,000-15,000 when they were contacted by Cochran purportedly from his wife's home in Nebraska, where he said a terrible accident had happened to their home. He asked if the family could pay the next installment of $5,000 ahead of schedule so that he could use it to help with expenses. They refused.
How was Cochran exposed in Savannah? Several sources say it was players within the Savannah State golf program that began to look into Cochran's past, not only finding holes in his story, but also several warrants for his arrest and charges against him, like the ones in Florida, before bringing in the GBI to investigate further. At the tail end of 2011, both Savannah State and their home club notified Cochran he was no longer affiliated with them and he was no longer welcome. He hasn't been heard from since.
Cochran, who family is from Michigan and also had relatives in Ohio, was also floating several lies in the community:
- Cochran was telling people in Savannah that he was being paid $30,000-35,000 per year to work as as assistant coach with the golf program. He also said coach Art Gelow was planning to retire and give him the head coaching job. Neither was true; Cochran was a volunteer helping the program.
- Cochran claimed he went to the University of Miami in Florida, saying he played basketball there as well as golf. One source spoke with a friend who is a coach in the Miami basketball program who flatly denied ever hearing of Cochran or that he even went to the school.
Cochran may not have gone to Miami, but he does have a criminal record in the state of Florida. A criminal background check on Cochran, obtained by Golf News Net, shows he was twice charged with grand larceny for fraudulent use of credit cards, once in 2005 and again in 2007. In '05, Cochran's sentence was suspended after two days served in jail and he paid $1,515 in restitution. Cochran again pleaded no contest two years later in Pinellas County, where Tampa is located. In both cases, felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors.
Bottom line: Jeff Cochran is a bad guy.
"I would've told the National Golf Course Owners Association about him," a source said. "I'd hate for him to do what he did to us to someone else."
However, one source said Cochran was so likable, true of so many conmen, that they "felt bad...because he was so enjoyable to be around."
Originally published Nov. 27, 2013.