Author's note: Golf Card International is not affiliated with Nebraska Golf Card.
An appreciation for Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz and a well-known Bible verse appears to be the main reasons an aspiring professional golfer was abruptly cut off from his main source of income by his sponsor.
The golfer's name is Jeff Cochran and until a few weeks ago, it appeared that he may have finally gotten the big break that would help him achieve his goal of having a shot to play on golf's elite PGA tour. Cochran claims he was contracted in January by Virginia-based businessman Brian McMahon to help promote Nebraska Golf Card (NGC), a budding promotional operation that says it's "designed to give golfers reduced rates and access to private clubs."
After playing most of the year for Nebraska Golf Card, Cochran alleged his sponsorship was abruptly terminated. The initial reason given seemed quite surprising -- his support for Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz; Cruz's father, Raphael; and Glenn Beck -- but faith, and specifically a Bible verse, also played a big part in the termination of the contract.
The verse in question? Philippians 4:13, which reads, " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
In late October, Cochran, his agent David Reynolds and NGC's Brian McMahon both claim they were at a dinner and the conversation turned to Cruz. Cochran says he praised Cruz and his father, Raphael, mentioning that he had seen the elder Cruz on an episode of "The Glenn Beck Program."
Cochran told TheBlaze that his sponsor was taken aback by this statement and was also troubled by the fact that his business associate was a fan of Beck. Following his pro-Cruz statement, Cochran said McMahon asked him, "Would you be willing to give up our support to stand with that wackjob (Beck)?" Cochran answered "yes" and said the dinner continued without any additional tension or drama.
But the next morning, Cochran's agent said, he received an email from NGC announcing that it was pulling all financial and product support from Cochran.
The email, a copy of which was provided to TheBlaze, demanded immediate return of all equipment and that Cochran stop using their logo as well. The initial email from McMahon to Cochran's agent was quite specific as to the reason for the split (emphasis added):
David, I have never had an issue with you or really Jeff for that matter, but this situation is very disturbing. I have been tolerant of his religious views and even supported his off course speaking. However, I just can't allow my company to be associated with these radical political views. The idea that Jeff would line up with the likes of Glenn Beck or Ted Cruz or any other individual interested in destroying America, just isn't something I can swallow.
Cochran and Reynolds said they immediately complied with the demand and returned the equipment, they told TheBlaze. That quick response triggered the email thank-you from McMahon shown below, but that note also contained a few parting shots (emphasis added).
"I looked up the verse Jeff put on the bag and had to laugh," the email said. "How can someone so smart be so gullible? The idea of trusting or believing that someone has control over your future is the definition of insanity. I will continue to trust people I've actually met and trust to help chart my course."
McMahon's email continued (emphasis added): "Tell Jeff if he ever decides to relinquish these childish and uneducated views, we might be willing to renew our relationship." He ended the email, "In me I trust, Brian."
It was shortly after the second email was sent that Cochran and his agent reached out to TheBlaze.[sharequote align="right"]"Believes he has been forgiven for past indiscretions by a mystical power who lives in the clouds."[/sharequote]
TheBlaze was in the process of investigating the story, exchanging emails with Cochran and his agent and establishing a timeline of the events, when we received an unsolicited email from McMahon of NGC (from the same email address that sent the emails to Cochran's address).
McMahon did not mince his words and almost immediately attacked TheBlaze, writing, "I spent a little time on your website this morning and you should be ashamed of what you've created."
He didn't hold back, mocking Cochran for listening to Beck: "Jeff is the perfect target for someone like Beck. He believes he has been forgiven for past indiscretions by a mystical power who lives in the clouds, so why wouldn't he be gullible (sic) enough for the Tea Baggers."
The email closed with a particularly angry and personal attack on Beck (emphasis added): "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."
The note is presented in its entirety:
Responding to McMahon's email, we tried to correct some of his misconceptions (Beck doesn't have or represent a "political party"), learn more about his organization (Nebraska Golf Card), and further understand the reason, or reasons, he terminated Conchran's sponsorship. He did reply to our email. According to him, Nebraska Golf Card "is run by me alone." He addressed a question about the ability to terminate someone for religious and political reasons by stating, "Jeff was not an employee but rather a private contractor."
McMahon ended his email by saying, "the only people who will care what happened to Jeff are the same religous (sic) zealots. Finally, my character might not be what you like, but I think for myself."
Cochran told TheBlaze in a telephone interview that he met McMahon at a "pro-am" tournament about a year ago. The two struck up a friendship that turned into a business relationship. According to Cochran, beginning in 2013 he was contracted by McMahon to play golf under the NGC logo and would be paid an annual salary large enough to support him and his family. Jeff also stated that in January he made a conscious decision to dedicate his life to his Christian faith.
Telling TheBlaze that he had been "less than genuine" in the past, Cochran talked about making a total commitment to God. Asked whether that meant problems with alcohol or drugs, the answer was an emphatic, "no, but I wasn't a good guy." Cochran said the only dark spot in his past was an arrest "three or four years ago over an unpaid hotel bill." That arrest was in 2007 and the issue ended up with Cochran being found guilty of a misdemeanor for skipping out on a hotel bill. He made restitution, but also worries that "anyone can find my mug shot online."
When asked if McMahon ever told him to stop talking about his faith or not to put "Phil 4:13" on his golf bag, Cochran said, "no." And McMahon's emails seem to back up his initial tolerance for the golfer's faith. In his initial email to us, he seemed more upset with Jeff's appreciation of Beck: "I was willing to overlook the continual religous (sic) jargon, but when I learned he was a 'follower' of Beck, I couldn't swallow anymore."
Cochran's explanation of the events that led up to his termination from NGC matched the reasons given to TheBlaze by McMahon in emails. The pro golfer appears to have lost his source of income mainly because he is a fan of Beck and Cruz, but his faith wasn't overlooked. McMahon's initial email to TheBlaze also praised Cochran's speaking abilities as well as his prowess on the golf course, but took a shot at his beliefs, stating, "He has worked hard to overcome some massive road blocks and I just wish he knew it was him and not some spirit."
TheBlaze requested a telephone interview with McMahon, as we were hoping to learn more about Nebraska Golf Card and asked if there will be a faith or political litmus test for any future pros contracted to represent the company. Brian McMahon declined our offer, stating: "I have no desire to do an interview or draw anymore attention to this issue. Of course EVERYONE will be welcome to participate when we begin the program."
He also added, " I have no problem with anyones (sic) views. The problem comes when they try to push them on other people. Jeff makes it a point to share his religous (sic) views at every moment. When he is representing other peolple (sic), those views should be kept private. I don't have any interest in going back and forth on this. I am free to associate with anyone I choose and Jeff is no longer on that list."
Curiously, after sending the above comments to TheBlaze, Cochran says he received a call from McMahon. McMahon appeared to be encouraging Cochran to stop this story from being published on TheBlaze or even in local papers. According to Cochran, McMahon told him over the phone, "You do realize that if this goes public, everyone will know everything about you."
Cochran did go through with it. And seems to be at peace with that.
"I hope this story can be one of redemption and willingness to stand up and say 'Yes I am flawed, yes I've had struggles, but God is still good,'" he said at the end of our conversation.
"You talk as though you are representing Jeff and investigating legal matters," he ended his last email to TheBlaze. "Should I contact my attorney?"
This story has been updated to add new information.
Author's note: Golf Card International is not affiliated with Nebraska Golf Card.
Follow Mike Opelka @stuntbrain on Twitter