Updated: October 11, 2013 6:25AM
When Jeff King talks about dehydrators, jerky flavors, Davis Love III, the region and the wacky life of caddying all in one breath, I wonder: Is there a chance I could quit my job, hitch-hike to where ever his next tournament is and just hang out with him for a year and see what happens next?
King has made regular appearances in this space over the last decade for his caddying, most of it with LPGA players like Candy Kung and Christie Kerr before hitching a ride with Luke List, a powerful but inconsistent player who is struggling to keep his card on the PGA Tour.
King was thrust into the news last week when word of his newest venture got out via Sports Illustrated: “Kingmade Jerky.”
“I think I’m a guy with too much time on my hands,” he laughed from North Carolina, where he was in a laundromat, washing his clothes before List played in a Web.com event.
King, from Hammond, makes beef jerky. He is the proud, sometimes overwhelmed, founder of the new company (www.kingmadejerky.com).
King’s jerky story is, like King himself, one-of-a-kind.
He came home from looping one day a couple of years ago and decided to make jerky. (We’ve all thought that before, right?) He had no inclination to make jerky, aside from the fact that he liked jerky as a snack when caddying.
The PGA, apart from a few lumpy players, like Angel Cabrerra and Tim Herron, is a health-conscious place. Television often shows players munching on snacks between shots. King dove into jerky making because he could rarely find the jerky he liked when he was on the road.
He did what any normal person who wanted to make jerky would do: He bought a dehydrator — a contraption that dries out meat — and he went to work.
His first few batches were awful.
After a few tries, the jerky got better and word got out, first on the LPGA Tour, where King was caddying. Pretty soon, King was a certified jerky snob.
His jerky is made from flank steak, the other stuff is usually “round steak.”
He had three flavors: Sweet Chili Pepper, Classic and Buffalo Style. His jerky is all natural and hand crafted and it has about a third as much sodium in it as most of the jerky on the market.
More importantly, it’s hugely popular with the jerky crowd on tour. Tiger Woods eats King’s jerky. Thirty players follow Kingmade Jerky on Twitter.
Love told SI that he wanted to get the recipe for it so he could make it at home. King’s little hobby turned into another full-time job for him — with a list of 70 players regularly requesting the jerky.
He had so many requests for the jerky from PGA players that when he went back home to Texas he rarely slept.
Making jerky is a 24-hour process of drying and marinating the meat. He charged $40 per pound, but he made about three bucks an hour.
“You have to baby-sit this stuff non-stop,” he said.
King entered rarified jerky status when a former pro golfer-turned-food-and-beverage marketing executive heard his story, tried his product and asked him if wanted to turn it into a business.
That was almost like a joke to King, a humble, rooted Northwest Indiana guy who basically lived on a golf course as a kid.
Except it wasn’t. It was real stuff.
That was at the beginning of the year.
Adam Papazian, his partner, helped him raise around $175,000 to get the product to the public.
They found a plant in Nebraska that would make the jerky and they officially launched the business a couple of months ago.
The product — 2.25 ounces — sells for $8.99 in about a dozen places in the United States.
J&M Golf in St. John is the only place in Northwest Indiana that has it right now.
Or, it can be ordered on his website.
King has plans to unveil a few more flavors in the next six months or so.
For now, King is both grateful beyond words and still a caddie at heart.
He has no plans to give up his day job. He wants to help List make the Ryder Cup someday.
He is worried that the business might become a distraction for List so he plans on hiring someone next year to help take care of all the requests he gets for jerky.
And whatever happens with the business, whether it takes off and soars or fades into jerky purgatory, King figures he has won.
“Everything that has happened already is priceless,” King said.
Everybody — tour players, caddies, friends from Northwest Indiana — is pulling for him big time. They really do want King to be the “King Jerky.”