Catching up with Matt Ginella
Most people know you as the Senior Travel Editor at Golf Digest and your "Where's Matty G?" blog, but photography has been a big part of your professional career.
How did your love for photography develop and when did golf get into the picture?
My love for photography started when I was a senior in college, which was St. Mary's College in California. I'd get paid to carry cameras for Sports Illustrated photographers, who were in the Bay Area to cover 49ers' games. I'd make $75 per game to roam the sidelines, carry long lenses and change film. (Remember film?)?
Anyway, I had no idea I'd make the start of my career in photography. I felt like I was stealing money to be on the sidelines of an NFL game. After college I moved to New York to chase dreams. I was sure I was going to be SportsCenter anchor, but instead I landed an internship in the Sports Illustrated photo department. From doing the Director of Photography's laundry, to cleaning out a Time Inc., basement full of old power packs and acid, I did it all. And with a smile on my face. I would steal the SI letterhead in fear that every day was going to be my last. I wanted proof to show my friends I was really working at such a prestigious magazine. About a year into the job, Ward Haynes, the golf photo editor at the time, pulled me aside and told me he was leaving in a month, and that he was going to train me to do his job. I had played college golf, worked at golf courses through high school and college, and loved the sport. My first official week as the golf photo editor was the 1996 Milwaukee Open, which was Tiger's first tournament as a pro. The hard work was the laundry and the battery acid. The good luck was meeting someone like Ward Haynes. The good timing was starting the same week Tiger turned pro.?
Can you ever post a tweet without someone asking for your job or how you got it? How did you get it by the way?
I get that a lot. And it's good for me. They all serve as a reminder not to take such a sweet gig for granted. (Not that I ever would.) To get paid to travel around the country, play golf at some of the best courses in the world, meet and speak to the likes of Mike Keiser (Bandon Dunes), Herb Kohler (American Club) and the beverage cart girls of this world — who I happen to think are the most important hire at any course or resort — is as good as you might suspect. There are millions of people who can do what I do. And most of those would probably do it better than I do it, but at some point I stopped asking, "Why me?" And started asking, "Why not me?"
What's the strangest thing to happen to you while on a golf trip?
It was Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003. I was en route to Bandon Dunes for the first time, where I was planning on meeting up with a few friends. TimeThe plan was simple: golf our brains out for three days. I was settled in my seat on the plane at JFK, and we actually started pulling back from the airport when the captain came on, explained there was a power outage in the area, and that we'd need to hang out for awhile. Thirty minutes later we were asked to get off the plane. My clubs and luggage were trapped in the belly of the plane. My trip to Bandon was cancelled. The Northeast blackout, which affected an estimated 10 million people, certainly affected me. Safe to say that now, after eight trips to my favorite resort in the country, I've made up for lost time (and power).
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a golf trip?
They try to do too much, play too much golf. If I were to look back at all of my trips the one thing
I wish I did more of was simply hang out with the people I was with. I'm a 36-a-day guy, and sometimes I've been known to play 54. You blink, the trip is over, and you think to yourself, "I need to plan another trip, no golf involved, just to properly catch up with all of the guys I care about." I also see a lot of guys play courses that are too hard for the worst players in the group, or play from the wrong set of tees. On a buddies golf trip, I think it's important to schedule the courses and the distance you play from with the worst golfer in mind. Bad golf blows. And if the worst golfer in the group can be afforded a good time, then everybody wins.
If you were building a golf course, who would you hire to design it?
That's tough. The longer I have this job, the more I've learned about architecture and architects. I LOVE Pete Dye, but I don't love his designs. I used to be a big fan of Tom Fazio because his courses are generally fun to play. You can hit it, find it, and hit it again. But the more I've learned, the more I like Tom Doak. And I'm not sure anyone is doing it better than Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Keiser asked Doak and Jim Urbina to build him an homage to C.B. Macdonald. For my money, I might ask Coore and Crenshaw to build me an homage to Seth Raynor.
What's the best buddy trip you have taken to date?
I went to Ireland to celebrate my 30th birthday. On one trip, I played all eight courses at Pinehurst. One day I played Pebble in the morning, Spyglass in the afternoon, and then Cypress Point the next day. I've been to Scotland twice, Northern Michigan twice — which is loaded with great golf — and like I said, I've now been to Bandon eight times. The Best was at Bandon in August. I celebrated my 40th birthday with friends, a few uncles and one of the cutest caddies I've ever seen. We played nine rounds in five days. On the last day I had my best round of the year—a 74 at Bandon Trails. On the flight home my inner-monologue was: "Lord, you can take me now." And I meant it. Sort of.
How much time and planning goes into making your travel schedule?
It's a moving target. I collaborate with Pete Finch, my colleague at Golf Digest. We're always arranging and rearranging my schedule based on the editorial schedule. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed seeing the heart and soul of this country as it pertains to golf courses and those who play the game. I've played more value golf than I have courses such as Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits or the Ocean Course. And I get it, those are bucket-listers. And they, more often than not, live up to the hype, but it's courses like Old Brack in San Antonio, or Coronado near San Diego, or Wailau on Kauai that I love discovering and passing on to the readers.
Where is Matty G going to be in 2012?
Trump-AberdeenLike I said, my schedule is a moving target, but I know I'll be writing about San Francisco, Northern Michigan, Colorado, Maui, and a lot more. I'd like to get back to Pinehurst, Austin, Tex., and over to see Donald Trump's new course in Aberdeen. No, I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, but what he hired Dr. Martin Hawtree to build him in Scotland looks amazing. And, it's a pretty good excuse to get back across the pond.
How is your golf game?
I'm always thinking about tempo, swinging 80 percent, and avoiding the three putt. I'm a seven handicap who rarely plays the same course twice. And I don't practice, which is the biggest reason why I'm stuck at a seven. When I'm on a trip, playing 36-a-day for more than three days, by the end of the trip, I'll feel very good about my game. And then I'll come home, put the clubs away for a few weeks, and then start from scratch the first round of the next trip. I'm certainly not looking for any sympathy, it's just the way it is. I'm not a member at any club near New York, and being on the road so much, when I come home, I usually have a lot of catching up to do — both at work and with my friends. Playing bad golf used to get me down. As I've gotten older, it's a lot easier to keep things in perspective. As much as I hate to lose, and as much as I love to win, I've been able to train myself to be a decent loser. I'm not positive, but they might refer to that as a sign of maturity.
Who's in your dream foursome and where are you playing?
It can't be my Dad and two brothers. We've tried that a few times, but Tiger and Jackthe clash in personalities, the competitive fire between the three brothers, the wide range of handicaps and side bets NEVER works out. I have several colleagues who I love playing golf with, and within the company there are some great rivalries. I'm also blessed with amazing friends who happen to play golf, and most of those guys joined me at Bandon Dunes in August. My Uncle Tony taught me how to play golf, and to this day I enjoy trying to beat my mentor. But to avoid hurting any feelings, I'll make it the true definition of a Dream Foursome: Tiger in his prime, Jack in his prime, and Ben Hogan in his prime. We'd play the Old Course at St. Andrews. I'd be nervous, and uncomfortable, Hogan but as long as it's MY dream, I'd be able to dial up that swing I had earlier this year at Bandon Trails. I think I'd take Tiger as my partner. He's a punk, but the guy can flat-out play golf. I might bring Uncle Tony as my caddie. Not only would he be great to have along, but he'd be the only one in the group who would talk to me.
Thanks again Matt. We look forward to following your journey through 2012 with great interest and envy. All the best and have a great Holiday.
***For those of you on Instagram, you can also follow Matt @matt_ginella. New to Instagram as well is @golfdigestmag. Be sure to follow for some stunning images.