As 2010 comes to a close, I almost wish it wouldn’t, personally. Despite the rocky moments and the non-stop controversies (which quite frankly were great for the blogosphere), it was also a magical year in golf, which I’ve looked back on in a series of posts in the last week and on Thanksgiving.
Now excuse me if I get a tad sappy. It doesn’t happen that often — at least I don’t like to show it! As cliche as it may sound, 2010 was truly a year that surpassed my expectations. Honestly, I couldn’t have scripted it better.
Earlier today, I mentioned that 2010 was filled with endless HUG-ME-NOW moments for me and WUP. If you were to tell me on New Year’s Eve 2009 half of the adventures and opportunities I was going to have in the last 10 months, I would have dismissed it as crazy talk. Hell, in June, if you were to say I was going to cover the remaining three majors, I would have laughed.
Looking back at my first “real” assignment — well, first of all, I can’t believe that was in February — it’s funny to reflect on that experience because it’s a good indicator of how much I’ve learned. I pitched a story to Sports Illustrated, and to my surprise, I walked out of the office with an assignment, which was to write a profile on Ryan Moore. Basically, the instructions were, figure out when and where you need to go and file 1,100 words. I had never written a feature piece or story for print, let alone for a publication like SI. But I don’t let minor technicalities like that get in my way, obviously.
Since Moore lives in Phoenix, I figured the week of the Waste Management Open would be a good event to get the reporting done. I met Alan Shipnuck in person for the first time there and he had helped me get the assignment in the first place, but apparently he wasn’t aware of how inexperienced I was. When he discovered this, he just started laughing in a holy-crap-oh-boy kind of way. What’s so funny? I asked. I think he didn’t want to alarm me, so he played it off, but now, we laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
At the time, I just saw it as an unbelievable opportunity to write for SI. I knew it was going to get done one way or the other, but I wasn’t aware exactly how difficult it was.
The point is, I was in over my head. I had to write a profile on a player and I essentially had no guidance. No big deal, though. How hard could it be? I had more than enough access to interview him and everyone in his life. Oh, I had to find some players to talk to about him, which was the most challenging part since Moore keeps mostly to himself.
Good thing Phil Mickelson was scheduled for a press conference early in the week. I was a rally killer and asked him a question about Moore in the middle of it. This may sound strange, but it was a little nerve-wracking to ask the then-No.-2 player in the world about another guy in front of an audience, especially since it was the first press conference I’d ever attended.
Later in the week, when I finally sat down to write, I’m not going to lie — I was a wreck. I had no idea how to start or where to start. Obviously, there’s no “right” way, but writing a profile is a completely different beast than any other story. Everyone knows writing is hard, but I don’t think most realize exactly how hard profiles are. Which makes me have the utmost respect for those that do it with such mastery, like Damon Hack, Shipnuck, John Garrity, Jaime Diaz, etc.
For me, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to capture someone through words from my point of view. I wanted it to be perfect. I knew it didn’t have to be (I was even told that), but because, well, striving and stressing for perfectionism is the story of my life.
I just remember sitting alone in a crappy hotel in Scottsdale and staring at the computer for hours. Everything had been pretty easy and straightforward up until that point. I had over-reported (what else is new?). I had more than eight hours of interviews, which turned into 20 pages or so of quotes in front of me. Somehow, I had to put it together in a coherent and eloquent manner to tell the story of being Ryan Moore. Shit.
Alan and Damon, who was also on assignment in Phoenix, were both kind enough to check on me every so often. Otherwise, I was on my own. There may or may not have been a few tears shed in the process.
I got it done eventually, but it was like a blackout. I hadn’t slept in what felt like days. I wish I would have had more time because I thought I could have made it better. In other words, welcome to the life of a writer, kid.
I knew I should have been more proud of myself, but instead, I was a tad disappointed. It could have gone smoother. But could it have? Of course. That’s not the point, though. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my career.
Most important, I discovered that I loved the career path I had embarked on. I wanted to hit the road again because real-life practice is the best way to learn. Cliche, I know. But so true.
It’s funny because send me on a similar assignment now or even six months later, I would have a good grasp of what to do and feel comfortable. I’m not saying I would freak out at some point, but that’s just because I’m neurotic. Knowing me, I’d probably freak out over trying to make the story perfect before finally kicking some sense into myself and realizing it’s not always going to be. That’s just part of the writing process.
Since Phoenix, I’ve covered probably a dozen more tournaments. Each time, I walked away feeling like I was getting closer to knowing what the hell I was doing. I can’t say for sure, but I think my experiences on the road have expedited the learning process than had I enrolled in graduate school. Maybe that’s not fair — just a different kind of knowledge, I guess.
Mostly, I am incredibly fortunate to have amazing mentors that have shown me tremendous generosity, encouragement, tough love and guidance during a year where, honestly, I felt a bit overwhelmed and alone at times. I won’t even start naming individuals because I’m bound to forget someone and get in trouble! Seriously, though, you know who you are.
Along the way, I’ve met all sorts of interesting and inspiring people, whom I’m lucky to call friends now, and I’ve reconnected with some dear old ones. I said I wouldn’t name people, but obviously, a big thanks to my parents for believing in me (even when it is tough love), those who have contributed to the WUP team — Intern Kevin, Merf, Conor, Tom and all the readers that take a few minutes out of their day or week to stop by and skim through my musings and writings.
Next week when I walk into the press room at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, I guess I’m no longer a rookie. I still have so much to learn and I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I can’t begin to express my excitement for the journey.
Sophomore slump, here I come! Happy New Year!