Matt Neff : How I became a columnist for Golfdom

By |  April 9, 2015 0 Comments

matt_neff_2015As a result of writing this column over the last two-plus years I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many people in this business with whom I otherwise likely would’ve never crossed paths. It’s also given me the chance to talk with friends and colleagues I don’t see on a regular basis.

The most common question I’m asked in many of these conversations or email exchanges is how I got this job. It’s an understandable question. How does some random assistant superintendent end up with a column in a major trade magazine that boasts a columnist roster of industry heavyweights like Mark Woodward, Clark Throssell, Ph.D., and Karl Danneberger, Ph.D.?

I choose to believe that they are asking out of genuine curiosity (‘That’s really interesting, Matt. So tell me how you ended up with such a cool side gig.’) instead of disbelief (‘You’re an idiot. How did you end up writing a column in an otherwise respected trade magazine?’) Admittedly, the disbelief angle isn’t entirely without merit.

The short version of the story is that I got lucky. Basically, I talked to the right person at the right time and ended up with a column.

The longer version has to do with the outrageous cost of child care in this country.

Having two kids enrolled in pre-school/daycare is basically like having a second mortgage payment every month. In an attempt to offset some of the cost I decided to find an additional source of income. As you’re all aware, the work schedule in this business isn’t really conducive to having a second job with a set schedule, especially when you have a family. I knew I needed to do something that would offer flexibility while also providing a reliable source of additional income.

I had a few ideas, but freelance writing seemed like an interesting option because it would best satisfy the main requirements of flexibility and dependable income. However, I had no clue how to go about becoming a freelancer. Since I know more about turf and golf course maintenance than pretty much anything else it made sense to explore opportunities in this industry. I contacted the editors of a few industry trade magazines asking for their advice on what was involved with getting into freelancing and if it was even reasonable to think that an assistant golf course superintendent with no professional writing experience would be able to do so.

Although he likely now regrets it on a monthly basis, Golfdom Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones responded to my inquiry. He answered my questions regarding freelancing but, as luck would have it, he also mentioned that he had been considering a column dedicated to assistant superintendents and told me to submit a sample column to him. If he liked it, I could have the job. Fortunately he did and I became a columnist.

With the way the job market in this business has been over the last several years, it’s not unusual for assistants to be older than in the past and likely have a house and a family. For those who haven’t gone down this road yet, believe me when I say that houses and kids cost a ton of money.

So if you’re looking for a way to pick up a little extra income while being able to work around the demanding schedule that is the norm in golf course maintenance, it’s worth it to think a little outside of your comfort zone. If it’s something that you don’t know a lot about, contacting people who do might just give you the break you need to get started.

Luckily it worked for me because I think I would’ve been the worst Avon lady ever.

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