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Why I’m Leaving Golf’s Big J Journalism for Barstool Sports

I left my childhood dream job in Big J Journalism to work at Barstool Sports. When I tell people this, I usually get some version of the same questions:

What are you going to do? 

I’ll be a full-time member of the Fore Play brand—podcasts, videos, merchandise, events—and I intend to take advantage of the creative freedom Barstool offers. 

Are you going to keep writing?

Absolutely. 

Do serious journalists work at Barstool?

They do now, though I’m not as serious as you might think. 

Why are you doing this?

I’ll only get the chance to write an introductory blog once, so please indulge this mini-life story...As the old joke goes, a Bar Mitzvah marks the day a Jewish kid realizes he’s more likely to own a sports franchise than play for one. My come-to-Moses moment happened a few years later, but once I realized I’d never play on the PGA Tour, I wanted to be as close to the action as possible. And I was—for the last five years I’ve been traveling around the world, writing about and getting to know the best golfers on the planet, first at Sports Illustrated and then at Golf Digest. These are two of the truly iconic legacy media brands in America, and my name graced their pages, and 12-year-old Danny would be beaming with pride. But 27-year-old Danny couldn’t shake the desire to do something different. 

I distinctly remember the first time I thought about one day joining my new coworkers, those three mediocre golfers whose podcast name is a sex joke. (It’s been super fun telling all parents’ friends the name of the podcast I’m joining). It was at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia, where the “Barstool Boys” caused quite the scene by going toe-to-toe with “Old Man Golf Media.” The impetus for this pan-generational beef was rather trivial, but the self-reflection it prompted was rather profound: I, a Staff Writer at a Magazine, was also following the path of “Old Man Golf Media”—weird, because I'm younger than the Barstool Boys. 

Fore Play represented everything new about the way people consume. Their core product was a podcast, not articles. They weren’t afraid to opine or curse. Unburdened by editors and corporate hierarchies, they had carte blanche to pursue anything they thought would resonate with their audience. Their massive success and devoted following opened my eyes to another career path within golf that could offer all the things I loved about my job and none of the shit I didn't. And, most of all, I was just really fucking jealous that playing golf was just as big a part of their job as covering golf. There’s a great book about the founding of ESPN called “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” but I actually think it’s more fitting for Barstool.

For the next few years I focused on building my profile, my connections and my reputation within golf. I followed Tiger Woods around the world as his personal Career Documenter, a title I made up. (Yes, he knows who I am. He even calls me 'D.' No, we've never hung out.) I wrote game stories from Augusta and Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. I went to the jungle of Costa Rica to hang out with a pro golfer who went full Into-the-Wild to try to cure an incurable disease. (His name is Morgan Hoffmann, he's back playing professional golf and Costa Rica is a dream). I loved the work I was doing. Still, I was wrestling with a growing part of me that wanted out of legacy media. It’s not an easy thing, to admit to yourself that the job you wanted when you were a kid, what you went to school for (Northwestern Medill, not to brag) and what you spent the early part of your career doing in is not the direction you want to continue following. But the creative freedom, the fresh and different content, and all the fun—I’d hung around the Barstool Boys enough to get a whiff of it. And it was intoxicating.

It was never a realistic possibility until this year’s U.S. Open. Riggs casually asked me to hop on the podcast. I didn’t think much of it since I’d been on Fore Play before. I figured they’d ask a couple golf questions, I’d blabber for 15 minutes and life would go on. But right before pressing the record button, Riggs asked if I had 90 minutes to spare. Then he opened the podcast by introducing me to the audience and asking a bunch of Danny-centric questions. I'm not sure if they viewed it as such, but in my head that was an audition. I’d like to think I fit in pretty seamlessly that day, and once it was over I couldn’t help fantasize about all the cool shit we could do together if I joined the team. So I sent Riggs a flirty text message—something like: “damn, the chemistry was on point”—and he replied with exactly what I hoped he would: that he’d been thinking about adding me to the team and that we should talk about it next week. From the second that message popped up on my phone, I knew what my next job would be.

This is a significant pivot in my career, but I’m not going to completely piss away my Journalism chops. I made it clear to Riggs that I wanted him to hire me for me, not to go Full Barstool. I’m still going to write quite a bit. I’ll still have my boots on the ground in professional golf. I’ll still develop and work my sources to break news. I’ll still provide wall-to-wall coverage of the biggest tournaments in the world. I’ll still chase compelling stories and see where they take me. I’m going to prepare my ass off to bring fresh, new, insider-ey nuggets to Fore Play. I don’t see myself stopping any of the “serious” work I did at SI and GD; I just now have the resources, freedom and support to do this work in a number of different ways. Maybe a story’s better told as a video or a podcast than an article. And, as I'm still working to convince myself, that's okay! As Riggs put it to me in one of our first calls, “there are no rules. Just make cool shit that people like.”

What a time to be joining, as well. We’re in the throes of a once-in-a-generation, seismic shift in professional golf. Saudi Arabia! America! LIV Golf! PGA Tour! Loyalty! Greed! Betrayal! Lawsuits! It's Shakespearean-level drama, and it's only just getting started. My promise to you all is that I’ll call it like I see it; one of the best parts of Barstool is its fierce independence, and I look forward to providing no-bullshit and no-nonsense coverage of the sport I love so deeply. And to beating those other three at golf repeatedly, badly, and without mercy. 

A quick note here–Banks is going to keep doing what he's doing. My man's been crushing the golf coverage on this here Blog, and the work we do will be complementary. I'll chime in with bigger-picture/longform/analysis stuff, and I'll definitely ramp up the writing around big tournaments, but he'll continue to be your source for day-to-day golf news here at Barstool.  

I cannot wait to get going—they'll write books about the restraint I've shown to not spill the beans on this—and feel so lucky to be starting this journey with you all. It's my hope and belief that I'll bring some much-needed new energy to an already humming powerhouse. To the Moon.