Ryan Ballengee is golf. Or at least he currently is the man for SB Nation. Waggle Room is SB Nation's incredible popular golf blog where Ballengee has been bringing his readers plenty of interviews with remarkable golf personalities, including a recent one with Tom Watson.
If you like golf, Waggle Room is a must read. Now let's get to know the man behind Waggle Room's golfing greatness, Ryan Ballengee.
Tyler Bleszinski: Tell me how you came to start blogging about golf.
Ryan Ballengee: I started covering golf back in college, when I began a streaming Windows Media show on golf called The 19th Hole Golf Show for a site then known as BroadcastMonsters.com. (It's now All In Broadcasting.) I worked hard to get good guests and build an audience before podcast or blog were even in the lexicon. Then, I added on the natural writing component for some fan-based sites. In '07, I started the GNN Blog at my old site - The Golf News Net. Then, when the opportunity became available at Waggle Room in August '08, it was the perfect move for me.
Bleszinski: What's been your experience like since you joined SB Nation?
Ballengee: Phenomenal. The business and tech staff at SBN is such a crucial component in Waggle Room's success. The technology is great and the business side is very supportive of my goals - making them theirs, too. The outside world really respects SB Nation and what Waggle Room is doing. 2009 has presented way more opportunities for our site and the acceptance of golf blogs has increased dramatically in just 12 short months.
Bleszinski: You're one of the credentialed writers in our network. Is it tough to sometimes walk the line between being a fan-blogger and more of a journalist?
Ballengee: In some sense, yeah. It is a tough line between doing journalistic style work - interviews, breaking news - and doing pure commentary on the news of the day. Fortunately, I only have to watch what I say to an extent. The golf journalism world is very opinionated and is not hesitant to share it. Also, the folks that I cover rarely take my opinion personally.
In another sense, it is great for content. On the same day, I can completely rip into a story with opinion and insight, while simultaneously interviewing the real newsmakers in our sport. If the balance is right, it's great.
Bleszinski: Do you like being the focus for a particular sport under the SB Nation umbrella? In other words, SB Nation doesn't have a wealth of golf coverage outside of Waggle Room.
Ballengee: I do. I'm trying to lay the groundwork for a much bigger golf presence at SB Nation. It's a challenge that I love. I feel very proud of what Waggle Room has presented this year and how much it has grown. I went to the US Open, the Tour Championship, and three other tournaments. I probably attend more tournaments than any other independent blogger (not having a staff of writers) and it makes Waggle Room better for doing that. There's no pressure, really, just the drive to keep doing better and better work.
Bleszinski: What's been some of the highlights in your time running Waggle Room?
Ballengee: Well, Waggle Room beat everyone to the video of Tiger interviewing himself after winning the AT&T National. I got to talk to one of my golf heroes in Nick Price for our weekly podcast. This afternoon, I'm speaking with Tom Watson, which is incredible - especially with the year he has had. In general, it has been being able to connect with the names that you see dropped in everyday golf reporting and getting to know them better.
Being at the US Open for the third time was great. This time was particularly special.
Bleszinski: What's the toughest thing about blogging at Waggle Room?
Ballengee: It is striking the right balance between opinion and news. I want Waggle Room to be a place where people get original material - either in the form of analysis or breaking news. Golf fans can find out who won the tournament anywhere. It's my hope that they can find out why at Waggle Room. And I hope they can find out some things that they didn't know - about the golf business, the names that you do and don't hear about everyday.
But there is nothing like the thrill of breaking news. It is the high that any writer seeks.
Bleszinski: Is it tough building up community around a general sport site like Waggle Room?
Ballengee: I can safely say that Waggle Room could not be where it is without the community that comes to it each day. We have people from within the industry, golf fans, other bloggers, and even pro golfers coming to the site. My dad stops by and comments. He's a really funny guy. We all have great banter.
Admittedly, golf is a bit of a niche sport - particularly when it comes to blogging. Us golf bloggers are generally good friends and all seeking to lift up our group's stature. The combination is really supportive and encouraging.
Bleszinski: Tell me something about yourself that your readers wouldn't expect to know, like something you do for fun.
Ballengee: I'm a HUGE Green Bay Packers fan. Everyone I know scratches their head at that since I'm from Baltimore. Why not the Ravens? We didn't have football in Baltimore when I was growing up, so you had to pick a team. I wasn't taking the Redskins. They were too good then and I didn't want to be a frontrunner. Now I'm glad I made that decision because they're the worst run franchise in football. I picked the Pack then, stuck with 'em, and can't wait to get to Lambeau.
Bleszinski: Finally, are you a good golfer? What's your handicap?
Ballengee: I don't get to play too much these days. Back in high school and college, I could fire in the low 70s. Now, I can get into the high 70s on a good day. But I hit the ball a lot further now. It makes playing scrambles MUCH more fun!
Bleszinski: Thanks so much for your time. We love having you as a part of SB Nation.
Ballengee: Thanks, Tyler - really appreciate it!