Not everyone gets to live out their dream job, but for Ryan Lavner ABJ ’09, being an Emmy award-winning golf writer seems to suit him pretty well.
Augusta National. St. Andrews. Pebble Beach. Though his home base is Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, each year Lavner travels to about 14 tournaments around the world as a senior writer for the Golf Channel. He spends his week interviewing players, talking to tour officials, and, sure, sneaking in a few holes when he can.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to tell the backstories of guys who worked their way up through the mini-tours, as well as these can’t-miss players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who I covered as junior golfers and everyone just knew that they were going to be fantastic,” Lavner says. “Everyone has a different backstory to reach the pinnacle of the sport.”
Lavner, 35, grew up in Canandaigua, New York, a world away from the hot Georgia summers. Being a sportswriter was always the plan, and Lavner knew he wanted to live in a completely different environment, with big-time athletics to cover. So the University of Georgia was a natural choice.
After graduating from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, he went to work for a small newspaper in Sebring, Florida.
“It was a two-man staff, so I did everything from writing to shooting, editing to page design,” he says. “It was an all-encompassing job, and I absolutely loved it.”
In 2010, he got the opportunity to write about a women’s amateur golf tournament called the Harder Hall Invitational. Lavner covered it with the same dedication and energy as if he were at the Masters, writing six to eight stories a day, with detailed features and his own photos.
Lavner’s passion caught the eye of a senior writer at Golfweek magazine, who was also covering the event. They swapped information, and a week later, a job opened up as though it were meant to be. Two years later, Lavner signed with Golf Channel, and he’s been there ever since.
Now, in addition to his award-winning writing, Lavner also does live hits for “Golf Today”, “Golf Central”, and “Live From,” and works on longer-form TV features. As modern media has evolved, he has also moved on to producing digital videos and podcasts. Often, he’ll join TV segments from the comfort of his home office, broadcasting through a live camera feed. The different formats allow him to talk about golf in different ways and with a variety of people.
“I think I’d get really bored if I was just doing one thing – if I was just writing stories, or if I was just doing TV, or the only thing I had to worry about was the podcast,” he says. “I like the versatility and doing a little bit of everything.”
Lavner met his wife at UGA and has been married for nearly a decade. Together, they have two young children, and though they’re not quite old enough to pick up a putter, Lavner looks forward to the day when they can be out on the course with him and fall in love with golf the same way he did.
“Being able to combine my two passions, golf and writing, into a career,” he says, “I can’t ask for anything more.”