Let ‘The Grind’ Begin
The gulf has never been wider between golf’s haves and have-nots. As the PGA Tour grows ever more decadent, the game’s minor leagues have become increasingly cut-throat. A seemingly endless number of players can shoot 62 on any given Sunday, but many of them are living paycheck-to-paycheck, clawing and scraping for career survival. This is where the real drama of professional golf can be found.
At the Fire Pit Collective, we’re drawn to dreamers, long shots, underdogs, grinders. And now we’re committed to telling their stories in an immersive way. This spring we will roll out “The Grind,” an episodic streaming series that will bring to life the struggle, the stress and the occasional triumphs of a diverse group of pros and elite amateurs, each of whom is chasing something different. All of these golfers have agreed to grant our cameras all-access into their lives. “The Grind” will be real, raw and uncensored. And it’s more than just a show; podcasts and written features will take fans even deeper into the worlds of these protagonists. Here at the Collective, it will be all hands on deck: Matt Ginella, Alan Shipnuck, Ryan French, Laz Versalles, Colt Knedler, Jordan Perez, Mark Godich, Ellen Cannon, Ben Van Hook and others will be contributing to the read-watch-listen content, with Alex Upegui overseeing production and Marco Escalante leading the post-production team.
“The Grind” is a big part of what will be a big year for the Fire Pit. Two other projects will celebrate the soul of the game: municipal courses, and the diversity of those who play, and love, golf. “Migrations” is an episodic series that will track the experience of Black golfers in America’s big cities, while “Bubba Versus” will follow Gerry Lester Watson Jr. (and his pals) as the two-time Masters champ tries to set the course record at a variety of charming, scruffy munis. We’ll roll out exclusive excerpts and podcasts around the anticipated launch of Shipnuck’s book on Mickelson — “PHIL: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.” Geoff Ogilvy will be coming online with his own podcast and video storytelling, and in December the FPC will journey to Australia to live-stream and blow out coverage of the Sandbelt Invitational. More surprises await.
French will be the patron saint of “The Grind,” hosting a podcast of the same name. (Perez and Shipnuck—and his collaborator Christina Kim—will consolidate their podcast efforts and regularly contribute to “The Grind” pod.) “There are so many great stories for us to tell,” says French, whose alter ego Monday Q Info has done much to stimulate fan interest in another side of the sport. “The biggest stars in the game get so much media attention, but it’s hard to care about their quote unquote problems. The players we’re going to focus on, if they don’t play well they’re out of a job. So many of them have overcome serious hardships. And they’re sacrificing so much just to give themselves the chance to have their heart broken yet again.”
“The Grind” will give these competitors a little more to play for. We are setting up sponsored money matches and play-in games for spots in tournaments, including the Korn Ferry’s BMW Charity Pro-Am. We are creating a series of Fire Pit tournaments. (Think Big Money Classic…with actual money.) These events may not help a player’s status within the tiered structure of pro golf, but they will offer cash that can be life-changing for those chasing the dream. “The PGA Tour has had a monopoly on tournament golf, yet they’ve kept the purses so small on the developmental tours that even players who have a good year lose money,” Ginella says. “That’s crazy. We want to see these players make enough to be able to earn a living and keep chasing their dreams.” GOLFTEC is a presenting sponsor of “The Grind” and will be giving free access to all of the featured players, which means a lot to a guy such as Nick Biondi, who has often been forced to hit balls into a mattress in his basement, and other mini-tour aspirants who were recently stripped of their practice privileges at the Tour’s TPC courses.
“Will they all be success stories? Obviously not.” Ginella says. “But these are the narratives that are far more compelling than the rich getting richer.”
Let “The Grind” begin.
She and her dad pull a 25-foot Airstream from one event to the next on the Symetra Tour, logging 16,000 miles a year. The sacrifices players such as Dorsey make are the stories we love to tell, and we can’t wait to ride shotgun with her and her pops.
At 38 and having played on 14 tours that give out World Ranking points, Baldwin has reached a crossroads. With a young son and the accumulated financial stress of living on the margins of pro golf for the last 16 years, he has given himself one final season to chase the dream… or find a real job.
Born to a drug-addicted mother and a father he never met, Biondi has faced tough odds his entire life, but still he forges ahead. Biondi continues to live with, and take care of, the grandmother who raised him. Can this longest of long shots somehow scrap his way to the next level?
Fatima Fernandez Cano
After strong seasons on the Symetra Tour in both 2020 and 2021, Cano heads to the LPGA Tour as a rookie. Can she keep the momentum going on the big stage?
You won’t find many women still grinding on mini-tours nine years after they graduated from college. Paige Crawford might be the only one, in fact. And she does it all in a converted van that doubles as her hotel. Like all grinders, the former Montana State standout believes this is the year.
After an All-America career at Stanford, Danielson turned a sponsor’s invite on the Symetra Tour into a second-place finish and some much-needed status. After a couple of mediocre years at the developmental level, she has finally earned her LPGA Tour card.
After a solid career at San Diego State, Featherstone turned pro and made 23 of 26 cuts on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica. But after flunking out at Q-school in 2018, he took a job at Titleist. Featherstone just gave his two weeks’ notice so he can grind again, with a focus on Q-school at the end of the year.
Foley is coming off the best and worst year of his life: He won the Irish Amateur but lost his father to a brain hemorrhage. Now the 24-year-old must decide when to pursue his professional dreams.
Gonzalez came to the U.S. from Mexico to play at St. Mary’s University in Texas, where he became a two-time Division II All-American. After turning pro last year, he tries to find his footing in the pro game.
A product of Detroit and Wayne State University, Hooks has moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., to further his career. He will play a full season on the APGA Tour along with other mini-tour events across the country.
As Kim embarks on her 20th year on the LPGA Tour, we get an inside look at the outspoken veteran. The three-time winner kept her card with a late-season charge in 2021 and now looks to get back to her winning ways.
The former Oklahoma standout has found his calling teaching junior golfers at Goat Hill Park, but the pull of tour golf remains strong. He recently impressed Fred Couples when the two were partners in the Wishbone Brawl, and the match versus Xander Schauffele and Dean Wilson renewed Kropp’s desire to grind on the pro level.
She is the only Native American in women’s professional golf. We follow Lemieux on the Symetra Tour as she navigates the complications of having her husband, Jared, on the bag and the added pressure of playing for something larger than herself.
Being the kid of a Hall of Famer has its pluses and minuses. Love has enjoyed a raft of sponsor’s exemptions, but his privileged position has created plenty of blowback on social media. As we follow along with one of golf’s most polarizing players, viewers may be surprised at the person behind the famous last name.
The talented Aussie had a decorated amateur career, winning the British Amateur in 2011 and being named SEC Freshman of the Year at Georgia. He turned pro after the 2012 Masters and promptly finished fourth at the Australian Open, earning a spot in the Open Championship. There he posted a 90, the highest score in 15 years. It has been an odyssey ever since, including stops in China and on the Asian Tour.
The four-time All-American at Arizona State turned pro last June, and it has been a bumpy ride. She washed-out at the second stage of LPGA Q-school then played the final two holes in 3-over to miss her full Euro Tour card. Mehaffey’s talent is unquestioned; how she responds to adversity will be riveting to watch.
The Byron Nelson Award winner during his senior year at Louisville, Murphy is already off to a flying start in his pro career, with a series of strong finishes on the European Tour. He has set his sights on the PGA Tour, and with sponsor’s exemptions in hand, the pressure to perform is intense.
Can a former U.S. Open champ be a Grinder? In Ogilvy’s case, yes. At 44 he is increasingly dedicated to his kids and his golf course design firm, but Ogilvy will always be a player at heart. At this point in his career he’d rather win the ‘22 Sandbelt Invitational than another WGC, and we’ll get an exclusive peek at his preparation.
The pro game can be cruel, even to those who were among the top amateurs in the world. The 2019 U.S. Amateur champion now finds himself chasing Mondays and grinding wherever he can get a start. Coming off hip surgery, he looks to find his way back to the form that helped him finish as low amateur at the 2020 Masters.
One of the most unique stories in pro golf: Picanso played a year in college but quit after losing a close family friend, and then he gave up the game completely for five years. At 26 he returned, and now, at 38, Picanso has Korn Ferry status for the first time. Does the mini-tour legend have what it takes?
Hailing from Ireland, Power is one of the best amateurs in the world. That should come as no surprise because his parents, Eddie and Eileen, enjoyed decorated amateur careers. A junior at Wake Forest, Power has vowed to stay an amateur until after the 2023 Walker Cup at the Old Course. But the pull of professional golf is very real.
Sitting 7 up with just 14 holes to play in the final of the British Amateur, Scowsill had a Masters invitation within his grasp. But he lost the lead, against good friend Laird Shepherd, and then was defeated in the sudden-death playoff. Does such a devastating loss ignite a fire within or will the effects linger?
Shepherd was one of the top juniors in England before injuries derailed his once-promising career. He worked at a call center taking abuse from angry customers, and soon after lost his grandfather to dementia. But a chance meeting with a boyhood friend changed his trajectory, and now the Masters beckons.
The leader of the Oregon State team, Slama has designs on the Curtis Cup and will be teeing it up at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Her heart has ambitions of both professional golf and physical therapy school. Which path will this talented young woman pursue?
The father of an infant with a terminal condition, Springer travels the Latinoamérica Tour while his wife, Emma, takes care of things at home. Facing challenges that none of his playing competitors can comprehend, the former All-American at TCU dreams of securing a PGA Tour card while raising awareness of baby Sage’s rare chromosomal condition, Trisomy 18.