Neil Sagebiel is a writer, and beyond that, an author. There is a difference, and the confluence of the two makes for an opportunity for a good interview. Sagebiel is an author in the traditional sense; he publishes books on paper. He is also a writer in the new age, thanks to a pair of blogs: Headlines from Floyd and Armchair Golf Blog. Sagebiel acquiesced to our request for an interview, and we are happy to present his answers to our questions.
1. Tell us who you are and what you do in golf.
I’m Neil Sagebiel, founder and editor of ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG, which I started on September 28, 2005. Since then I’ve generated more than 3,600 blog posts. From the blog and the connections I made in golf, I authored two golf books published by St. Martin’s Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. Both books focus on historical major tournaments and big moments in the game.
2. Hopefully you revealed that you run The Armchair Golfer. How long have you been at it, and what motivated you to initiate it?
I started the blog on a whim, really. I wanted to learn about blogging during the early days when many people didn’t know about blogs, even what they were. I chose golf as my topic at the last minute and a pen name, “The Armchair Golfer.” The blog was an experiment that took on a life of its own, and here I am 14 years later, having been on a golf adventure I could never have imagined.
3. Tell us what elements of the game that your site seeks to cover, and who your target audience might be.
I cover professional golf, mostly the men, with a focus on the players and events. Not so much on golf equipment or golf instruction. I also like to cover golf history, and anything else of interest (to me) in the golf world, some of which lands in my email inbox. In earlier days I wrote spoofs to poke fun at certain things. I also have interviewed many pros (see blog sidebar), many of them golf legends, as well as authors and others. My audience, as far as I can tell, is mostly men, probably middle-aged and older. This wasn’t a part of any plan, but the topics I cover and my particular voice probably attract this audience.
4. What is the most challenging element involved in running a blogging website?
Just keeping it going. Keeping up the quality. I’ve noticed that many people tend to fizzle out after a strong, inspired start on blogs and websites. They can’t sustain it. They lost interest. It’s hard. In a way, the goal has always been simple for me: just keep adding fresh content. Something of interest. My own twist. And try to have fun with it.
5. What aspect of website creation was easier than you anticipated?
The tools are great. It’s easy and not costly to launch a blog, to learn how to post images, video, etc. It’s way better than when I started in 2005. However, writing and editing solid content over time is probably harder than it looks.
6. Do you utilize contributors, or is The Armchair Golfer a one-man operation?
I do utilize contributors. It’s totally organic, when it happens. People approach and I decide if it’s a fit. They need to be able to write decently and have something to say that fits OK at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG.
7. Have you had any brushes with internet fame, or with famous golfers? Tell us about it/them.
More than I could have ever imagined. I’ve been to events as credentialed media, including majors, have interviewed many of the greats, including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, and appeared on my share of media, including Golf Channel and sports radio. My books were reviewed in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Sometimes it seems like a fairy tale.
8. How is the state of your golf game? Do you play much? Go-to shots when the match is on the line?
I recently started playing again after a fairly long absence. My game is coming back. I can walk 18 holes on a hilly Virginia golf course, and I’m no youngster. I like making the long walk. On a good scoring day I’ll break 80. I’m strictly a recreational golfer.
9. What question have we not asked about The Armchair Golfer, that you wish we had? Ask it and answer it, please.
What part of the writing process is the most important, for a writer to communicate an idea in the clearest, most efficient manner?
I’ll say always thinking of the reader and writing good, mostly simple sentences. One of my favorite writing quotes is from Larry McMurtry: “Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.”
Do you engage in social media, which would allow you to run the gamut from paper to blog to snippets? Why or why not?
Yes, I’m on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They’re good places to share and listen and converse (in a virtual way). The digital world is often strange and contrived but does seem to be so necessary for today’s writers.