Beginning on page 40, you'll find the second installment of our three-part series on the golf boom. This week's stories were written by three SI senior writers who were hooked (as it were) by the game long ago. E.M. Swift started playing when he was 10, at the ancient (1895) Onwentsia Club near Chicago; Rick Reilly first stepped up to a tee when he was 14, at the Flatirons Golf Club in Boulder, Colo.; and John Garrity started swatting balls in his backyard when he was five, before moving on to play at Swope Memorial in Kansas City, at age 10. But not everyone who worked on the series acquired his knowledge of golf through childhood immersion in the game.
Senior editor Sarah Ballard has shepherded the 70-page package through from tee to green, a six-month process that has involved 13 assigned photographers and six reporters, in addition to the three big hitters who did the writing. And what of Ballard's golf game? "I can't honestly say that I have a game," she says. No handicap? "If I had a handicap—well, maybe I can't have a handicap, because they probably don't give as many strokes as I'd need."
So she has never played? "That is not true," says Ballard. "An average of once a year for the last 20 years, I have played the nine-hole course called Highland Links in North Truro, Mass., on Cape Cod. It looks like a real Scottish links course set on a bluff above the Atlantic, and the wind blows like hell. It's laid out beside the Highland Light, which is the oldest lighthouse on the Cape."
Ballard does have her own clubs—a $40 starter set she bought "a long time ago." The strongest element of her game? Says Ballard, "The only coaching tip I seem to remember is, 'Take it back slowly.' And that is what I would say I am best at—taking it back ve-e-ery slowly. I also use the Vardon grip, but I don't know why."
So what she brings to our golf coverage is not a classic swing or a low handicap but rather a journalistic fascination with the sport that has included everything from foot-slogging tournament reporting to graceful feature writing to her current role as the editor who oversees our golf coverage. "I have always loved the history that goes with the game," she says. "And I have had the opportunity to see all the best golfers of the past 25 years." She has also made friends with many of them through writing stories about Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Nick Faldo, to name a few.
Ballard has covered many sports for the magazine, including three America's Cup campaigns. "But golf," she says, "is the sport I like best."
When she's covering golf, Ballard is a scratch player.