Early Arrival

Ryan Young hasn’t been at his dream job long, but he’s already a photographer to watch

The Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, food porn and a layoff: It’s all part of Ryan Young’s sort of traditional, sort of weird road to his dream job as a staff photographer for the PGA Tour. 

Young came up in the 1990s in Toledo, Ohio. (“Go Mudhens. We’re the original goofy minor league baseball team name; all the others are just posers.”) He describes himself as a typical Midwest suburban sports-obsessed kid. Except for golf. He thought it was “boring and stupid,” but his father was a big fan and kept pushing the game on him. Finally, they went to the LPGA’s Jamie Farr Kroger Classic up the road at Highland Meadows Golf Club. Something clicked. 

“A week later I told my dad I wanted to go golfing,” Young says. “At the same time, Tiger was blowing up, so suddenly golf became cool.”

He started down the same path of many who end up with careers in golf: working in the cart barn of his local course, making extra money caddying, and playing whenever he could, including on his high school team. 

At Ohio University, Young indulged his other passion. He earned a photojournalism degree from the School of Visual Comunication in 2012 and set off to The Columbus Dispatch to chase his dream of becoming a sports photographer. He was fired up and ready to go—and they started him at the food magazine. 

“It actually turned out to be cool,” he said. “I got a bunch of free food.”

He asked to shoot the Memorial Tournament every year when it came through town, and 

he finally got to do it when he transitioned to the sports department. Then, of course, came the layoffs.

For Young, it turned out to be serendipitous. He landed a job in the PGA Tour’s photography department, shooting everything from event setups to hospitality areas to tournament action to, yes, food in the clubhouse. He has grown into the job, and now his unique action photos regularly grace the pages of the Tour’s many media channels. 

His eye for the sort of weird, sort of traditional shot is becoming a trademark. 

“So many of the photos I admire are when a photographer finds their own spot,” he says. “A professor gave me a great piece of advice: If you’re ever in a spot with a bunch of other photographers, you should probably move. What’s the point of getting the same thing as everyone else?”—Travis Hill