SantoSports Interview: Q&A with Slaying the Tiger author Shane Ryan
By Peter Santo
Earlier this year, Golf Digest writer and author Shane Ryan released a book in which he covered life on the PGA Tour for the “young guns” during the 2014 season. The books focuses on the “next big things” in golf following the reign of Tiger Woods.
The novel became very controversial following its publication, especially around the cheating scandal of Patrick Reed and his relationship with his college coaches at both the University of Georgia and Augusta State University as well as Ryan’s portrayal of Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. Some people, like Golf Channel’s Damon Hack, had rave reviews for the book. While others, such as Golf Channel’s Paige Mackenzie, had less than stellar reviews.
I asked Ryan about Reed’s scandal, Mackenzie’s remarks, and more in the interview below:
Peter Santo: What inspired you to write the novel?
Shane Ryan: The opportunity to write the book came about because a book agent contacted me about golf writing, and I’ve always wanted to write a book. He helped me put the proposal together, and everything happened from there. It was very lucky.
Peter Santo: Something that jumped out at me while reading was the vivid description you were able to write from just spending a small amount of time with the players. How were you able to do that?
Shane Ryan: I think a good thing to remember for any writer is that small moments can be rich with meaning, and you don’t necessarily have to spend days and days with somebody to have insight into their character—although, of course, more time is always better when you can get it. But there is always something to be gleaned, even in a short period.
Peter Santo: I assume you saw Paige Mackenzie’s remarks on Morning Drive. Do you have a response to her comments?
Shane Ryan: Paige and I disagree about the role of journalism as it pertains to public figures. From her statement, my reading of the situation is that she thinks private lives of public figures should be off limits to journalists. I believe the opposite—when the private lives influence the public life, as they almost always do, I think it’s a legitimate ground for investigation. I’m happy that free speech laws in America support my viewpoint and not hers.
Peter Santo: How did you go about covering the controversial Patrick Reed story to ensure you had spoken to all involved and gotten the full story as much as possible?
Shane Ryan: You have to contact as many people as seems reasonable. Every writer probably approaches this differently. It’s obviously impossible to be in touch with everyone your subject has ever known, and even if they were accessible, time and resource restrictions make it impractical. So everyone has to find their own line, and then, of course, it’s up to the reader to judge whether the journalist has done enough work to present a complete profile.
Peter Santo: What is the one thing the average fan may not recognize on TV but is very apparent when attending events week to week?
Shane Ryan: I think it can be hard for people to see that life on Tour is something of a traveling circus. To greater and lesser degrees, players are very much under the spotlight, and golf, despite its leisurely pace, is a high-pressure game for them. It can be very stressful to lead that life, and there’s not always a lot of freedom to be found—from the course, from the strain, from the media, from sponsor obligations, and etc. It’s a lucrative way to live, but not necessarily an easy one.
Peter Santo: Have you been scolded by Augusta National Golf Club about your comments in the book?
Shane Ryan: They have not reached out to me, and I expect that they won’t.
Peter Santo: If you could start the entire process of writing the book over again, what, if anything, would you change?
Shane Ryan: I learned quite a bit from the process of writing my first published book. Overall, I think I could have been far more efficient in how I wrote and edited the book, but of course there was no way for me to know any of this before having done it. In that sense, I don’t have any regrets—the book is an accurate representation of who I am and what I wanted to write, and the minor missteps will only help me in the future, or so I hope.