Q&A with this month’s #PlattProfile, Ryan Smith
Smith speaks with us about his goals to transform sports technology.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Q: How old are you?
A: I am 22.
Q: What school are you currently attending?
A: I go to Drexel University.
Q: When do you graduate?
A: I graduate next September of 2023.
Q: What is your major?
A: Sports business and technology innovation management. It is a double major.
Q: How did you decide on those majors?
A: Initially, I always wanted to get into a front-office role for a sports team. At first, I was pursuing legal studies, I wanted to get into sports law because I thought contract negotiations were important. But after taking introduction business law classes I really didn’t know if it was right for me. I asked myself, “do I really want to go to law school?” I ended up starting to work for some startups that were in the field of artificial intelligence and some cool things that kind of coexisted with sports. So, I was like okay there’s this new major called technology and innovation management that basically brings to light how technology is influencing today’s society so I gave it a try. I am taking some classes now. I just did a project this week on an IoT startup. We are basically creating a false safe network so that hospitals are not vulnerable to cyber security. There have been a lot of cyber attacks so we decided to create a product that would be in place in case a hospital goes down, our network comes in place and saves lives and saves hospitals.
Q: Do you participate in activities in school? Clubs?
A: I participate in the Drexel student advisory board. We are the national honor society of the college. We pertain to just the business school. We do leadership activities, community service, and basically getting the undergraduates who come in acclimated to how the business school works and just giving them different webinars, different events on networking, and how to build up their LinkedIn. Basically, trying to help those who come after us with how to get acclimated with the school.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: Yes, so my main hobby is I run my own DJ business. I currently play at college bars in West Chester. I am also playing at Xfinity Live. I’ve opened for Diplo, DJ Pauly D, some pretty big names. It didn’t start like that. I was in band. I played the saxophone all the way from fourth grade so I was throwing away the temporary music, was marching around the field, and wanted to get more acclimated to nightlife and came across DJing in high school.
Q: What golf club do you caddie for?
A: I caddie for Bluestone Country Club.
Q: How long have you been caddying?
A: This is my fifth year at that club.
Q: How did you start caddying?
A: It was basically my dad who knew that I was interested in golf. I did The First Tee when I was a young kid and I made it up a couple of programs until the Bridie and Eagle stage. Where The First Tee is located, it wasn’t that close to where my family was so I couldn’t really go on with The First Tee program as I grew older. So, I was like how can I impact golf in a different way? My dad told me there was this golf club not too far, Bluestone Country Club, it’s about 20-30 minute drive taking 202. So, I said okay I will take a drive up there. I think my first loop there was for one of the best golfers on the course. I was pretty nervous. I had to take the test. I ended up going out with their club pro to carry the bag for a couple of holes. But, I got acclimated with the club, and it works for me, and the people are really cool, I’ve networked with them both on the course and off through LinkedIn so I really enjoy it.
Q: What is your favorite thing about caddying?
A: My favorite thing about caddying is the networking aspect. It is great to talk to people that are really successful in what they do whatever that may be. I’ve been fortunate enough to network with the ex-president of a big international media conglomerate who said he would write me a letter of recommendation. Recently, I just caddied at the BMW Pro Am and caddied for Mike Hudak who is an 8-time club champ. He works with the club down in Maryland that had the BMW last year and was fortunate enough to meet a couple of golfers like Tiger, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player. He is definitely well-connected in the space. I would say networking is a great tool and I learned that you can actually have a great conversation with the people you carry the bags for that can turn into a job offer or an opportunity you wouldn’t have thought of.
Q: How did you hear about J. Wood Platt?
A: I heard about J. Wood Platt through my caddie master. I heard that J. Wood Platt offered scholarships for college. So I was like okay I am getting the best of both things here, I am caddying, making connections, and also getting a scholarship to attend a school that frankly is a lot of money due to its private status. I am definitely fortunate enough to come hand in hand J. Wood Platt.
Q: What are your long-term goals? Think 5 to 10 years
A: I want to be an innovative and entrepreneurial thinker that helps transform sports technology. Whether it be working as a venture capitalist to invest in the future, or creating my own business or fund, I want to search for the next big thing in the world of sports. I would also like to give back to J. Wood Platt as both a donor and an alumni mentor. This scholarship has changed my life in so many ways and I would be delighted to help the future J. Wood Platt scholars excel both in their undergraduate and professional careers.
Q: What is something that happened to you while caddying that you will never forget?
A: It was the 15th hole. A dogleg left par 4 that the best golfers cut the tree line and are only 150 yards from the hole. The golfer I was paired up with hooked his tee shot and ended up in thick rough. He told me “Ryan, you are going to want to get this on video.” He asked for the driver out of the rough. He took some practice swings out of the rough and I made sure to take a couple of steps back just in case. He shanked the ball and it literally went two feet. We both laughed about it. While we both knew that was not the best club selection, it was more about the relationship we formed and the fun times we shared during the round than the precise decision-making golf requires.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self as a caddie or a new caddie just starting?
A: I would take the initiative of finding ways to differentiate yourself as a caddie. With other caddies having a family member in the club or having more years under their belt and being recognized with a different colored bib, it is easy to get discouraged that I will not ever get to that level. Whether it be showing up earlier than the other caddies or taking loops that no other caddie wants to have, it will not only build your confidence and self-esteem, but it will show your caddie master that you are determined and dedicated to helping out.
Q: How has J. Wood Platt changed your life?
A: From the numerous banquets, networking events through the EMPOWER program, and capping it off with caddying in the BMW Championship Pro-Am, these experiences have made me grow as a caddie and individual. I have been able to talk with colleagues from the caddie to the professional golf and business executive level, thereby, allowing me to receive invaluable mentorship from people at different points in their life. Not only has it helped me financially and pushed me to be a better student at Drexel, but I have made friends and developed relationships with people that I would have never met if it were not for J. Wood Platt.
J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust
The J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust was created in 1958 and is the charitable arm of GAP (Golf Association of Philadelphia). The J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust’s mission is to financially aid and empower qualified caddies and those working in golf operations in the pursuit of higher education. Along with aiding caddies financially, J. Wood Platt’s EMPOWER program strengthens scholarship investment dollars by providing caddies with exceptional benefits and leadership training through access to the wide network of J. Wood Platt donors and alumni. To date, more than 3,700 young men and women have received $25 million in aid from the Trust.