Meet the man whose golf art adorns thousands of living rooms

The Scoop

Lee Wybranski is the artist behind the iconic posters at all the major championships. As his image is snapped up off Open shop shelves at Carnoustie this week, he talked to Steve Carroll

It might strike you as odd – people tweeting pictures of their living rooms and offices – but Lee Wybranksi loves it.

They are images of walls adorned with his work, the major championship posters that have become as collectable as a rare hickory or a weathered old Haskell.

In the art world, this is probably about as rock star as its gets.

Wybranksi’s work has become iconic, his style as instantly recognisable to golf fans as Andy Warhol’s is to pop art.

A popular poster can shift as many as 8,000 units at an Open – and mail order boosts those numbers even further.

But what gives Arizona-based Wybranski a real kick is not the numbers sold, or the prestigious commissions, it’s the emotions his paintings bring out in those who flock to snap up his latest design.

“It is extremely gratifying,” he said. “If you’re an artist your main vanity is to find an audience that enjoys your work. To know that the work is enjoyed by thousands of people every year is just a thrill.

“I sit at the US Open and customer after customer comes up and tells me the story about where they were when they bought their first and how many they have.

“A lot of people collect them year after year and it’s just wonderful. To know that your work is hanging on walls all around the world is more than you could hope for – for someone who does what I do.”

Wybranski’s first commission came for Winged Foot more than two decades ago. His studio started working with the USGA in 2003 – designing the US Open logos – and he lobbied each year for a shot at working on the championship poster.

The first break in that field came in 2005 when his design for the Walker Cup at Chicago Golf Club was very well received.

And the first US Open poster came three years later at Torrey Pines. Yes, THAT US Open.

Tiger Woods

Did the stars align for Wybranski? His first year producing the image for the toughest major came as Tiger Woods limped round California on one leg and won what is arguably the most memorable of his 14 championships.

Whether that was coincidence or not, the GOAT’S exploits helped seal the artist’s place as the poster producer.

“I didn’t know what to expect and we just had a runaway success that year. It really blew my mind the degree of popularity of the poster.”

To this day, people still buy it.

Now he does posters for all four of the majors, as well as the Ryder Cup, and the preparation that goes into each is immense.

“Typically I will visit the site six to 10 months in advance and sometimes more,” Wybranski explained.

“I will spend a day or two touring the course, usually with either the superintendent or one of the golf professionals – occasionally a member – with a camera and a sketchbook.

“I’ll spend two days doing fieldwork, just gathering ideas, impressions and images and then I will go back to the studio.

“Usually, I’ll generate three different concepts to present to the client, with one recommendation. Typically, the client will go with my recommendation.

“We might do a few revisions and tweaks back and forth but once I have approval on the layout I will begin work on the actual painting.

“Depending on the level of detail, that will take anywhere between 40 and 60-ish hours to execute and once the painting is complete we send that to press and print the posters.

“Calendar-wise it is usually six to 12 months (in total).”

Wybranski’s depiction of Carnoustie, an aerial view of the 6th hole and the famous Hogan’s Alley, is classical and destined to do well this week.

But with Paris and Le Golf National just a few weeks away, Wybranksi said we should expect something novel when his Ryder Cup poster is finally unveiled.

“It’s going to be a bit of a departure, I am happy to say.

“I like doing what I do – in terms of imagery – and a lot of it is very recognisable. People say me you can tell that it is mine the moment that you see it.

“But I sort of floated an idea, for the Ryder Cup, that was a little bit more out of the box and they decided to give it a try.

“We are going to be making something that is going to look a little bit different than what people are used to seeing.

“I am very excited about it.”

To see more of Wybranski’s work, visit his website.

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