Michael Bisceglie was one of America’s most sought-after wildlife photographers in the early 1990s, flying all over the world photographing exotic animals in their natural habitat, when Golf Digest reached out.
Would Bisceglie be interested in photographing golf? The Vermont resident was flattered but told them had never been in a golf cart, much less photographed a tournament. The magazine was undeterred, telling him they could teach him the nuances of the game.
In 1994 with Golf Digest as a major sponsor, Bisceglie became the official photographer of the World Amateur Handicap Championship and the rest is history.
Now entering his 29th World Am, Bisceglie long ago outlasted Golf Digest (and numerous other sponsors) and is the event’s longest tenured staff member. He’s had a front row seat for hurricanes, dramatic finishes and meltdowns of all types.
If it’s happened at the World Am, Bisceglie, who has spent time in the savannas of Africa photographing some of the world’s most fearsome predators, has chronicled it. He is responsible for nearly every image associated with the tournament and has been for nearly three decades.
“I view myself as a historian with a very fancy camera more than a photographer,” he said. “I have worked in over 55 different countries but put the World Am very high on my list of favorites assignments.”
Bisceglie earned those assignments due to his skill behind the lens and an unrelenting work ethic, because there is a lot that goes into getting a great shot. At the heart of nearly every great photo is emotion and capturing those moments requires immense preparation, anticipation and patience.
Photographing the tournament is easier now than it was in 1994, when Bisceglie had to make daily trips to a photo lab and few people saw his work until the following year’s participant guide was unveiled. Digital photography has delivered immediacy in the form of daily photo galleries, but the technological advances haven’t shortened his workdays, which typically span 19 hours.
Bisceglie rises each day of the tournament at 4 a.m., enjoys a cup of coffee and begins planning his day. He pours over flight schedules with the goal of capturing action from two or three courses.
With the schedule finalized, Bisceglie loads up his Subaru with a camera that takes 12 shots per second and heads to the course. After returning to the hotel between 1 and 2 p.m., he immediately begins processing the pictures – there are approximately 3,500 taken each day – selecting the best of the best for the daily photo gallery players enjoy.
After working through the on-course action, it’s off to the World’s Largest 19th Hole before processing more photos until it’s time to go to bed at 11 p.m.
It’s an exhausting but invigorating week.
“I start thinking about the event every February when I have about 10 feet of snow in the Vermont mountains,” Bisceglie says. “When July rolls around, I start my pre-tournament workouts getting ready for the long workdays and nights.”
Over the years, Bisceglie’s camera has taken him places he could’ve never imagined but even as he decided to cut back on his workload, the tournament is the one assignment he hasn’t been able to quit.
“The World Am brings people together and to me that is what makes it so great,” he said. “Every year new friendships are made and old ones are renewed, and that is as good as it gets.”