Golf's poster child

Posted: June 14, 2013

THE 2008 U.S. OPEN at Torrey Pines provided the golf world with a plethora of iconic images. Fans will remember Tiger Woods limping around the Southern California course, and draining the lengthy putt on the 18th hole to set up a playoff.

But there was another image that came from Torrey Pines. It was the official U.S. Open poster that was designed by Lee Wybranski that highlighted the scenery of the course. The poster also highlighted Wybranski and his talents.

"In 2008, I was given the opportunity to create my first U.S. Open poster for the Open at Torrey Pines," Wybranski said. "It was one of those perfect storms. It was one of the best images I have ever made. It was also one of the more legendary U.S. Open's, with Tiger pulling it out on one leg in a playoff. Usually, if there is a golf course that I really want to play, I almost always play my worst games. This was the biggest opportunity I had ever had in my career up until that point, and fortunately I created an image that was one of my favorites."

He has been the man in charge of creating the posters for every U.S. Open since, with the exception of 2010 at Pebble Beach, because Pebble has its own marketing department. That includes this year's poster at Merion, which hits close to home for Wybranski.

The 44-year-old grew up in Havertown, just 2 miles from Merion. He spent his early days drawing.

"I was just always drawing as a kid," Wybranski said. "I was usually drawing Batman and Spiderman. I was really into comic books when I was a kid. I just drew a little bit better than some of the other kids, so I used to get a little extra attention for them, and everybody likes that. I kept on getting compliments on the drawings, so I just kept drawing."

Wybranski, who didn't have much opportunity to take art courses in elementary or high school, decided to major in art history at Syracuse.

"I went to 12 years of Catholic school, which actually didn't have much of an art program," he said. "So when it came time for college, I figured that I had been hearing what a talented artist I was my entire childhood, so I decided to pursue art."

After college, Wybranski returned to Philadelphia to pursue an artistic career. He started a small design studio that was located on Walnut Street in Center City. He remained at that location for 15 years, before moving to Flagstaff, Ariz.

"We do logo and brand development, printed materials, fine arts commissioned posters, but the U.S. Open posters are the thing that I have become widely known for," Wybranski said.

"A major pivot point in my career was in the 2002 U.S. Senior Open," he said. "From 1995 to 2002, all of my clients were private golf clubs. One of my earliest clients was Caves Valley Golf Course outside of Baltimore. In 2002, Caves was hosting the U.S. Senior Open, and because of our already good relationship, they brought me in to do the poster for the Senior Open. That was my first introduction to a USGA event, and the USGA in general."

Wybranski's career only took off from there. From 2002 to '08, he worked with the USGA, regularly designing U.S. Open logos. He has had a hand in every U.S. Open logo since 2004, with the exception of 2005 at Pinehurst, and 2010 at Pebble Beach.

It was 2008 with Torrey Pines that Wybranski really garnered national attention. He has been doing the Open posters ever since, and has his own unique style for them.

"I take a lot of inspiration from the classic poster era of the 1920s and '30s, and I try really hard to focus on two or three main characters in my posters," Wybranski said. "I don't want the posters to depend on detail for their impact. I like them to depend on a bold composition. I want you to be able to see them from across the room and know what you are looking at."

Wybranski said it wasn't too difficult to design the poster for the 2013 Open.

"With this year's Open coming to Merion, it was a foregone conclusion that the wicket basket was going to be the focal point of the poster," Wybranski said. "The question was what were the background and one or two other elements going to be in the poster. Everyone loves the clubhouse at Merion, so I was inclined to try to figure out how to work that in."

He even had to return to his hometown roots to gather more information about which way he wanted to go with the final product.

"After spending a couple days shooting out there, I was reminded about how I always have been intrigued by the quarry holes," Wybranski added. "The finishing stretch that plays across the quarry three times is such a cool feature of the golf course. I thought the quarry would be a nice element to be in the background."

His poster could end up, once again, being an iconic image. Let's hope the golf lives up to it.

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