Pittsfield native producing a quick rise to big TV role
Dominic Dastoli has learned countless lessons about life and golf from his father, Pontoosuc Lake Country Club head professional Bob Dastoli. One lesson has paid off even more than the swing tips that helped turn him into a three-time All-Eagle golfer at Taconic High School.
"The whole thing about Pops is that he always had a job he loved," Dom said. "I think I have been encouraged by seeing the passion he had. It's something he stressed to me: You can get a job that you love."
The 29-year-old has spent the last six-plus years carving out an enviable career at the Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla. Considering he's loved golf since being introduced to it at age 5, things couldn't have worked out better.
Dastoli quickly worked his way up from newsroom "grunt" to being the Golf Channel's young est pro ducer. He is in charge of the channel's popular Top-10 series and is currently working on a major documentary on golf legends Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
"I have pride and passion for what I am doing, and that comes from my dad," he said.
As with the golf swing, good timing can also help, and Dastoli was in the right place at the right time when covering a mini-tour event in New England in the summer of 2005. He ran into the wife of Golf Channel news director Dave Taylor and asked her if could visit the channel's studios when he was in Orlando in November reporting on the PGA Tour qualifying school.
"She said that all she could do was give me a tour," he said. "But I was introduced to Dave during my visit and he hired me on the spot."
While being hired that quickly is highly unusual, Dastoli had a few things going for him. The 2005 University of Connecticut graduate had already built up a strong portfolio covering golf for The Eagle starting in 2004 and had created his own website that focused on golf in the Berkshires. He also owns a personality that creates a positive first impression.
"He brought golf back to the forefront with The Eagle after [former sports editor] Bob McDonough left the paper," said longtime Country Club of Pittsfield head professional Brad Benson. "He did a great job covering the entire local golf scene."
Dastoli also worked for Benson during the summer.
"Dom was a great kid and a really hard worker," Benson said. "He was always upbeat and personable. He's really one of the best employees I've ever had."
Dad Dastoli believes two things would have been evident to Taylor immediately.
"Dom has a tremendous love and respect for the game and he really is a people person," Bob said.
Those sentiments are echoed by his boss, Paul Schlegel, Golf Channel's senior director of original productions.
"A great word to describe Dom is self-motivated," Schlegel said. "His passion for what he does is contagious and his energy is boundless. He has used that passion to develop the Top-10 series into one of the most successful original programs the Golf Channel produces. ... People love to work with him because of his energy and positive attitude and those are important attributes of a leader."
After returning home following his hiring and spending the holidays with his family in Pittsfield, Dastoli started his new job in January 2006.
"At the beginning, I was a newsroom production assistant, which is as low as you can go, but I loved what I was doing," Dastoli said.
His Berkshire connections helped him discover the job that suited him best.
"The first feature I did was on [former Pittsfield High star and current professional golfer] Matt Donovan," Dastoli recalled. "The story was on PGA Tour Monday qualifying and they sent me to two tournaments with a cameraman. I loved it and decided ‘this is what I want to do,' so I looked to get out of the day-to-day stuff and into producing."
Shortly thereafter he landed his current role with the Top-10 series and has now produced 120 of the 30-minute shows in six years.
"It's Golf Channel's No. 1 show," said his proud papa. "It's interesting to watch. It's informative and entertaining."
With subjects that run the gamut of golf's rich history, it plays right into Dastoli's upbringing.
"My dad and I are a couple of golf junkies," Dastoli said. "We had all the historical golf books at home. My college roommates used to quiz me on the all the winners of the majors. History is my thing."
"His interest in the history of golf, combined with his ability to tell great stories through his writing, is the key to the success of the Top-10 series," Schlegel said.
Dastoli is definitely in his element studying Snead, Nelson and Hogan for a documentary that coincides with the 100th anniversary of their births.
"I was just doing some research on Snead and his career stands the test of time more than anyone," said Dastoli, his enthusiasm for the subject obvious over the phone. "His career stretches from before the New Deal until after Ronald Reagan took office. He even doubles [Jack] Nicklaus' [longevity.]"
Asked what would surprise Golf Channel viewers the most about his job, Dastoli doesn't hesitate.
"It's amazing how much time goes into producing these shows. We are doing 21 Top-10 shows this year. We started in July and it's a 10-month project to get them all done."
The 1912 documentary offers a different kind of challenge.
"With the Top-10 shows, each segment is just 90 seconds to 2 minutes long. With an hour-long documentary, you can expand on the great stories in their individual careers. I tell people that right now I feel like I am spending more time in 1912 than 2012."
And loving it!
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Dastoli's Top-10 show favorites
Dominic Dastoli has produced 120 Top-10 shows for the Golf Channel. Here are his favorite five and why they are special to him.
1. Seve Ballesteros highlights: The man is my true golfing hero. I knew for about a year that I would be producing this show, and poured through several biographies on him. I love his enthusiasm for the game, and for life. I put all of my heart into this one.
2. Tom Watson British Open moments: I had the opportunity to interview him for an hour for this show. I had interviewed him once before, and it didn't go well. I was unprepared and made assumptions that he didn't appreciate. So, for this second interview, I prepared extensively and it paid off. He's the only player that (unknowingly) pushed me to be better at my job. After the interview, I wanted to make this show as good as possible, because I thought he deserved my best work.
3. Players without a major: I have a strong empathy for players who never realize their potential. This show struck a chord with me.
4. Jack Nicklaus highlights: It was great to tell stories about the greatest player who ever lived.
5. Byron Nelson highlights: No player ever gave so much of himself to so many others. Mr. Nelson is truly the game's greatest gentleman. So much of this show was about the care he showed for other people, not just birdies and bogeys. It inspired me to be a better person.
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