This TravisMathew executive takes his brand’s work-hard-play-hard ethos to heart

TravisMathew VP, Product Ben Donnelly has a dreamy gig.

Courtesy of TravisMathew

Every job in golf is a good job. But some gigs — like TravisMathew’s product VP (below) — make us especially envious! To browse more Best Jobs in Golf, click each link here: USGA Museum Curator | TaylorMade content creator | Luxury helicopter pilot | Titleist club builder | Superintendent’s dog Course designer Gold Putter Vault guardian | Social media content creator | St. Andrews Starter | Callaway equipment innovator | Course photographer

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Ben Donnelly’s Southern California workdays often start with an early-morning surf session off Huntington Beach. In the summer months especially, those same days might end with a quick nine holes at Huntington Club.

In between, though, is where Donnelly does his best work, in his role as product VP for TravisMathew, a hard-charging lifestyle and golf apparel brand.

Among Donnelly’s primary duties are culling through thousands of apparel design options for upcoming seasons (spring 2024 is now on the docket) and honing in on what will make the cut into the brand’s retail, wholesale and e-comm offerings.

Nice work if you can get it, eh? Donnelly agrees.

“It’s a pretty good balance that I have thus far of really doing the things I love, as well as making sure that we’re grinding, and we’re really competitive, and making sure that we’re staying ahead of the competition,” he said the other day by phone. “I think that work and play mentality is really a lot of what our company is about.”

Donnelly always wanted to work in the surf world, and started his professional career as an analyst at Oakley after graduating from the University of San Diego.

Ben Donnelly in his element. Courtesy of TravisMathew

Years later, an informal interview with TravisMathew CEO Travis Brasher went well, and Donnelly came aboard in 2015.

As an apparel brand founded in the surfing hotspot of Huntington Beach, TravisMathew made immediate waves in the golf world with its surf-and-skate-inspired vibe, which Donnelly says was important to him on a personal level.

After playing golf with his father as a child, Donnelly stopped playing as a teenager because he preferred surfing and skating. But heading back out to the course in his 20s was a revelation.

“I went out, and it was, like, wait, OK, don’t have to worry about my score,” he recalled. “I’m going to be outside for four hours, have a couple drinks and be competitive with my friends. Golf’s the best sport ever. And so that’s where it just completely shifted. TravisMathew, too, really embodied that, where we’re not just a golf brand, we’re this incredible lifestyle brand with incredible people.”

That inclusivity is one of the brand’s core tenets.

“I think at TravisMathew, again, something we’re going to try to really maintain, is being respectful to the game of golf and really bring that fun and welcoming environment. We’ve always kind of said it as a brand that we’re throwing a party and you’re invited. We want to make sure everybody feels welcome, and hopefully that comes through with our marketing, with our product, with our retail stores. I think golf’s got a really bright future, and it’s just going to get younger and bring more people in.”

Another appealing aspect of Donnelly’s job is the opportunity to travel. It’s not uncommon for the team to take recon trips to Hawaii to soak in a future season’s design theme. Peru is another frequent destination, usually two to three times a year, because that’s where TravisMathew sources its cotton.

One of the unique aspects of TravisMathew is its reach in terms of lifestyle appeal. Jon Rahm is the highest-profile face of the brand on the golf side, but numerous other ambassadors in the world of sport and entertainment — tennis’ James Blake, the NFL’s Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo and actor Chris Pratt, to name a few — make the brand both inclusive and well-rounded.

One of many pinch-me moments on the job for Donnelly was the opportunity to get to know a childhood hero, pro surfer Josh Kerr. Soon after their meeting, Kerr became a brand ambassador, too — and one of Donnelly’s closest friends.

“That was just pretty surreal,” he said. “The relationships we build with our ambassadors are really authentic.”

What’s next for Donnelly and TravisMathew? In the apparel world, you’re always looking forward, and Donnelly is no exception.

“I think what’s really exciting about our brand is it’s this very customer-first mentality,” he said. “Understanding what they need, while also making sure we’re progressing and pushing them forward, is something that is really exciting to me.”

It goes without saying that he’ll be having fun doing it.

Golf.com Photographer

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.