Q&A with David Lipsky
Northwestern alum dishes on eclectic food adventures, globetrotting ethos, Las Vegas and more
May 21, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- David Lipsky recorded a top-10 in his first Korn Ferry Tour start of the season in Panama. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
David Lipsky is letting golf be his passport to the world – and he’s been collecting stamps at an impressive clip.
Lipsky, who has won twice on the European Tour, is making his second foray on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020. The first was in 2013 when he played 14 events. He played the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in 2013.
The Northwestern alum notched a T10 at the Panama Championship, his first Korn Ferry Tour event of the season and career-best Tour result – but when Lipsky isn’t honing his craft, he’s exploring the world of food.
The 31-year-old spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about seeing the world, golf at Northwestern, and what a deep-fried spider tastes like.
When did you first get started with golf, and when did you realize you could transfer those skills into an actual career in the game?
I started playing when I was really young – 3 or 4. I started to play junior golf (tournaments) around 10. I was always an ‘OK’ junior and amateur player – maybe slightly above average. In college I kept improving every year, and in my fourth year I won the Big Ten Championship. I was debating whether or not to stay for a fifth year, because I had another year of eligibility, or to leave school and take a job. My coach talked me into staying, and I worked on my game for one more year and I became an All-American the next year, and my coach was like, ‘You have to turn pro, dude.’ And I was like, ‘Screw it,’ and I gave it shot (laughs).
When I was going to school, I didn’t have huge aspirations to become a professional golfer, funny enough. It’s something every kid dreams of, but at a certain point … I had an Asian mom and a Jewish father, so I was going to be a banker or a doctor (laughs). I was looking at a few other schools. I was looking at schools in southern California, Ivy League schools on the East Coast, and (Northwestern) was a blend of great academics and great athletics as well. I went on my visit and I fell in love with Chicago and the campus and the coach – who I still consider to be one of my mentors to this day. It was a perfect combination of everything.
You played on the European Tour and won twice, but more than that you got to explore the world as a young man. What was that part of the experience like for you?
Without getting into too many details, it was fun (laughs). Honestly it was the experience of a lifetime. Pretty much since 2012 when I first started playing professionally, other than 2013 on the Korn Ferry Tour, I’ve been traveling over 30 weeks a year internationally and I don’t know too many people that do that, especially Americans. I had a crazy travel schedule. I’ve made friends on every continent in the world. I’ve been to places, seen places, experienced things that I’ve never even thought I would experience or things that would even exist to be honest. The U.S. is a little bubble and once you get out of there … it’s a big, big world. There are a lot of things I’ve enjoyed seeing and learning and experiencing.David Lipsky won the 2018 Alfred Dunhill Championship by two shots over David Drysdale. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
I’ve heard you are the Anthony Bourdain of professional golf.
(Laughs) A little bit. Everywhere I go, especially with the Tour, I’m always looking for restaurants to try, foods to eat, and I always try to bring my friends along with me. My whole family is in the restaurant industry so it’s something that’s really dear to me. I’ve always been very adventurous with food. I remember eating street food in Bangkok to super nice sushi in Tokyo, to pasta shops in Italy … the list goes on and on. I’ll eat anything. I’ve eaten Michelin three-star foods and I’ve eaten bugs.
Where did you eat bugs?
A couple of places: Thailand and Cambodia.
What did they taste like?
I’ve had silkworms, grasshopper … spider. I ate a spider once.
You ate a spider?
Yeah, a deep-friend tarantula. It tasted like a potato chip.
Did your brother work in a kitchen with a Michelin star before?
He’s just starting a new restaurant in southern California, just outside L.A. But he worked at two Michelin three-star restaurants (Note: this is the generally accepted worldwide ranking system for top restaurants. Three Michelin stars are the most a restaurant can receive, and Michelin three-star restaurants are often considered the best in the world). He’s worked at Alinea in Chicago and The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, California.
When I went to school in Chicago, there was a donor who was a member at one of the clubs who I am still very good friends with to this day, Nick Kokonas, and he is the co-owner of Alinea and the Alinea Group. Through him, I got my brother the job there – it was an unpaid internship – they loved him there. He took a job there. I like to meet people who are interesting, exciting, and doing cool things and Nick, at the time, owned the No. 1 restaurant in the world so I thought that was pretty sweet.
You live in Las Vegas – are there spots that stand out?
There are so many good restaurants in Vegas. The food is great but it’s not necessarily the most interesting or avant-garde. It’s more … solid food and a lot of fun. Yellowtail at the Bellagio is amazing. Carbone at the Aria. I love Prime Streak. Those are probably my favorites.
What drew you to wanting to set up a home base in Vegas?
I was hopping between L.A. and Chicago before I moved to Vegas – mostly in L.A. and it’s great, but I needed more pros around and friends around who played golf to really push me. The competition when you’re at home and practicing with friends is really important to help keep you sharp. I needed that balance between having that, and I’m not a Jupiter (Florida) guy, I’m a West Coast guy. I needed that. I wanted some excitement. I’m not good with suburbia, so that took a lot of places where golfers normally go to off my list. My friend Alex Kang, who is now my roommate, he moved to Vegas and he was like, ‘Dude, you should check out Vegas,’ so I came out there and I loved it. It helped me sharpen my game and embrace a fun lifestyle.David Lipsky won the 2014 Omega European Masters in a playoff over Graeme Storm. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
A lot of people have bucket-list golf courses. Do you have bucket-list restaurants?
There are a few, definitely. The one I wish I had gone to is a place in Spain called elBulli (It was named the best restaurant in the world in 2002 and 2006-2009). It’s shut down but it’s where all the great chefs of this era trained. I haven’t been to Eleven Madison Park in New York City (named the best restaurant in the world in 2017), but I really want to go. There’s a place in Los Angeles I’m planning on going to called Vespertine.
In Sweden, there was this place I really wanted to go to called Faviken, but it was just closed last year. It sounded like me – a huge Viking just cooking meat on a spit in the middle-of-nowhere, Sweden. That sounded awesome. I want to go to this restaurant in Italy, Osteria Francescana (named the best restaurant in the world in 2016 and 2018). The guy is doing amazing Italian food. I saw a video about him and he had these high school kids come in to the restaurant and there were these Italian grandmothers and they were teaching the kids how to make traditional pasta. I think things like that are awesome. Being able to travel the world and meet people and see these things through golf has been amazing. I’ve been super grateful.