Dream Gig

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Matt Kuchar and Will MacKenzie have tried to convince Mack Dalton to switch golf balls. Dustin Johnson and Rory Sabbatini have personally handed Dalton new clubs to try. Many of the recreational players who make tee times each week at GolfNow.com have done so at Dalton’s suggestion, and there’s no question that some of those players have purchased new equipment based on Dalton’s feedback.

You may not recognize the name, but if you watch a lot of golf on television, you probably know the face.

Mack Dalton is a 25-year-old actor who has found consistent work in advertisements for major golf manufacturers and retailers. He’s the kid you see in the Dick’s Sporting Goods ad, warping from the golf department into the parking lot (with Johnson) and then onto a freeway billboard (with Sabbatini). He appeared alongside Kuchar and MacKenzie in those “Bridgestone Challenge” commercials, admitting that he gained yardage over his previous golf ball. Dalton was also the ‘hack’ who couldn’t get out of the bunker in a GolfNow.com ad, and was once tapped as a tester for the Golf Digest Hot List.

Mack Dalton
Actor Mack Dalton has appeared in a variety of golf-related commercials.

If it sounds like a dream gig, well, it’s not all that it seems. It’s also not what Dalton originally had in mind for a career.

Dalton played high school golf in Orlando, “the sixth man on a five-man team,” he says with a laugh. He attended the University of Florida, which carries great significance within his family. Mack’s uncle is golf broadcaster Steve Melnyk, who was a three-time All-American at Florida, leading the Gators to their first NCAA Championship in 1968. Melnyk’s son, whose first name is Dalton, was an invited walk-on at Florida who eventually earned a scholarship under UF coach Buddy Alexander.

Despite the family connections to golf and Gainesville, Mack Dalton says he never seriously considered trying out for the Florida varsity team when he arrived on campus in the fall of 2003. “They were just too good for me,” he says, which is understandable – Coach Alexander’s roster over those years included players like Camilo Villegas, Manny Villegas, Matt Every, and Billy Horschel.

However, the lure of the game never left Dalton, who says he played golf “nearly every day” at Mark Bostick Golf Course on campus while working toward a degree in finance. Dalton says those first two years in Gainesville produced a marked improvement in his game.

“I really didn’t get to be at the level I am now until my sophomore year of college,” says Dalton, who has played a handful of USGA qualifiers and Florida State Golf Association events and now carries a scratch handicap. Perhaps spurred on by his resurgence on the course, Dalton switched his major before his junior year, moving to telecommunications and considering a career in sports broadcasting.

The new major led to on-screen roles in student film productions and freelance work off-camera with several regional sports networks, but it wasn’t until he returned home to Orlando after graduation and took acting classes that the dramatic bug bit. Dalton set aside the sportscasting dream and decided to focus on true “acting,” recently moving to Charlotte, N.C. to be closer to production hotbeds like Wilmington, N.C. and Atlanta. He’s appeared on the Discovery Health series “Dr G: Medical Examiner” – playing “the brother of a dead guy,” in his words – and has a lengthy resume in film, print and television.

Speaking of all the golf-related work that still seems to come his way, Dalton says he has no problem with it, as long as it helps further his career. “A lot of the independent films don’t pay,” he says. “You try to find a balance between things that get you where you want to go and things that pay.”

Those “things that pay” do bring some perks. For his role in the Dick’s Sporting Goods ad with Johnson and Sabbatini, Dalton was flown first class to Los Angeles and spent time during the shoot chatting with both players. He calls Johnson “very laid-back” and tells the story of DJ stopping at a kiosk near the shooting location to purchase his own copy of Phil Mickelson’s short game DVD. During shooting for the Bridgestone ad in Orlando, Dalton was also impressed with the easy familiarity of MacKenzie, who “talked about his journey from the whole snowboarding-and-living-in-a-van thing to being a professional golfer.”

Dalton’s goal is simple: “to be a working film actor.” He says he’s not driven by a need to be an A-list celebrity, but would simply like to be able to support himself and, someday, a family. He adds, “I still have a hard time telling people, ‘I’m an actor.’ A lot of the time, it seems like I’m not really doing anything. There’s work to be done, but sometimes it’s not work in the eyes of other people.”

Trading shots with the likes of Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson? Sounds like a dream gig – but as with most dreams, it takes hard work to get there.