There was option 1A, the pipedream that meant fighting for sponsorships, potential financial insecurity, and overall uncertainty.
There was also option 1B. This one promised a bit more stability. After all, he’d interviewed at a similar company before. He knew the possibility—and the security—was there.
“I was always thinking about golf when I was at work,” Simone says with a laugh. “I needed to somehow get it into my daily life.”
This past fall, Simone was promoted from Senior Research Engineer at golf equipment manufacturer PING to Manager of Innovation.
1B it was.
You never know who you might come across or what might influence you in a way that you never really thought was possible.Matt Simone, Manager of Innovation, PING
Simone grew up near Pittsburgh. He’d played sports as a kid—baseball and hockey mostly—but didn’t get serious about golf until his first year at North Allegheny High School. Around the same time, he took a physiology class and realized he “really enjoyed medicine.” Both his parents were physical education teachers, “so sports performance and biomechanics were always of real interest to me,” he says.
As he moved through high school, his golf game steadily improved. Running parallel to his maturing golf game was his burgeoning interest in how the human body works. This interest evolved into a curiosity about biomedical engineering. So much so that when his senior year rolled around, his post-graduation path was all but crystalized.
“I was looking for a school where I could play golf and do good engineering,” Simone says. “I didn’t necessarily plan on staying in Pittsburgh. It just so happened that a world-class engineering program was in my backyard.”
He met with Carnegie Mellon’s then-head golf coach, Richard Erdelyi, and the fit was perfect. Academically, he quickly discovered an interest in materials sciences, specifically the connection between biomaterials and tissue engineering, and his penchant for biotechnology.
After four years, he graduated with degrees in materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering. He also possessed a golf game that had grown by leaps and bounds. He moved to Baltimore to enroll in Johns Hopkins’ biomaterials graduate program, still in pursuit of a biomedical career. He kept golfing as well, winning a few Baltimore-area tournaments.
“Unfortunately, 2008, when I came out of grad school, was basically the worst time to come out,” Simone says. “Nobody, especially in the startup biomed game, was really hiring.”
He interviewed for a few biomed positions, but nothing panned out. He eventually was hired as a product engineer at ATI, a Pittsburgh-based specialty metals supplier. “Obviously it’s not medical at all,” Simone quips. That didn’t mean he wasn’t well-prepared and highly capable. It simply meant using more of his materials science degree than he’d planned.
He started his career, continued to golf, and got to a point where he was happy with what he had—a great boss, a great company—but was starting to “lose focus a little bit.”
“I knew someone who I’d golfed with growing up who’d turned professional,” Simone says. “I asked myself ‘Well, do I look like that?’”
Hello options 1A and 1B.
Newly married, he spent a lot of time talking with his wife about his ideas and options. Still unsure which direction to go, he applied to fill an opening at PING. It made sense because the work he was doing at ATI—searching for innovations to make steel and titanium perform better—was wholly applicable to the golf industry. He flew to PING’s Phoenix headquarters to interview, an experience that “changed the game for me.”
“The entire engineering department was a bunch of men and women who were like me and thought about golf 100 percent of the time,” says Simone. “They were obsessed. They were junkies on it. It was like ‘This is where I belong.’”
The fact that his wife grew up in northern Arizona made their decision that much more apparent. He was offered and accepted the job as a senior research engineer. He was responsible for exploring new metal innovations and manufacturing processes to create higher performing golf clubs. His recent promotion moved him to the head of his department where he leads the search for unrecognized materials and manufacturing processes to bolster PING’s hard-good lines—drivers and woods down to wedges and putters.
He learned the importance—and fun—of searching for the unrecognized while at CMU.
“My freshmen dorm was full of people doing things that I never even thought about doing in high school,” Simone says. “It was incredible. I was inspired just by talking with them.”
While he never planned to build a career centered around his materials science degree, what he learned at Carnegie Mellon naturally found a place alongside something he loves—golf. He shares that CMU taught him about priorities, about boundaries, and about working hard but still giving time to what you love. As much as he shudders to hear himself say it, it’s this very lesson he shares as a mentor to current students in the CMU Student-Athlete Alumni Mentoring Program.
“It sounds super cliché, like in a movie or something, but it’s true,” Simone says. “You never know who you might come across or what might influence you in a way that you never really thought was possible.”
Diplomas aside, the most substantial thing CMU’s given Simone is an understanding of how important it is to explore every possible option. You can even call them 1A and 1B if you’d like. He won’t mind.