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MIT Technology Review

David Montgomery ’99, MEng ’99

Blending the online and real-life worlds of golf.

October 20, 2015

When David Montgomery was living in Senior House, he spent a fair amount of free time playing video games with classmates—especially Super Mario 64. But he never envisioned gaming as a career.

“I remember walking around an MIT job fair, looking for jobs in systems and engineering,” Montgomery says. “And I asked myself, ‘What’s the coolest job I can imagine? Computer games could be pretty cool.’ And then I went home and sent out résumés to gaming ­companies.”

That job fair epiphany led to a 15-year career in the game industry. He’s now chief technical architect for World Golf Tour (WGT), an online golf game that has more than 20 million players worldwide. ­Montgomery oversees the game’s custom-­built simulation, which blends photography from well-known golf courses with 2-D and 3-D graphics.

“The most important aspect of golf is accuracy,” he says. “So that needs to be a core principle of the game. Our audience is people who are serious about golf—everything needs to be precise.”

For every real-life golf course that is featured in the game—there are more than 20—the WGT team will take nearly 200,000 high-resolution photos and, using hardware built by Montgomery, merge the imagery with an online environment that simulates details like course terrain, aerodynamics, and the physics of a well-hit ball.

Montgomery joined WGT—as one of the company’s first employees—in 2007, after more than six years working at Electronic Arts, the world’s third-largest gaming company.

“It’s hard to feel the impact you’re making at a large company,” he says. “When I started at WGT, it was a very small startup. What I’ve enjoyed most is contributing directly to the company’s success and knowing I’m having a real impact on the bottom line.”

And while he wasn’t directly preparing for a gaming career, his MIT mind-set played a role in his success.

“There have been areas where I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I knew I could figure it out,” ­Montgomery says. “MIT gave me the skills to take a problem, break it down, and then execute a solution.”

One perk of working for WGT? A better real-life golf game—that admittedly still needs work.

“My golf game has vastly improved,” Montgomery says. “But it’s still a mixture of humiliation and success. It’s definitely gotten better, but I wouldn’t say it’s great.”