About the last thing I remind my wife to do as I head out to the Masters Tournament each year (in my Ford F-150 pickup) is, “don’t forget to set the DVR. I want to hear Jim Nantz’s call of the Masters when I get home.” So I drive to Augusta, watch the tournament on the most beautiful course in the world, drive home and watch the Masters from start to finish. The reason? There is nothing more soothing in sports than listening to Jim’s deep and calm voice making the perfect call of a golf tournament. “Hello, Friends. Welcome to the Masters.” Thanks to the GCSAA, I had a chance to meet Jim and walk through the GIS equipment displays for a while with him. He would take two steps and somebody would want to shake his hand and offer a few words. Still, it was wonderful. I saw him after that at one of the majors, in the merchandise tent, signing his new book. I think I was the first in line.
I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting quite a number of golf announcers and commentators at GCSAA events. To a person, all have been supportive of superintendents, both on a personal basis and on the air during their broadcasts.
Two great announcers I didn’t get to meet but was able to listen to “live” were Jim McKay and Chris Schenkel. They were speakers at a GCSAA conference and both were knowledgeable about golf. Schenkel had the better voice, but McKay’s fame was wider because of his Olympic reporting over his career. They had what all other golf announcers seem to have – the ability to accurately report with a minimum of words.
It was probably in the mid-1980s when I had a 10-minute, one-on-one visit with Pat Summerall. GCSAA had started a competition among chapter publications and ours was a winner. The award was presented at an opening session, one that featured Summerall as the speaker. I reported to the “ready room” and was the first to arrive. Almost immediately Pat came in and greeted me, wondering if he was in the right place. We each poured a cup of coffee and chatted for about 10 minutes before anyone else arrived. A lot of the conversation was about Vince Lombardi; he had been an assistant coach for the New York Giants while Pat was a defensive back for Vince’s defense. It was really fun, and he was as common as a man could be. He was an excellent golf announcer.
I talked to Peter Jacobsen a couple of times, again at conference. The first time was memorable because he donated his speaking fee – I seem to recall it was about $30,000 – back to the GCSAA for golf turf research. The second time was in another ready room a number of years later. He was the same friendly salt-of-the-earth guy. Cheryl was with me and we were both delighted he knew of our son-in-law who was playing the Nationwide Tour at the time. Peter continues even these days as a well-spoken golf commentator who we can call a strong supporter of golf course superintendents.
Andy North is one of the best golf observers on television today. He has spent most of his life in our town, and was a young junior golfer at the course in our city for the first three years I worked on that golf course. So I have watched him play for 50 years! He is another one who fully appreciates golf course superintendents and isn’t bashful about saying so. He counts a number of our colleagues as friends. Andy was the luncheon speaker one year at our annual Wisconsin Golf Turf Symposium. That same year Ted Woehrle had come over to Milwaukee from Oakland Hills CC in Detroit. Andy spied Ted in the audience and after his talk. He went right over to Ted’s table, shook hands and had a visit with him. North won the 1985 U.S. Open on OHCC’s South Course.
Steve Mona did me a big favor one year and told me where to meet him after breakfast. He was hosting Johnny Miller as a keynote speaker and I was hoping to get my two books that Miller had authored signed by him. We met at the assigned time and place. Johnny found a place to sit and he spent a bit of time chatting with me about golf as he signed my books. He’s another who announces golf with a lot of expertise and some brutal honesty and who has been at it for many years. I loved meeting and talking with him.
I got lucky at the 1997 GCSAA conference and show. An invitation came my way to attend a corporate reception with a special guest – the 1997 Old Tom Morris Award winner Ken Venturi. He was in his prime as a golf announcer, and we each received a copy of his newest book. I took four of his other books with me, and he signed them all, including my favorite: “Comeback.” I felt really blessed to have yet another chance to meet with a man who was first a great player, followed by a rich career as one of the best golf announcers of all time.
Is there a golf course superintendent anywhere who doesn’t love David Feherty? He attended four different GCSAA conferences that I attended, one for a corporate event and the other three as a GCSAA guest and speaker. Talk about an advocate for the superintendent. His open, effusive wit and enthusiasm for golf, and praise for superintendents has won us all over. It turns out that he is also one of the most entertaining people in golf. Again, thanks to some kind people, Cheryl and I were in the ready room before David was to speak at conference. He signed all of my books that he had written and was charming beyond belief. My wife enjoyed talking to him more than I did! He’s become one of the most popular golf commentators of all time.
The year Judy Rankin was to receive the Old Tom Morris Award was at a time when her husband was very ill and she couldn’t attend. She is a former great LPGA player who launched a second career as an excellent golf announcer after her playing days. If you want to learn more about Judy and her story, catch Feherty’s show when she was his guest.
And then there is the best of them all, in my opinion, Jim Nantz. The timbre of his voice, the smooth delivery, the easily detectable friendliness and his thorough knowledge of the game (much of it gained as a collegiate golfer at the University of Houston) put his broadcasts on a pedestal. We are so fortunate he is in our corner and gives us credit for the work we do.
Golf announcers are in a class by themselves. The NFL and NBA are particularly bad in comparison; many of those announcers are shrill loudmouths, egomaniacs and blowhards. Too many lack even a basic command of grammar usage; they sound ignorant. A few have had criminal problems in the past. Many of us simply turn the sound off.
But golf has selected, consciously I assume, broadcasters and announcers who are generally low key, possess excellent voices, are knowledgeable about the game and are courteous. Too many announcers in other sports are exhibitionists whereas golf has true observers and communicators. They seem not to have the need to fill every second of airtime with their voices and opinions.
You could say golf’s announcers are reflective of the game. Did you ever hear one of them talking as a player was about to hit a shot? And after a shot they are generally inclined to let that shot speak for itself. I think Fox learned how important good announcing is after the reviews of the U.S. Open last summer. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in announcers at the U.S. Open this year.
Maybe they could bring Jim Nantz in!