Maybe it was the rare glimpse of quirky and quaint Merion Golf Club. Or maybe it was the spectacle of fans walking down the fairways with players rather than being herded through the rough behind rope lines. Or maybe it was the presence of a bloke named Stiggy – a kid with a homemade swing that would make most 15-handicappers blush – leading the Great Britain & Ireland squad. But I came away from Golf Channel’s weekend coverage of the Walker Cup wanting more.
I wanted to see more of the golf course, with graphics illustrating its idiosyncratic design and, especially, its severe greens. When you see competitors playing 5 feet of break on 15-foot putts, you want something more than a 2-D image, even if it’s in high-definition. After all, the greens are Merion’s only defense. But from a production standpoint, it’s understandably difficult for Golf Channel to justify that kind of investment for an event that will draw a minuscule audience on a weekend when the NFL and college football are in full swing.
I wanted to see Golf Channel be more creative. In the absence of expensive graphics, take some chances. That’s one of the reasons the Nationwide Tour is such good viewing despite being a fairly rudimentary production. For instance, on Sunday anchor Steve Melnyk hinted that there would be an upcoming feature showing players replicating Ben Hogan’s legendary 1-iron at the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open. Cool idea, right? Have all of the players hit the shot from the Hogan plaque on No. 18 in practice rounds and show some of the shots during the broadcast. But it was a tease. All we got was a still photo of American Drew Weaver posed like Hogan near the plaque.
I wanted to see some of the morning foursomes, though that obviously would have conflicted with Golf Channel’s coverage of the Mercedes-Benz Championship. This is an issue that I suspect is going to come up more often in the future. Golf Channel’s problem used to be that its lineup had a few tournaments sprinkled between infomercials. Those days are long past. In 2010, it will add more LPGA events to its competition lineup, which already includes the PGA, European, Nationwide and Champions tours, with sundry other events mixed in. That’s going to make for some crowded weekend lineups. Even on Sunday, the first 19 minutes of the Walker Cup were pre-empted by the LPGA playoff.
I wanted to learn more about the Walker Cup players. Even for a guy who works at a golf magazine, many of the competitors were just names that had appeared occasionally in the agate section. During the broadcast, we got to know a little about GB&I’s Stiggy Hodgson because of his unusual nickname and even more unusual golf swing. It would have been nice to receive a similar introduction to some of the other players.
And I wanted to hear more from Billy Andrade, who began his transition into a broadcasting career by working as an analyst in the 18th tower. First impression: Andrade has the makings of a good on-course reporter, but he needs some polishing before being thrust back into the booth and being asked to carry a broadcast.