Golf on TV: ESPN hits heights with 'A Mountain to Climb'

ESPN Front Row

Golf on TV: ESPN hits heights with 'A Mountain to Climb'

Digital Edition

Golf on TV: ESPN hits heights with 'A Mountain to Climb'

It’s a shame ESPN has little involvement in golf anymore. Its storytelling capabilities are second to none in the sports world.

We saw an example of that April 22 with the debut of ‘A Mountain to Climb,’ the story of Pratima Sherpa, who was attempting to become the first female professional from Nepal. Sherpa and her parents have lived in a dilapidated maintenance shed at Royal Nepal Golf Club since she was 5 years old. Sherpa calls it her “lucky house” because, “If I don’t live there, I cannot play golf.”

With no money for real clubs, her father went into the woods and carved a wooden club for her to use. Eventually, club members gave her a set of clubs, and she practiced constantly. Her father, Pasang Sherpa, wasn’t sure that was a good idea.

“I told her to stop playing,” he said. “I told her to study. This game is for the wealthy, well-to-do people. It wasn’t meant for us.”

But as she piles up trophies, her talent can’t be denied. It’s a wonderful story, as told by Tom Rinaldi, even if she fell four spots short in Q School. She continues to compete as an amateur.

What I find most admirable is that ESPN made the investment in the story even though it doesn’t have much involvement in golf these days. It just found a good story and knocked it out of the park.

Not-so-fresh on the boat

During Saturday’s coverage of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, Golf Channel ran a Charles Schwab-sponsored feature called “Own Your Tomorrow,” in which John Cook took the pontoon boat from the sixth tee to the green with David Toms, Steve Flesch, Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly. (If you are wondering why a mid-round interview on a pontoon boat is presented under the banner “Own Your Tomorrow,” all I can say is, welcome to the club.)

After an awkward few moments, a clearly unprepared Cook turned to Kelly and said, “You going to let Strick make this putt for you?”

The idea of having an on-course reporter talk with the players on the boat was a good idea that was poorly executed. (Arron Oberholser handled the segment a little better Friday.) A producer needs to tell his on-course reporter exactly what to ask the players in that situation, and that probably should be done before the coverage comes on air. That’s especially true with someone like Cook, who’s not used to asking question and is not comfortable doing it.

Keep the interview light and quick. And give Cook specific questions to feed the players. Here are two possible questions: “Guys, we’re here at this fabulous resort in southern Missouri. What’s the most memorable thing you’ve done this week?” Or: “We’re out here on the water in one of the country’s best fishing regions. What’s your best fishing story from your week here at Big Cedar Lodge?”

If Cook had been prepared with just one good question, it would have provided a nice interlude for viewers on the way to the green. It would have been a cool feature, even if we have no idea why it’s called “Own Your Tomorrow.” Instead, it was just a missed opportunity for Golf Channel and its sponsor.

Mystery man revealed … 88 minutes late

Viewers watching the third round of the Trophee Hassan II might have been wondering who “Matt” was. I know I was. The regular announcing team kept referring to “Matt,” as though everyone should know to whom they were referring. After some time, it became apparent that “Matt” is a European Tour player who had missed the cut, and his accent suggested that he likely is an Englishman. I had to scroll through the coverage a second time before learning that the new announcer was Matt Wallace, who won the Hero Indian Open in March.

But European Tour Productions sort of botched the presentation by introducing Wallace 88 minutes into the show, then assuming fans who didn’t happen to be tuned in that particular moment would know who “Matt” was during his 50 minutes on air. The crew made no effort to identify Wallace beyond the initial introduction. A graphic and photo identifying him when he was speaking would have been helpful.

That said, it’s a good idea to have a well-spoken player hang around on the weekend to offer guest commentary. All the tours are crying out for fresh voices to break the weekly tedium, and Wallace performed well. He was engaged in the coverage and had some thoughtful observations on the action. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home