Rich Lerner might not be the hardest-working man in television, but if we’re taking a poll, I suspect he would get some votes.
The Golf Channel anchor has been ubiquitous on our screens over the past month, covering the British Open, Senior British and the Women’s British Open, then catching a flight through Atlanta to St. Louis, where he’ll be in his familiar seat on the left side of the “Live From” desk, shepherding Brandel Chamblee, Frank Nobilo and David Duval through the spirited post-game coverage of the PGA Championship.
By the time Lerner got to St. Louis Tuesday for the final week of his “four-week bender,” his batteries needed recharging. He crashed in his hotel room, wrote an essay, and was back on the “Live From” set on Wednesday.
“Going on television or being on deadline always energizes me…” he said. “The fact that we’re doing great sporting events really helps spike your energy.”
For several years, I’ve regarded Lerner as one of the three cornerstones of Golf Channel’s announcing crew, along with Brandel Chamblee and Steve Sands. Chamblee is the best talker and Sands is the lead interviewer and reporter. Lerner is the guy who can be slotted seamlessly into a variety of roles: play-by-play, studio shows, essays, even occasionally producing. In the United Kingdom, he worked on three distinct Golf Channel announcing teams, including rare appearances with the Champions and LPGA crews.
Lerner’s final stop in the United Kingdom, at the Women’s British Open, made a particularly strong impression. Terry Gannon usually anchors the big women’s events, but he was at the WGC-Bridgestone last week.
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So Lerner got to call Georgia Hall’s victory, which he described as one of his two top memories from his work in the U.K. He walked away saying that Hall’s closing round surely will rank among the top 10 rounds of the year, male or female. It’s hard to argue otherwise. It was a magnificent day of golf.
At one point during that round, Lerner compared what we were watching to the Henrik Stenson-Phil Mickelson showdown at Royal Troon in 2016. That struck me at the time as the perfect analogy, though Lerner said if he had a mulligan, he might draw a different comparison.
“We have some obligation to treat the women’s game and their moments with the same sort of historical treatment that we do the men,” Lerner said. “And maybe if I were really on it, maybe I would have been able to reference a great women’s duel. It just didn’t come to mind because (Stenson-Mickelson) was so recent and was an instinctive sort of a call.”
His other top memory from the U.K. was seeing 72-year-old Vicente Fernandez at St. Andrews. Fernandez was one of the best stories of golf’s long July in the British Isles. He nearly died on an operating table a decade ago; now healthy, he qualified for the Senior British.
When he saw Lerner, Fernandez recalled a Golf Channel story Lerner had done on him two decades ago. That’s often not a good thing; athletes tend to have long memories only if they feel they’ve been slighted or wronged. But that wasn’t the case for Fernandez.
“He gave me a big hug and a hello and thanked me,” Lerner recalled. “As he was talking, he was overwhelmed with emotion. … That moment will stay with me for the rest of my days.”
Madill shines on SiriusXM coverage
Lerner said one “nice bonus” of anchoring the Women’s British Open was the chance to work with the fabulous Maureen Madill. Regular readers might recall that, in a stunning and bloodless coup orchestrated two years ago, I declared myself president for life of the Maureen Madill Fan Club.
The Northern Ireland native does most of her announcing for BBC, but also visits the U.S. to cover the major championships for SiriusXM. Madill is doing radio work this week at Bellerive.
“She is a great commentator,” Lerner said. “She’s been a member at Royal Portrush since she was 8, a natural-born storyteller with an unlimited passion for the game. So well-spoken and so tuned in. … If she had won multiple majors, there’s a chance she would be the Nick Faldo of women’s golf. She has a lot to say, and she can put sentences and paragraphs together.”
Madill combines a player’s perspective of the game with a poet’s gift for language. SiriusXM listeners got a hint of that if they listened to her covering one of the featured group Thursday at Bellerive.
In Madill’s parlance, a crisp iron shot from Rory McIlroy “digs its toes into the grain.” Justin Thomas’ putt “curtsies around the hole.” Those wonderful images seem to flow off her tongue.
As I told Lerner, I sometimes feel envious of her gift for language. If you want to give yourself a treat, go to PGA.com and click on the SiriusXM Radio channel to listen to Madill’s work.