When details for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur were revealed last week, back-channel chatter centered around the appealing logo (magnolia?), the championship’s officially endorsed acronym (ANWA) and the surprising choice of NBC to televise the final round on Saturday, April 6.
The Forecaddie has been checking around for answers, and while he hasn’t been granted access to chairman Fred Ridley’s innermost thoughts, The Man Out Front can shed light on a few elements behind the decision.
NBC will broadcast three hours of play that includes coverage at Amen Corner five days earlier than we are used to, with the cameras, cables and microphones all from CBS’ infrastructure for the upcoming Masters. Driving the NBC Sports/Golf Channel production will be the production team behind Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship coverage. Mike Tirico is the only confirmed announcer for the ANWA, with Golf Channel still sorting out which talent will work the event while it is also producing the first major of 2019, the ANA Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
What NBC did to secure the rights for Year One will be known to only the few folks inside the room. But The Forecaddie hears CBS made a hard push to televise the ANWA despite speculation that Saturday night’s NCAA Final Four coverage might have impacted their thinking. TMOF hears NBC/Golf Channel’s devotion to telling the Drive, Chip and Putt stories was a huge part in the decision to go with the peacock, as was the availability of Tirico, who gives the broadcast instant gravitas. And never sell short the growing prominence around Augusta National of Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, a key driver of the DCP, head of the Masters website committee and consigliere to former chairman Billy Payne. Comcast, in case you hadn’t heard, owns NBC and Golf Channel.
There may be some sweet justice in the decision: Legend has it NBC initially was mailed an offer to land the rights to The Masters, but the letter ended up with longtime CBS man John Derr, who never forwarded the invitation to NBC, and a 30-day window to accept was missed. CBS has broadcast The Masters annually since 1956.
As for any chance of squelching grumbles from LPGA headquarters about the ANWA getting network coverage while the ANA is on Golf Channel, The Forecaddie hears the 2019 schedule has the women’s amateur coverage leading into the Valero Open on NBC. In East Coast prime time, Golf Channel delivers the ANA. In an ideal world the ANWA someday will lead to the ANA – regardless of network – if nothing else to hear announcing teams sculpt fancy ways of juggling those acronyms. But then The Forecaddie remembered this is Augusta National we’re talking about, and it’s a safe bet we won’t hear the ANWA acronym over the airwaves any time soon. Gwk