Golf on TV: European crew shows how to cover a pro-am

Warren Little/Getty Images

Golf on TV: European crew shows how to cover a pro-am

Digital Edition

Golf on TV: European crew shows how to cover a pro-am

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you perhaps recall that one of my least favorite days of the golf season is the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

That should be a great day for golf fans. The venue is iconic and usually attracts a decent field. CBS, however, long ago decided that the third round would be the day that it focuses on the celebrities rather than the pros. Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of Bill Murray, along with a procession of B-list celebrities who stop for sit-down interviews during the round and watch as Peter Kostis breaks down video of their swings. (It doesn’t hurt that many of these celebrities appear in CBS shows, promoting synergies between the sports and entertainment divisions.)

All of this tends to leave me in a foul mood. During the third round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, friends and relatives know not to call me. Even the cats know not to come out from under the bed.

I mention this because we just spent the past few days watching the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the European Tour’s answer to the Pebble Beach Clambake. It’s a pro-am played on three courses, ultimately concluding on the most iconic links of all, the Old Course. That’s where the similarities end.

While the celebrities are the stars of CBS’ coverage at Pebble Beach, they’re bit players at the Dunhill Links. Andrew Coltart did a few walk-and-talk interviews with celebrities – including pro-am perennial Huey Lewis – and we saw a smattering of shots from amateurs, but otherwise the focus remained on the pros at the top of the leaderboard.

European Tour Productions also did a good job keeping tabs on players, such as Marcus Fraser and Edoardo Molinari, who were in contention Saturday at the other two courses, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.

The European announcers have a conversational approach from which their American counterparts could learn much. It seemed even looser than usual at the Dunhill Links, perhaps because of the format. Unlike American announcers, the European team is less likely to say things such as, “Graeme McDowell misread his putt” or “Tyrrell Hatton’s par putt came up short.” They’re more inclined to let the pictures speak for themselves.

That leaves more time to talk golf, much the way they might if they were sitting around a table having drinks at the Jigger Inn. That led to good conversation and a lot of laughs – things we don’t get from American TV crews.

During an aerial shot of No. 14 on the Old Course, Sam Torrance said, “The only time I ever saw Jack Nicklaus throw a club was in the Open Championship in Hell Bunker. He didn’t throw it like we would throw it, he just tossed it at the golf bag. It was the first glimmer of temper I’d ever seen in the iconic Jack Nicklaus.”

Anchor Dougie Donnelly said he interviewed Nicklaus after that round and asked him what happened on that hole. “He said, ‘I went to hell,’” Donnelly recalled.

Later, during a discussion of the Old Course’s history, Donnelly noted that the links originally was 22 holes, and later was cut to 18. That led Donnelly to rhapsodize about one of those 19th-century anomalies golfers still can enjoy – 12-hole Shiskine Golf Club on the Isle of Arran.

“It’s just the most wonderful golf course – one of my very favorites anywhere in the world,” Donnelly said. “The 12-holer at Shiskine is beautiful.”

Shiskine has been on my to-do list for a few years, and after hearing Donnelly, I suspect many viewers have added it to their wish lists for their next visits to Scotland.

While covering action on the Road Hole, Ken Brown said his plan while playing the Open “was to play for a 5, and if you got two 4s and a 5, you were ahead of the game.”

“And one round short,” Torrance said.

That brought laughter from the crew – the sort of full-throated laughter you hear from friends comfortable ribbing each other.

One of the funniest conversations came as we saw an aerial of the Old Course, framed by the town of St. Andrews.

“It’s just the most iconic setting there is in golf,” Torrance said. “There’s nowhere like the 18th and first at St. Andrews that virtually finishes in the town center.”

That led Mark James, who was working as an on-course reporter, to say, “There’s a course in Huddersfield that gets closer to the town center. I can’t remember the name.”

The entire crew (and this viewer) burst out laughing at the comparison of an obscure English course to the world’s most famous links.
“I’m looking forward to the Open at Huddersfield Links,” Torrance quipped.

When is the last time you heard that sort of banter and laughter from an American crew? Probably never. The oh-so-serious American crews often seem intent on sucking the life and joy out of the coverage. They could learn a lot if they sat down and watched the Dunhill Links coverage. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home