This is the final installment of the four-part series of interviews with golf historian and former Golf Channel personality Peter Kessler.
For those who may be new to golf, or have only watched The Golf Channel for the last 10 years or so, you may not know Peter. He was the face, and voice, of The Golf Channel in the early years. His Golf Talk Live and Golf Academy shows at night were must-see tv for anyone interested in professional golf. Everyone who was anyone was a guest on Peter’s show, and it was a weekly who’s who of one-name golfers: Arnie. Jack. Gary. Tiger. Butch. Payne. Shark. Sir Nick, before the Sir. Peter hosted Golf Talk Live from 1995 through 2002, which allowed him to, among many other experiences, capture golf BT and AT (Before and After Tiger).
I re-discovered Peter when I happened upon the Peter Kessler Show podcast on iTunes in 2014, then again when I found his Reading the Break podcast last year. I routinely look forward to his guest appearances on The Augusta Golf Show with John Patrick @WhyILoveTheGame. You can find out more at www.PeterKessler.com
Getting Up To Speed
In case you may have missed any of the previous interviews, they are all listed here for your convenience:
Most Influential Golfer; Bucket List Items; and More
Most Influential Golfer
SYA: WHO DO YOU FEEL IS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON- PLAYER, ARCHITECT, WRITER, WHOEVER-IN THE HISTORY OF GOLF?
PK: It depends on your point of view. I would pick Old Tom Morris and Bobby Jones. Old Tom won The Open four times, was the first keeper of the green, the first architect, built dozens of great courses- he was golf’s renaissance man.
When Jones started winning major championships in the early 1920s, there were one million people playing golf in the U.S. When he retired in 1930 there were three million playing. He was the most popular hero of the Golden Age of Sport- more popular than Babe Ruth or Jack Dempsey. He was the first to design steel-shafted clubs and clubs with numbers on them. And, of course, he came up with the idea for Augusta National. When he saw the nursery at the time, he said, “This piece of property was just waiting for someone to lay a golf course upon it.” He was the best player of his time, winning four U.S. and three British Open Championships, five U.S. Amateur and one British Amateur (when the Amateurs were considered by everyone to be Major Championships). He was incredibly brilliant and influential, was the best author of any golfer that ever lived. He may also have been the smartest- he was an attorney, and an engineer, and studied English at Harvard. He was certainly the 20th Century’s seminal figure in golf.
SYA: WHAT IS YOUR ESTIMATION OF TODAY’S GROUP OF PLAYERS?
PK: We have a great group of young players right now, but I prefer golf when there is a dominant player, rather than four or five players jockeying for position. I think we are in a period where we will see players jockeying for position for a while.
A big reason is that the equipment has made it possible for players to hit it 350 yards- lots of them. Jack and Tiger could overpower a golf course and the field. Now, there isn’t a situation where anyone is longer than anyone else, and can overpower a golf course and field like they could. Tiger was always there and Jack was always there. Now, there isn’t anyone who is always there. Consistency is the thing it is going to take for one of these guys to become dominant. Jordan Spieth has missed 20 cuts. Tiger only missed five cuts during his amazing run. Justin Thomas has been playing well the last year, with seven wins after winning last week’s Honda Classic, plus a major. We just have musical chairs going on right now with no one really coming to the front.
Bucket List Items
SYA: ANYTHING ON YOUR BUCKET LIST? SOMETHING YOU STILL WANT TO DO, OR ACCOMPLISH; A COURSE YOU WANT TO PLAY?
PK: Not really- I’ve been very lucky. I’ve seen many of the greats in their prime- Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Tiger- and that’s about as good as you can do. Two of the greatest players of all time in their prime. I’ve gotten to play with a great number of incredible professionals. I played with Gene Sarazen and Sean Connery and Arnold and Gary Player and Seve. I played with Tommy Bolt probably 75 times including the last round he ever played.
I’ve gotten to interview about every great player of the last century. So I’ve been very fortunate. I would like to do some more on-camera stuff. No one comes close to what I was able to do.
I still love the game. I played today and I play every chance I can. I’m not as good as I was, and I’m not as long as I was, but I have a good short game. I’m a good bunker player, and I’m a pretty good putter.
When I was a little boy, I played a lot just before the sun went down. I still enjoy going out late in the afternoon, playing nine holes by myself in 45 or 50 minutes, enjoying the solitude. I don’t necessarily need anyone else in the cart with me. I certainly enjoy playing with other people, but I’ve always enjoyed playing alone at the end of the day.
And that started as a kid.
SYA: ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE- ANYTHING IN THE WORKS?
PK: Let’s just wait and see what happens- I’m working on something that could be fun for me and people who enjoyed my work.
A Sincere Thank You to Peter
Peter was very gracious and forthcoming as we talked. I can’t thank him enough for his time and frank thoughts as we talked about his childhood, history, and love of the game.
I hope the reader enjoyed learning some of Peter’s history as much as I did.
Thanks for reading, and Enjoy Shooting Your Age!