As anyone who follows golf knows, Johnny Miller called his last golf tournament this past week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
So, with that as a backdrop, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the announcers over the past few decades that define how we “see” a golf tournament on television.
There are at least three categories of golf personalities: The “Lead Announcers” such as Jim Nantz and Dan Hicks; the “Color Announcers” such as Johnny Miller and now Paul Azinger, and Nick Faldo; and the “On Course Announcers” such as Roger Maltbie, Bones Mackay, Dottie Pepper, et al.
We will start, and focus on the Lead Announcers
Although these aren’t in my absolute favorite-to-least-favorite priority listing, I do have my favorites listed first.
Mike Tirico (NBC)- Although Tirico calls a little bit of everything for NBC now, he has become more of a “host” for their special golf broadcasts, such as The Open Championship. However, I think the ABC crew with he, Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange, Andy North, etc., were the best overall golf crew. I always wanted to hear that group play off each other.R
Rich Lerner (Golf Channel)- Lerner has that smooth, understated delivery, while still knowing the game well enough to hold his own with the various former PGA players that serve as various color announcers. His true expertise is in hosting “Live From” and keeping Brandel Chamblee, Frank Nobilo, and David Duval from coming to blows on the set, but he’s just as solid in the lead chair.
Jim Nantz (CBS), Dan Hicks (NBC)- I don’t know how you pick one over the other. Both have been the lead golf announcer for the two major golf networks for practically ever. Nantz is smoother and more understated, his demeanor suits golf much better than football/basketball, in my opinion. Hicks is a little more energetic. It will be interesting to hear how he does with the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur coverage in a couple of months, when understated is the rule.
Terry Gannon (Golf Channel)– Gannon is as good as anyone, but doesn’t get the large market opportunity as he typically works the LPGA Tour. It wouldn’t surprise me if he eventually takes over for Hicks.
Bob Papa (Golf Channel)– Papa is the voice of the PGA Tour Champions, and reminds me of a really good umpire. You often don’t know he’s there, but at the end of the telecast, he has been on top of the show while staying out of the way of the event. I personally would like to see him move up and do some larger Tour events, such as when NBC does a full day’s coverage of a major and they have two broadcast teams in the mix.
Dougie Donnelly (European Tour)- First of all, how can you not love someone called Dougie, as in Doogie Howser? Dougie does many of the European Tour events and you have likely heard him when watching an early morning European Tour event. His brogue and knowledge of the game are an enjoyable change-of-pace from the American guys.
Joe Buck (Fox)- A lot of people hammer Joe Buck and Fox in general, and I don’t understand why. As a team, Curtis Strange, Brad Faxon, Ken Brown, all know their stuff. Joe Buck is a single-digit golfer, so he does as well. My problem with Joe is he brings his football enthusiasm and demeanor to a golf broadcast. It’s too “in your face.”
Steve Sands (Golf Channel)- Steve does a lot of the Web.com events, and, well, I understand why. He is likable enough, but comes across, to me anyway, as too vanilla. So he is at the bottom of the list.
They are called “color” announcers for a reason, and they certainly add color to the telecast.
Paul Azinger (NBC, formerly Fox, formerly ABC)- As I mentioned earlier, I always like Zinger in the second chair, especially with Tirico. I think he was as good a pick as NBC could have gotten to replace Miller.
Nick Faldo (CBS)- It’s been enjoyable to watch Faldo mature and become more vocal. He is funnier than most people would have believed, and he and Nantz are a great pair (as opposed to the guy he replaced- Lanny Wadkins- who just isn’t that good).
Butch Harmon (Sky Sports)- We were lucky enough to get to listen to a little of Butch doing some of The Open Championship when we were in Scotland last year. He is really good, and of course knows the backstory on a lot of the players. Too bad we don’t get to hear him on a regular basis here in the U.S.
Johnny Miller (formerly NBC)– Even though Johnny just retired, it’s unrealistic to ignore his 30 years in the booth. I think his best days were ten years ago, and he began to lean on the same comments and same cliche’s the last few years. He certainly could talk about how a player is feeling (as can Faldo), and set the standard for what the second-chair could actually be.
Brad Faxon (Fox)- He seems to get a little better with every broadcast, and with more experience, I think he could rival Faldo.
Justin Leonard, Trevor Immelman, Frank Nobilo, David Duval, Brandel Chamblee, Who knows who else (Golf Channel)- Golf Channel has a rotation that occupies the second seat based on, I assume, how busy they are and how many tournaments they are broadcasting. It also appears that these guys are in a continuous try-out session to see who might be good enough to become entrenched. All are ok, none stand out.
Judy Rankin (Golf Channel)- Judy pairs with Terry Gannon on the larger LPGA Tour events. She is a few years past her prime, but like your mom, you can’t dislike her. She seems to have slightly more trouble each year getting her thoughts across. I wonder how many more years she will continue.
Lanny Wadkins (Golf Channel)- There was a reason he only lasted a season or two with CBS. He just isn’t that good. Wadkins has about four go-to comments, and after an hour or so, they wear pretty thin. Papa is by far more polished and keeps the Champions Tour telecasts running, but it’s in spite of Wadkins, not because of him.
There are literally a hundred men and women who have been on course broadcasters. I won’t begin to list them all, but here are my favorites:
- Peter Kostis, especially when he’s breaking down a swing with the infamous Konica Minolta Swingvision.
- Roger Maltbie
- Bones Mackay- It’s remarkable how easily and well he has switched from caddie to course correspondent
- David Feherty- He was remarkably witty but that has slowed down over the years. He is still enjoyable to listen to, however.
- Mark Rolfing
- Bill Kratzert
- Aaron Oberholser
- Curtis Strange
- Dottie Pepper
- Notah Begay- It seems Notah is saying less and less. I’m not sure if that’s been dictated, or he just doesn’t have much to report, but it’s noticeable.
There are another hundred that could be discussed. The guys in the towers, such as Verne Lundquist and Ian Baker-Finch. The guys who were doing the jobs a generation ago, such as Charlie Jones with NBC, Dick Enberg with NBC (Oh My!), Jim Lampley with NBC.
The old ABC team- Chris Schenkel, Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker; with Dave Marr, Peter Alliss and Byron Nelson in the second chair. And Bob Rosburg the lead on-course reporter. Those ABC teams really set the standard for golf telecasts for the last 40 years.
There you have it- a trip down memory lane, plus some starting points on discussion about announcers. Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading, and Enjoy Shooting Your Age!