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GolfTube: BBC, ESPN botch Walker Cup coverage

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Sizing up the TV coverage from the Walker Cup ... and away we go.

This was supposed to be amateur golf's opportunity to enjoy the spotlight. With the FedEx Cup on a break, the Walker Cup had a rare opportunity to step up and receive some prime airtime on the national stage.

With ESPN holding the broadcasting the rights and the event being played in Scotland (meaning the live morning coverage wouldn't bump up against college or pro football), there was little reason to keep the matches from airing on one of the network's many channels.

But instead of slotting the matches on ESPN or ESPN2, the network decided to pull a head-scratcher, relegating the Walker Cup to ESPN3.com, the networks streaming web channel, and giving the BBC the nod over sending a crew from ESPN to the matches.

The BBC's coverage was far better than anything ESPN could have produced over the weekend, as Peter Alliss and the BBC proved once again that you don't need bells and whistles to produce a clean broadcast. At the end of the day, all viewers really care about is seeing as much golf as possible.

It's too bad ESPN and the BBC lost sight of that late in the day on Saturday and Sunday, as ESPN3.com cut short the BBC's broadcast, signing off from the coverage with four matches still left on the course. The BBC and ESPN did the exact same thing again on Sunday, signing off from the coverage with three matches left on the course.

The Walker Cup had been decided on Sunday when ESPN signed off, but the most amazing thing off all was that the BBC decided to pass on showing the victory presentation for a re-run of a show called "Coast."

The Great Britain and Ireland team hadn't won a Walker Cup since 2003, so this wasn't some run-of-the-mill victory. This was historic, and the fact the GB&I team defeated a loaded U.S. squad should have made it that much sweeter. Even Lee Westwood was blown away by the decision, tweeting: "Ahh well done the BBC ! Following the walker cup right to it's full conclusion!"

As Geoff Shackelford noted in Golf World Monday, the R&A controlled all television rights outside the U.S. starting this year. Maybe the R&A is to blame for cutting short ESPN's coverage online, but the BBC doesn't get a free pass.

The decision to cut off coverage showed a lack of respect for amateur golf, and for a GB&I team that secured a historic victory. Hopefully ESPN and the BBC get their act together the next time the Walker Cup is played abroad.

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ESPN's encore coverage fails to impress

Aside from ESPN's live online coverage on Saturday and Sunday, the network showed an two-hour "encore" presentation of the Walker Cup on ESPN2 on Sunday afternoon (the coverage started late due to a U.S. Open doubles match).

ESPN showed most of the afternoon singles matches, using Andy North to anchor the coverage,and the BBC's camera shots as the backdrop. North added nothing to the broadcast, and by the end of the two-hour "encore" presentation, you were left wondering why ESPN2 didn't show a replay of the BBC's coverage instead.

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