COMMENTARY | When Jim Nantz joined the CBS broadcast team in 1985, televised golf was limited to two hours every Saturday and Sunday.
Golf coverage has boomed since then with fans now able to see much more action across global professional tours accessible on multiple media beyond TV. It was against this backdrop of plenty that Nantz stepped to the podium during Monday night's World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony in St. Augustine, Florida.
He was there to introduce 2013 inductees Ken Venturi and Fred Couples. Venturi played a significant role in elevating the popularity of the game and sharing it with millions through television. A third inductee, former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield, has also been a mover and shaker in bringing golf to a worldwide audience.
I have to thank Venturi and his CBS broadcast mates for stirring my interest as a fan. Vin Scully was the lead commentator with Venturi as his analyst when I started watching in the late 1970s. Tournaments then went by names like the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open, Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic and the World Series of Golf.
Venturi was lead golf analyst for CBS from 1967-2002, the longest such tenure in sports. He later worked alongside Pat Summerall in the 18th hole booth before eventually teaming up with Nantz, who paid tribute to Venturi in this letter.
Many credit Venturi for his style of correctly predicting a player's strategy but he did much more than that. He raised the profile and cachet of golf analysts, paving the way for Johnny Miller, Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo. But unlike that acerbic bunch, Venturi made his mark by sharing his passion for the game and delivering it with honesty and humility.
I associate Venturi with Torrey Pines, Riviera, and Pebble Beach as well as Doral, Muirfield Village and Firestone, tour stops covered exclusively by CBS for years.
Back in those days, CBS broadcast the Masters while Jim McKay, Peter Alliss and the ABC crew televised the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Weekday coverage was nonexistent and we were lucky to catch back nine action on the weekend.
NBC made a serious golf push when it gained broadcast rights to the Ryder Cup in 1991.
One of the men most responsible for adding competitiveness to the Ryder Cup was Schofield. During his 29-year tenure running the European Tour, he was instrumental in adding European players to an undermanned Great Britain & Ireland team and turning the Ryder Cup from a lopsided contest dominated by the U.S. into gut wrenching, must-watch TV.
How important has the Ryder Cup become? Well, it got European stalwart Colin Montgomerie into the Hall of Fame this year without a major victory or a win on U.S. soil.
Scoring the Ryder Cup was a coup for NBC, which had stepped up its golf coverage with the hiring of Johnny Miller in 1990. Three years later it outbid ABC for the rights to the U.S. Open and has been a major force in golf ever since.
Along with the Golf Channel, NBC will provide 22 hours of live coverage of the 2013 Players Championship starting Thursday. We as viewers owe a debt of gratitude to new World Golf Hall of Fame members Ken Venturi and Ken Schofield for this bonanza.
Mark McLaughlin has reported on the PGA Tour for the New York Post, FoxSports.com, Greensboro News & Record, and Burlington (N.C.) Times-News. He is a past member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @markmacduke.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ken Venturi
- Ken Schofield