Golf Channel’s Cara Banks goes deep on her ‘pinch-me’ dream job, motherhood and her brother’s mysterious death

·9 min read

Nearly 10 years ago now, Cara Banks switched on the Golf Channel in her hotel room at the PGA Championship and watched Kelly Tilghman host “Live From” onsite at Oak Hill Country Club. Banks, who was there working for Sky Sport’s Golfing World, immediately knew that’s what she wanted to do.

“It is a bit pinch-me,” said Banks of how that dream became reality.

Banks, 37, heads over to Scotland on Saturday evening to prep for the 150th British Open Championship at St. Andrews, three nights after husband Ollie’s departure. She’ll stay through the week working as host for Golf Channel’s “Live From” shows as well as play-by-play of streaming coverage from the Old Course.

Ollie, managing director at CM Management, will head from the Scottish Open to the British and then home for a few days before flying to meet client Kipp Popert at the U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst.

They’ll then meet back home in Connecticut, pack up their two young children and return to the U.K. to visit family. What sounds slightly chaotic actually makes a lot of sense given that the children tend to do better at home in their routines with a nanny, while mom and dad work the long hours of a major championship.

“Everyone warns you that having two is like 100,” said Banks, who gave birth to daughter Tiggy in November. Son Jesse turned 3 in June.

“One is one and two is 100. … I was joking with my friend, why didn’t you shout this from the rooftops? This is mental!”

Banks family left to right: Ollie, Jesse, Cara and Tiggy (courtesy photo)

Obviously, neither of the Banks would change a thing. There are no typical days in the Banks home, with both traveling and Cara heading into the studio at varying hours when not working from the kitchen table. They’re currently in the midst of a remodel of their Fairfield home, turning the garage into a second office.

“What I say to everyone,” said Banks while in the midst of a 12-day trip in Augusta, Georgia, last April, “is that I think working makes me a better mom.”

***

Cara Banks’ (formerly Robinson) career inspiration began with Davina McCall, a British presenter who rose to fame as the host of the television series “Big Brother.”

“I loved how it felt like she was talking to you,” said Banks, who studied politics at Newcastle University but took her first job as a runner on a Saturday night chat show making cups of tea.

Banks realized early on, however, that sport suited her more than entertainment and the 6-foot-1 netballer, having been brought up in a golfing family, took a job as production secretary for European Tour productions at IMG. Then, when managing director Rupert Hampel’s personal assistant went on maternity leave, Banks reluctantly put in for the job on the advice of others.

“It was the best thing I ever did,” admitted Banks, who had the post for two years.

During the week she’d take minutes for the European Tour board meeting but on the weekends, she’d travel to places like Scotland and Wales to log video for the European Senior and Challenge Tours. While her friends were at the pub, she’d be angling for a seat next to the producer on the flight home to watch him put together the run-of-show.

When Sky Sports’ Golfing World first launched, Banks took on the role of “preditor,” which is industry slang for a job that combines the duties of both producer and editor. She traveled the world with her camera in tow as a sort of one-woman band, setting up the interviews and equipment to put together her own voice-over features.

Eventually, it was decided that the show needed a presenter, and Banks moved to on-camera work, now traveling with a preditor.

“I’ve always found it helpful that I know how it works behind the camera,” said Banks, “I understand how to run a highlight show and script-writing. I know what the guys in the control room are looking for.”

In the midst of this on-the-job training, tragedy struck the Robinson family in 2009 when Cara’s brother Myles never came back from a night out at a Swiss ski resort. The entire family was there on holiday, and he was found dead at the bottom of a cliff. No one could answer the how or why.

Myles was 23 years old and on the cusp of a career in finance in London. He and Cara were very close.

“We were just so lucky,” said Banks, “the four of us were so blessed living in this bubble and then real life struck. I just remember being very pragmatic about it, probably to support my parents, who were going through hell.”

Myles loved golf and his favorite player was Luke Donald. All Cara wanted to do while working the range at Doral for Golfing World was call her younger brother to tell him all about it. As fate would have it, she met Ollie while working at IMG, and he happened to manage Donald during the Englishman’s stint as World No. 1.

The Myles connections continue on now as son Jesse’s best friend in nursery school is a boy named Myles, even spelled the same.

“I think you just have to think of things positively,” said the strong and affable Banks.

***

After several years of working as a presenter for Golfing World, Banks was approached by Golf Channel, coming aboard in 2015 as a co-host for “Morning Drive.”

She now serves as studio host of “Golf Central” and hosts “Live From” shows at big events, occasionally working as a reporter, too.

“She is the point guard,” said Golf Channel analyst Paige Mackenzie. “She sets the tone for everything going on on the desk.”

Coordinating producer Matt Hegarty notes that Banks stood out immediately because she worked straight through commercial breaks, no matter how long the show was on the air. That was a first.

Banks loves a good nugget, and often weaves in interesting tidbits to make the storytelling as full and rich as possible. Her passion for the game and genuine curiosity shines through everything she does – whether as host or reporter.

She likes to treat the camera as another person in the room, remembering what it felt like to watch McCall growing up.

“I always try to be the same person on camera as I am off,” said Banks, “because the audience isn’t stupid. They’ll see through you.”

Ollie marvels at his wife’s ability to compartmentalize as a working mom who still has time for the gym and friends. He also appreciates her “inane skill level of being able to remember facts.” Though the same can’t be said for song lyrics.

“I think she likes to understand not just on the surface level what’s going on,” said Ollie, “but the deeper-rooted cause of why things are occurring.”

Cara Banks with children Tiggy and Jesse (courtesy photo)

Before Banks took on play-by-play duties for the first time last year at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Mike Tirico reached out to offer not only his congrats, but the use of his templates so that she could see how he prepares.

“He has an excel document, and he has everything on one page,” said Banks. “It’s all split like a mathematical equation. It’s fascinating.”

Banks hopes to follow in the footsteps of a Jim Nantz or Tirico as a host and play-by-play announcer for a variety of different sports at the highest levels. She has recently covered the Premier League for NBC Sports and reported on a variety of events during the Summer and Winter Olympics.

“For me, I feel like I’m a bit on a back foot because I didn’t grow up here,” she said. “I didn’t watch the NFL my whole life or have a college team.”

Banks’ ambitious personality, coupled with a love of learning, however, certainly makes that next dream appear achievable. She wants to do all she can to push the barrier for women in sports.

“She’s really become as well-rounded as anybody,” said Hegarty.

From left, Cara Banks, Notah Begay, Mark Rolfing and Michelle Wie West on the Golf Channel set during a practice round prior to The Players Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 11, 2020 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Mackenzie first started working with Banks on “Morning Drive” and says their conversations often revolve around the search for a good nanny.

While the nonstop juggling act can get crazy at times, Mackenzie has always admired Banks’ ability to navigate what can be the chaos of live TV to deliver a product that’s exceptionally smooth.

“You would never know as a viewer what kind of storm or hurricane may be going on in her ear,” said Mackenzie. “She’s just always had such command.”

Ollie was en route to the airport when he took the call to talk about his wife. The couple started dating in December of 2011 and were married in 2017. He’s fond of sharing her story with others who want to build a career in sports.

“Look, if you really want something badly enough, don’t say no to any opportunity,” he said. “Show your personality, show your skills. You never know what might become of it.”

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player and longtime analyst for Golf Channel, worked with Tilghman for years and describes her as formidable and competent, with a great sense of levity. Tilghman, who became the first female play-by-play host for the PGA Tour, understood that TV is meant to be entertainment.

Banks, he says, is much the same.

“She has a commanding and I would say comfortable presence on-air, the same way Kelly did,” said Chamblee. “But above all that, there’s a level of competence that comes through, like she could handle anything.”

One of the things Chamblee said he enjoyed most about late-night host David Letterman was that he’d take a funny comment at the top of the show and find a way to thread it throughout, giving the show a beginning, middle and end. Banks does the same.

She’s also keen to challenge analysts to expound on a point, not so much to hold them accountable, said Chamblee, but to let them shine. While Tilghman, who left the Golf Channel after more than two decades to focus on her family, was very organized, he continued, host Rich Lerner is more in the moment. Banks is a blend of both.

“As an analyst,” said Chamblee, “you feel very comfortable sitting next to her because you know she’s got it. She can bring us in, she can take us out, she can keep the ball in the air.”

All while making it look rather effortless.