Let me start by saying this… Brian Hammons does not need me to be his advocate. Yesterday on Twitter the 21-year Golf Channel veteran announcer said his goodbye, informing followers that his contract had not been renewed by the all golf network. For those of us who have followed the channel from day one, or just simply appreciate good broadcasting, it was a sad day. Hammons is one of the good guys in the business and a true professional on and off the set. Golf fans know he will be missed and the saddest part of all is the folks who now make the decisions at the Golf Channel didn’t think so or don’t care.
Full disclosure… I have a long history with “Hammer” having met him for the first time in the early 1990’s. I was working as an Associate Producer for OCC, a company charged with producing all the golf that aired on ESPN. Our team was in Las Vegas working on the broadcast for what used to be The Las Vegas Invitational, Brian Hammons was there too. He was a “racing guy” coming from Indianapolis and the open wheel racing world. To the best of my recollection, OCC owner and Chairman Don Ohlmeyer had worked with Brian on Indy Car racing shows and thought he would be a good addition to our team covering the action at one of the tournament’s satellite courses (at the time the LVI was played over three different golf courses around Las Vegas). Ohlmeyer was right, Hammons was.
Serendipity would have our paths cross again several years later when a start up niche network that hoped to broadcast golf 24 hours a day, 7 days a week hired us both. They inked Brian first, me weeks, if not months, later. Brian was hired to be the face of the network, to sit at the anchor desk and bring golf fans the “news of the day” on a show they wanted to call “Golf Center” but ended up deciding on “Golf Central” after someone at ESPN suggested the former name might not be such a good idea. I was signed to produce all the the network’s live domestic tournament coverage. I don’t know for sure but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Brian Hammons was the channel’s first choice for the job, I do know for a fact that I was brought in after all other options had been exhausted. I lasted through management and ownership changes for 18 years, Brian made it three years longer than me.
Brian, along with co anchor Linda Cardwell, were the first faces the dozens (maybe hundreds, we were hoping thousands) of viewers saw on the night of January 17, 1995 but Hammer’s voice was the first “live” one they heard. His words were heard for the next 21 years as he moved from behind one desk in the studio to sit behind another one, either in a mobile trailer or scaffolding tower, on golf courses all around the world. The beauty of Brian’s broadcast style was that he spoke those words eloquently and used them sparingly, especially when he was calling live golf. As a producer I felt he was the perfect “traffic cop” knowing his role was to get the viewer from one golf shot to the next and leave the “analysis” and “opinion” to the golf experts. I had the pleasure of being his producer and “in his ear” on dozens, but too few, occasions and they were always among my favorite shows. For my money Brian Hammons was one of the best play by play people the channel ever had and when Brian Anderson left TGC for Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers, Hammer became THE best.
The TOUR he broadcast was irrelevant, the parade of partners who sat beside him or worked the ground around him was also unimportant because Brian Hammons treated every broadcast and every other broadcaster with respect and that respect was evident in his work. There is no telling why the folks in Orlando decided to make 2015 Brian’s last year. Budget cuts are almost always the public reason but I would hazard a guess there are play by play guys, not of Hammons’ caliber, still employed by the network and making more money. An elephant in the room could be that Brian was one of the very few remaining “original hires” still on the payroll as Comcast/NBC Universal works to completely transform one of the amazing success stories in the history of cable television.
Whatever the reason one of the most trusted and respected voices in television golf is off the air until and unless he finds another well deserved gig. I hope that happens sooner rather than later because until it does the golf fan is the real loser as a result of the Golf Channel’s self-inflicted, double bogey.