Golf TV in NOV/DEC Should Stop Being TV-OM (Television Old & Male)

I’m not going to go all Howard Beale on you and say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” but I will say, “I’m bored out of my mind and I’m not going to watch it anymore.” I am, of course, talking about golf’s penchant for force feeding us the same TIRED, OLD, MALE events in November and December.

You know the drill… If you want to watch something other than the Army Navy Game, college basketball or the NBA you better be prepared to view the same thing various networks have shoved down our throats for dozens of years. The sad thing is it used to be mildly to mostly interesting, now it’s rated TV-OM (old and male). So this past weekend was the annual event wasteland known as Shark Shootout/Father Son weekend (okay it isn’t really known as that but that’s what it is). For four days golf fans hungering for something sunny to watch were subjected to two events that, on their own or combined, couldn’t have been less interesting. The Franklin Templeton Shootout (formerly known as the “Shark Shootout”) and The PNC Father Son Challenge (Formerly known as the Office Depot/MBNA WorldPoints/Del Webb Father Son Challenge) were, once upon a time, fresh, fun and fetching. One (the Shark) started in 1989 and featured guys we liked and loved to not like including Freddie, Norman, Raymond, Elk, Lanny, Davis (not Lanny Davis) and Calc playing as part of two man teams with a different format (Scramble, Four Ball and Greensomes in which both players tee off, pick the best option and play alternate shot from there) each day. It was fun, until it wasn’t.

The Father Son Challenge, first played in 1995, was an even better idea. The greats of the game and Hall of Fame members (Nicklaus, Floyd, Irwin, and more) teamed with various male offspring in a two-day, two man team format to the delight of television audiences all across the country. Arnold Palmer played, even though he didn’t have a son, partnering with grandson Sam Saunders and Fuzzy Zoeller tabbed daughter Gretchen making the title of the event more than a little inaccurate but we didn’t care! These legends, and it turned out, their offspring could play and it was great to see them together. Then the fathers and the sons, grandsons and daughters got old and even the nostalgia factor couldn’t keep it compelling. In fact in was so uninteresting that there wasn’t even an event from 2009 to 2011.

I tried to watch some of both this year and honestly couldn’t for long despite Steve Sands telling me “saying Nicklaus for birdie never gets old.” It did. Or Greg Norman, now a broadcaster and not a participant, pretending that watching Harris English outdrive Matt Kuchar was compelling. It’s not. When it was all said and done the team of Dufner and Snedeker won one and Wadkins and Wadkins won the other but this golf fan was long gone from both. But lucky for golf I’m here to fix this but it’s going to take an open mind, a willingness to alienate and eliminate some folks and, most of all, cooperation.

Once upon a time we had The Skins Game, the J.C Penney Mixed Team and The Skills Challenge and other “Silly Season” events. All golf dinosaurs now. I’m not suggesting bring those events back but I am suggestiong the current iterations of both the Shark Shootout and the Father/Son/Daugher/Grandson Challenge join them on the scrap heap. I would replace them with a hybrid, multi sponsored, combination network broadcast, new event. Keep the two or three day, Scramble, Better Ball and Greensomes formats but wouldn’t it be great to see Inbee Park and Lydia Ko or Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie in the mix? How about Ollie Schneiderjans and Bryson DeChambeau or Leona Maguire and Mariah Stackhouse teeing it up. Or, heaven forbid, what about Jason Day and Lydia Ko as a TEAM or Stanford stars Maverick McNealy and “The Big Wiesy” playing together. But that’s just the start.

These events, and this one would be the same, celebrate the greats of the past and there is no reason Jack, Raymond and Faldo couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be involved. Maybe a nine hole shootout on the last day or a pro celebrity skills challenge on the first? My final and probably most controversial “fix” to the boredom in general and these two mastadons of the silly season in particular is a simulcast. Right now one is on FOX (with Golf Channel poaching the first two rounds), the other on NBC so the most interested of golf fans is switching back and forth. In my perfect world this new event, with those great new teams, would be broadcast on all three channels (FOX, NBC and Golf Channel) at the same time. There would be one main production (much like a World Feed) but FOX could concentrate, with a couple of their own cameras on one grouping or aspect of the event (the young guns) while NBC could do the same with another (say the Legends) and Golf Channel following suit with the third (maybe the LPGA teams).

I asked someone “in the know” what Franklin Templeton or PNC “gets” out of these events and this person answered simply, “hospitality”. The opportunity to host the company’s top earners, brass or treasured clients. Made sense and my new event would serve the same purpose but with a better product. Wouldn’t PNC’s folks love to watch and/or rub elbows with Day, Wie, Stacy Lewis and Spieth as well as Nicklaus and Faldo? And wouldn’t the vice versa be true of the Franklin Templeton people? The event could even rotate among venues chosen by the corporate partners.

Come on, you know it would work and it would be a lot more compelling opposite the Army/Navy football or Kentucky/Western Kentucky college basketball games than the underwhelming, around-too-long events that some people would like to believe we are watching now. If Don Ohlmeyer was sill in the business he’d figure out a way to get it done.

 

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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