Golf Channel Mutes Its Talking Heads in Announcer-Lite NWT Coverage
By Stephanie Wei under General

The Golf Channel did something many of you have wished for in Saturday’s “Announcer-Lite” coverage of the Nationwide Tour event — the mics were taken away from the commentators and the coverage relied solely on graphics and conversations between the players and caddies. Featured player Hunter Haas strapped on a wireless mic and entertained the audience with self-deprecating comments.

Unfortunately, I missed the coverage and I feel like a terrible friend for missing the groundbreaking experiment that good friend Jerry Foltz was excited to take part in — or not, considering he’s an announcer that was given the gag order, but he interacted with viewers via Twitter. (Sorry, Jerry, I had one of my narcoleptic spells! But even though I might be biased, you’re the best tweeter from the Golf Channel because you don’t sound like a salesman.) Overall, the reviews were positive and Jerry said it seemed like 60% loved it and 40% hated it.

I asked Jerry what worked best. “The players,” he said. “They all knew about it. To a man, they were all on-board and tried to have fun with it. The final 10 groups were asked to fill out 2-page questionnaires Friday after their round so we would have some more personal interest info for graphics. Those questionnaires were fully executed by each player before they left the course. 100% compliance…happy to do it. Not too sure that would be case on the PGA Tour.”

So, where in the world was all that personal info in the graphics? From what I gather, only, like, 1% of it was incorporated (perhaps because they weren’t prepared or organized enough, which is understandable). Of course, there were going to be glitches and nothing was going to be perfect, but with the feedback they received, they can adjust for the next edition of the announcer-lite telecast.

I turned to Intern Kevin for his review. He believes “silence is golden,” but mostly in reference to one particular announcer. (That’s not nice, Kevin!) His main critique was that while he knows way more than he’s willing to admit about the players, the average viewer isn’t familiar with Joe Schmoe on the Nationwide Tour. He suggested it would work better on the PGA Tour since we know more about the guys. (And I think most people wouldn’t mind a break from Kelly Tilghman.)

But perhaps had the producers done a better job with incorporating more of the info into the graphics, it would have made the player and the telecast more interesting to watch. You know, maybe viewers would have liked to know that Michael Putnam grew up in University Place, WA, where his home course was Fircrest, took lessons from the same coach as me, Joe Thiel, played in many practices for junior golf tournaments with Andres Gonzales and me, attended Pepperdine University, and married his high school sweetheart, who is due with their first child next month, etc. When he T4 at the ’05 Buick Championship to earn his first check as a pro golfer, he was excited to take his family out to dinner.

Aside from that info off the top of my head, here’s an example from the actual questionnaire the players filled out. According to Jerry, three of the questions were: 1) Which Helen (supposed to be a celeb) would you most like to have dinner with? 2) Which celebrity would you most like to play golf with? 3) Which celebrity would you most like to give a lesson to? David Learn answered “Marisa Miller” (the swimsuit model) to all three. (He’s also a newlywed and his wife thought it was funny.) With the answers, a picture of Miller should have been displayed, too.

Credit the Golf Channel for actually thinking outside of the box and taking a risk.